Roasted Cauliflower with Green Olives, Almonds and Lemon Caper Vinaigrette / by Chelsea Zwieg

Cauliflower has been having quite a moment lately. Between all the cauliflower rice, cauliflower mash, cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower bagels, I've almost forgotten what an actual cauliflower looks like. But I would like to give this phenomenon a million fist pump emojis because it is basically the veggie world's version of the nerdy kid who sucks at sports but grows up to be a super successful business tycoon. Just a little veggie-centric shout to those of us who were not exactly head of the cheerleading squad. (I know, I know, can you even believe that the food blogger/baker/photographer was not the popular star athlete in school?)

But here's the thing, just like my mom can't look at a picture of me in 6th grade, simultaneously rocking glasses and braces, and not think I was adorable, I think cauliflower is it's very best self when it still bears a resemblance to what you buy in the store. Props to everyone who has managed to produce a cauliflower version of every food imaginable, but nothing beats a cauliflower thinly sliced and roasted until it is perfectly crisp.  
 

If you have never experienced the magic that is a crispy, roasted cauliflower, prepare to have your mind blown. Basically, take your average cauliflower roasting technique (probably something like 20 minutes at 450) and double it. You might think the cauliflower would become mushy, or burnt but it's actually just the opposite. After it reaches the tender stage that it is normally served at, it surpasses that and takes on a perfect golden brown with edges that are addictively crisp and crunchy. 

But since this is the holiday season, the time of delicious and exciting food, the pressure is on to keep things interesting. You, like me, might be all on board applauding cauliflower for all of it's natural beauty but if you're asked to bring a side dish for the next christmas party and show up with a pan of plain, roasted cauliflower, people might think you hate them. Or they might wonder why you didn't make cauliflower donuts. So I added some green olives, toasted almonds and lemon caper vinaigrette to make this a cauliflower that can stand up to anything else on the table. 

And then, with any luck, people will be so taken with your cauliflower that they'll be swayed to forget things like Trump, ISIS and the demise of millennials in favor of toasting cauliflower's massive comeback. Well, I can dream. 

Roasted Cauliflower with Green Olives, Almonds and Lemon Caper Vinaigrette 

Serves 4

| Ingredients

For the cauliflower: 

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered 
  • 1/4 cup almonds

For the lemon caper vinaigrette: 

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. capers, chopped (with their liquid)
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. maple syrup 
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450. Trim cauliflower stalk and cut head in half. Slice lengthwise into 1/2" slices. Drizzle 1 tbsp. olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place cauliflower florets on baking sheet and drizzle with remaining tbsp. of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the bottom side of the florets are browned, 20-25 minutes. Using a spatula, turn cauliflower over and continue to roast until brown and crispy, about 25 more minutes. In the last 10 minutes of baking, add sliced olives to the baking sheet. 
  • Meanwhile, place almonds in a small saucepan over high heat. Toast almonds, stirring often, until they begin to brown and the skins start to flake off. Transfer to a cutting board to cool. Once they have cooled, roughly chop the almonds. 
  • To make the vinaigrette, combine lemon juice, zest, capers, mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. Slowly stream in olive oil, whisking quickly to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • In a bowl, combine cauliflower and olives with the toasted almonds. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve any additional vinaigrette on the side.