Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that many of us just can’t — or would rather not — warm up to. It was that bland, overcooked, tasteless nothing that we pushed around on our plates as kids. Like brussel sprouts, it got a bad name, but is actually really tasty when allowed to be. Tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper, and cooked to smoky goodness in a cast iron or out on the grill, is a sure fire way to enjoy it. I was inspired by a recipe in this Food & Wine book, where a chef added in cornichons to bring in an element of vinegary contrast to the smoke, something we all love from summers of grilling and the inevitable pickles that happily tag along.
This turned out to be a really fun, brightly flavored dish that’s perfect to bring to a cookout. I picked up the most beautiful purple and white cauliflower from my friends over at Canaan Farm – how could you not like cauliflower when it’s such a beautiful shade of violet? I lightly charred the cauliflower on a cast iron grill on the stove with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, with some curry-spiced and pickled summer squash and zucchini I made earlier this summer. The lightly sweet & spiced squash pickles are yet another recipe from The Preservation Kitchen — definitely my favorite book on preserving and canning.
Last week, I finally made my way to my friend Brett’s overwhelmingly nice kitchen goodies store in Rockport, Lula’s Pantry. A regular at The Market Restaurant, he stocks his store with amazing kitchen wares, tasteful items for entertaining, and super yummy pantry goods. Upon his recommendation, I picked up a jar of pickled apricots from Boat Street Pickles out in Seattle. They almost have an effervescent quality, with a sweet and spicy hint of curry. They’d be perfect with grilled or roasted meat or on a cheese plate, but also really nicely complimented the smoky, Indian flavors of this dish. I also picked up a beautiful linen placemat from Fog Linens in Tokyo, check it out in the last photo below!
If you can’t find Boat Street Pickles’ pickled apricots, no worries, try to find spiced & pickled fruit and veggies from a local farm market, with matching flavor elements. (The pickled fruit and veggies I used both had curry, but any element shared in common would be good.) You will likely be able to find some sweetly spiced cucumber pickles, which I think would be delicious, and pickled fruit at a specialty store. While the fruit adds a really interesting quality, it’s not necessary, and you could even just skip the whole pickled portion of the recipe if preferable. Will still be yummy!
Charred Cauliflower with Pickled Apricots
Makes a couple sweet, spiced and salty servings — double recipe if bringing to a cookout.
- 2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets (not super tiny though)
- juice of half a lemon
- just a bit of olive oil and/or butter
- small handful of golden raisins
- 1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
- chopped herbs: parsley, cilantro, mint
- a handful of sweet, spicy pickles
- 2-3 spoonfuls pickled apricots
Warm a cast iron grill or large pan on the stove, on medium to high heat. Toss the cauliflower florets in a swig of olive oil, the lemon juice, sea salt and pepper. Toss in a few of the pickled squash or other pickled veggies, if using. Transfer the veggies to the hot grill and cook until smoky, crunchy, and flavorful. Keep nibbling until you like how it tastes! Then transfer to a bowl to cool.
In a separate warmed pan, cook the onion rings and golden raisins in a pad of melted butter. In a third pan, warm the 2-3 spoonfuls of pickled fruit with a pad of butter and stir until it breaks down to a smooth consistency. In theory, you could cook the onions, golden raisins, and pickled apricots with butter all in the same pan, but I did it separately so it’d be easier to coat all of the veggies with the apricots at once. Toss the onions and raisins with the bowl of cooked veggies, then coat everything with the buttery, pickly apricot sauce. Lastly, sprinkle the herbs of your choice — I used parsley, cilantro, and mint — and serve warm or at room temperature. Look at you getting your cauliflower serving in!