Oh, do I love my cruciferous vegetables. Who knows when that happened, exactly, since my six-year old self would shudder to think that a few decades later I’d be making googly eyes at the broccolini and freaking out over kale snacks and frequently ordering brussels sprouts on purpose. (What can I say? Grown-ups are weird.) And while I certainly appreciate that my beloved Brassicas are super-healthy, and I may feel wonderfully virtuous when tucking into my cabbage or collards, let’s face facts: I’m really in it for the flavor.
In winter, one of my no-brainer, go-to side dishes is a heap of cauliflower and broccoli florets, roasted with olive oil and lots of salt until nutty-brown and crisp-tender. (Follow the recipe below up to step one. How’s that for easy?) To dress things up a bit, borrow a page from Sicily’s playbook and toss roasted cauliflower with a warm vinaigrette (bright and savory with anchovy, garlic, lemon, capers) and well-toasted breadcrumbs for textural contrast. Delish.
If you come across Romanesco or any other bright varieties of cauliflower (green, orange, even purple) at your market, feel free to substitute them for the conventional, creamy white type. Look for heads that feel heavy for their size, with bright, thick leaves (they’re edible; save them for making stock) and tightly packed, unblemished buds.
Roasted Cauliflower, Sicilian-style
serves 2-4 as a side dish
- one large head cauliflower (about 2 lbs)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 C breadcrumbs, preferably panko-style
- 1 tsp dried parsley or 2 tsp fresh, minced
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 2 tsp capers
- 2-3 tsp lemon juice
- healthy pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Core the cauliflower and break into individual bite-sized florets. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the florets with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread evenly and roast, stirring once or twice to encourage even browning, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toast over medium heat until well-browned. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl and toss with the parsley and red chile flakes. Wipe down the saucepan with a paper towel.
While the breadcrumbs are toasting (keep an eye on them so they don’t burn), mince the garlic clove and anchovy. Drain and rinse the capers and roughly chop. In the saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil and the anchovy over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovy until it’s mostly dissolved into the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat and add the capers and lemon juice. Stir and set aside.
Toss the roasted cauliflower with the warm vinaigrette and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
Note: if you’re multiplying the recipe, use two baking sheets to keep the cauliflower from overcrowding (they’ll steam rather than brown). For a lighter recipe, you can skip the vinaigrette and/or breadcrumbs; roasted cauliflower is delicious on its own.