You know when you buy produce that is just so gorgeous and special, you immediately start making elaborate plans for what to do with it? But then the time never seems right, and your ideas never good enough to do it justice. And so, your choice specimen continues languishing in the fridge, its edges getting dark and it flesh no longer firm… And before you know it, you have a dead vegetable on your hands, and all of your hopes and dreams have been dashed.
Well, that’s almost exactly what happened to me with this green cauliflower. Almost, but not quite – because then I got a hold of my senses and, in the last possible moment, turned it into a delightful roasted green cauliflower salad with onions, raisins and almonds that would satisfy even the pickiest eaters. And not a leaf was wasted.
The sad part is that this scenario happens to me with the regularity of the tide. Well, maybe not quite that often, but definitely every week or so, I end up hastily processing some prized ingredient that I’ve been saving for the blog, for experimentation, or just for a special occasion.
The problem is that in our busy lives, we don’t make room enough for ‘special occasions’. With the release of Ashley Rodriguez‘ excellent new book, [amazon text=Date Night In,&asin=0762452463], there has been a lot of chatter on the Internet about making time to date our husbands, live-in girlfriends, or long-term partners. It seems that in the midst of everything that we have going on, we forget to actually set up special occasions with our lovers. And that’s unfortunate.
So after reading all those posts, I started thinking about what I consider special occasions: the date nights in with homemade pizza or nachos, the elaborate breakfasts, the walks around the park, the late-night poutine that he eats and I stare at at longingly. And I realized that most of the time, food figures in prominently in my ‘special’ times. Food is how I show love. And by itself, the act of sharing food, of cooking for someone else, is often special enough to warrant no extra fanfare.
And so, I decided to use up that green cauliflower to make a special salad without a special occasion. This roasted green cauliflower salad with onions, raisins and almonds came together quickly and easily. I photographed it on a cloudy Saturday morning, tasted it, plated, and called Greg to the table. He ate some of it for breakfast, and took the rest with him for lunch the very same day. I ate the leftovers straight out of the mixing bowl, lapping out the sweet and acidic dressing with my tongue while no one was looking.
There was nothing precious about the way we ate the salad. We didn’t take set out the table, light candles, turn on romantic make-out music, or take out out the holiday china (probably because we ain’t got none). Greg probably didn’t even know that I had been thinking about dating, or special occasions. I don’t think he noticed the cauliflower was green and therefore exceptional.
But he noticed the dressing, bright and acidic. He noticed the interplay of textures between the plump raisins, the roasted, caramelized cauliflower that was just burnt around the edges, and the crunchy organic almonds we love. He noticed the perfect blending of flavours between the sweet and the savoury. By itself, this roasted green cauliflower salad with onions, raisins and almonds was special enough, and we both noticed it.
So I urge you not to wait on making this roasted green cauliflower salad. If you have a green cauliflower in your fridge right now, don’t let in languish there, unloved and unattended, waiting for a special occasion. But if you don’t, then I beg of you, do not go searching for it; a regular ol’ white cauliflower would do just fine, or even a couple of perky bunches of broccoli. You don’t need golden raisins or organic almonds or even fresh thyme, though they definitely help make the salad better. You don’t even need the best olive oil, or freshly squeezed lemon juice.
All you need to make this roasted green cauliflower salad with onions, raisins and almonds special is to make it with love. And that will be enough of an occasion.
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- 1 head of green cauliflower (mine was fairly small; a larger head may require more dressing) - if you can't find green cauliflower, use regular white cauliflower, or even a few heads of broccoli
- 3 TBs slivered or chopped almonds
- ¼ TB raisins
- ½ a small red onion, chopped finely
- 2 TBs olive oil
- 2 TBs lemon juice or white wine vinegar (mine had tarragon in it, but any white wine vinegar will do if you have no lemon juice)
- 1 tsp fresh or dry thyme
- salt + pepper to taste after dressing
- Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
- Cut green cauliflower into florets. Do not discard the stem - it can also be chopped up and added to the florets. Arrange florets on baking sheet, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 mins, and then switch your oven to grill/broil and bake an additional 10 minutes on this setting, until the cauliflower florets just brown around the edges.
- Remove from oven and transfer cauliflower florets to a mixing bowl. Add almonds, raisins, and chopped red onion. Mix dressing in a separate jar, shake or stir vigorously to emulsify, and drizzle on salad. Mix thoroughly with thongs, serving spoons or your hands, and taste before adding salt, pepper, or a bit more lemon juice.
- The salad can be eaten immediately, though I find it gets even better after marinating in its juice a bit (it can be kept in the fridge for a few days).