I have written about cauliflower before (see the archives 3/20/2013).
I (dimly) remember a cauliflower salad from a Marcella Hazan cookbook that had (as I recall it from years ago) black olives, capers, and roasted red peppers—a good combination of sweet, salty and tangy notes for the plain flavor of the cauliflower. I am bringing those flavors to this pasta dish.
Since, it’s 2016, I roasted the cauliflower. (Aren’t we roasting everything now?) The remaining cauliflower was turned into soup (see below). Instead of roasted peppers, I used sun dried tomatoes. They used to be a staple, go-to ingredient in my pantry but I haven’t used them in a long time. They lend sweetness. You could use roasted red peppers, but please, roast them yourself. Roasted peppers in a can or jar never taste like the ones you make at home. Chiles, either fresh or dried, bring their subtle heat. Black olives are dense, deep, and salty. Capers and their brine lend a splash of bright acidity. These are the classic ingredients in a tapenade. Sweet, salty, tangy, spicy, it’s all here.
I used whole wheat pasta, but you don’t have to. Whole wheat pasta works with some ingredients, roasted cauliflower being one. A pasta like orecchiette would work here too, the “little ears” of pasta would hold the bits and pieces quite well.
All in all, a good tangle of tastes and textures in a pasta dish for late winter, as we look forward to the renewal of spring.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower
for two servings
3 ounces whole wheat penne
2 cups cauliflower florets
1or 2 cloves garlic, minced
diced fresh chiles or dried red pepper flakes, to taste
6 to 8 pitted black olives, chopped (either Kalamata or oil cured)
2 Tablespoons capers
2 Tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, chopped
the juice from a half of a lemon
salt and ground black pepper
2 to 4 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread the cauliflower evenly on a baking tray. Place the tray into the oven and roast the cauliflower for 12 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, turn the cauliflower, and return the tray to the oven and roast the cauliflower for an additional 6 minutes or so. Remove from oven and set aside until needed. (This can be done in advance and held aside until you are ready to cook).
2. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan onto the stove over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chiles and stir together. Add the roasted cauliflower, black olives, capers, and sun dried tomatoes. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the pasta water into the pan. Let it simmer until the water is reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and wait for the pasta to finish cooking.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it into a colander. Place the pan with the cauliflower back onto the stove and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and mix together. Add the lemon juice and additional olive oil if the pasta seems dry. Taste and season with salt, if needed, and ground black pepper. Scatter the grated cheese over the pasta and mix together. Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve. This will make you feel that spring is just around the corner.
Purists might want to use white pepper, but I side with Jacques Pepin and use black. A few black specks don’t hurt although Escoffier might be offended.
Cauliflower, Potato, and Leek Soup
4 cups chopped cauliflower (florets and peeled stem)
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 potato, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
6 cups water or stock
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
1/2 cup light or heavy cream (optional)
1. To clean the leeks, slice the leeks in half, lengthwise. Thinly slice the leeks crosswise; use about 3/4’s of the leek (the white and the palest green parts of the leek). Place the leek slices into a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any sand. Shake off excess water.
2. Place a large sauce pot onto the stove over medium heat. When the pot is hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons oil. Add the leeks and cook the leeks until they begin to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust heat if necessary.
3. After the leeks have softened, add the cauliflower, potatoes, and water or stock. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 12 to 15 minutes until all of the vegetables are soft.
4. When the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly before pureeing the soup. Using either a blender or and immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.Add the cream, if using. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Reheat and serve. Store any leftover soup in containers and freeze until needed.