In the hierarchy of misunderstood vegetables, cauliflower is close to the top. For most folks, they’ve been traumatized by Brussels sprouts and beets. Some may have flashbacks to some asparagus in the can – a moment of silence, please. After that, broccoli and cauliflower usually get a spirited mention. They’re the vegetables that kept you at the table after dinner was over because you refused to eat them plain. For many, let’s face it, cauliflower is often just disguised in a cloak of cheese sauce because it’s the only way it got consumed. I know that’s how it was at my house. Not because of me so much but because of my dad. He wasn’t so much a vegetable eater save for sliced tomatoes and a Wedge salad that was more wedge than salad.
For those who have have never met a cauliflower recipe they liked. For those that want to like it but can’t get past the memories of goopy orange sauce. For those that fret about trying to feed it to their friends & family, read on. This recipe is incredible. So unique. There will be no need for cheese. I promise.
This is a recipe for folks who don’t like cauliflower. It’s also for those folks who love it. It’s proof that with some roasting, a knob of butter, and a little finesse…any vegetable can be a star. I had this dish at a great Mexican place near my house – yes you read that right. They do great things with vegetables and side dishes (creamed corn with lardo, roasted broccoli which I swooned over, etc.) and the description of this cauliflower dish was so weird, I had to try it. I could have eaten a platter of this stuff & skipped the rest of my meal.
It’s tough to get your mind around the combination of olives and dates but the sweet/salty thing works. Cauliflower is really a faintly cabbage-y vehicle for however you want to guss it up. The Castelvetrano olives are important here because they aren’t super salty and oily. They’re briny but retain a crisp bite & clean taste. If you can’t find them, I would substitute another brined green olive – something with a firm skin and texture. This is easy enough to be an every day recipe yet unusual enough to be a show-stopper at your holiday dinners.
Roasted Cauliflower with Medjool Dates, Olives and Rosemary – serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
– Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large roasting pan or baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and the fresh ground black pepper. Once the oven comes up to temperature, roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) until tender with some caramelized brown spots. You’re not looking for char – just nice touches of golden brown.
– About 2 minutes before you’re going to pull the cauliflower from the oven, heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Allow to start to bubble and brown ever so slightly. Throw in the chopped rosemary, dates and olives and saute until heated through – you don’t want the rosemary to get black, though. Pull the cauliflower from the oven. You can either drizzle the butter/date/olive mixture over the cauliflower in the roasting pan and toss….or you can put the cauliflower in the butter mixture if your saute pan is big enough. Either will work. Taste a tiny floret & season with salt and pepper accordingly. Serve immediately.