Thursday, January 26, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Salad

Rain has been rare around here for so long, that we do not complain when it comes.  Even when it arrives and stays for days and days, bringing with it fog and thunder (in January, no less).  Even when it then brightens up for a day or two, and begins to rain again.

We'll take it.

To be sure, rain in the winter just kind of works for me.  The trees are already bare and gray, and we are mostly inside anyway, so days of rain make me want to cozy up in my yoga pants, living on soup and hot tea and the dreary, yet ethereally beautiful, view through my windows.

Glorious, isn't it?  Misty mornings, foggy views, and the pitter-pattering sound of the rain on the tin roof. It's no wonder I'm digging the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook right now.  Soups and salads and good, crusty bread are just perfect for warming the belly and soothing the tired mind at the end of the day.

This past weekend, after a full day of heavy rain and busy little projects around the house, I made Moosewood's Celery Roquefort Soup, and served it with a companion dish from the same cookbook, Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Salad.  The pairing was sublime, marrying the rich, velvety soup with the vibrant flavors and varying textures of the salad.

And such a salad it is.  The pepper is roasted, peeled, and then sliced; and the cauliflower and potatoes are tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted just until tender.  The roasted vegetables are then spooned atop a mixture of crisp, fresh lettuces, and the whole shebang is drizzled with a homemade, just-tart-enough, vinaigrette.

I adore salads with unexpected elements, like roasted vegetables served over crisp lettuce, everything tangy with vinaigrette.  This recipe called for fennel, which wasn't suiting my mellow mood at the moment, so I made it with a mixture of rosemary, parsley, thyme, and basil, but you can do whatever you wish there - I don't think it would hurt to use a gentler hand with the herbs altogether.  There is a lot going on in this salad, with the sweet, silky roasted peppers contrasting nicely with the savory flavor of the roasted potatoes and cauliflower, and the pure flavors do not need to be smothered with a lot of extras.

So perfect.  And so easy on the eyes.  Composed salads with warm vegetables and cold greens are my idea of heavenly, you see, and even The Carnivore ate a double helping.  This sort of salad is decidedly not the sort of thing that keeps well, so plan on eating the whole thing at once.  And it does not require a soup alongside.  It would do just as well served with baked salmon, or even as a main-course lunch if topped with a crumbled feta or blue cheese, and served with a good rustic bread.

I felt a sublime sort of love for our first meal from this cookbook, and I plan to make the Creamy Onion and Fontina Soup with the Wilted Spinach and Sauteed Portobello Mushroom Salad this weekend.  I do hope it rains again.


(adapted from Moosewood Daily Specials)

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets (about 4 cups)
  • 1 large russet potato, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 scant tsp dried herbs (mix of rosemary, thyme, fennel, basil, and/or parsley)
  • 4 cups torn leaf lettuce - butter lettuce worked beautifully here
  1. To roast the pepper, you can place it over the flame on a gas stove, turning until it is blackened on most of it's surface.  Or, you can put in the oven, on broil, turning it every minute or so until most of it is blackened and charred.  Remove it from the heat, wrap it in a kitchen towel, and leave alone for 5 or 10 minutes.  Unwrap the pepper, peel off and discard the skin.  Cut in half and discard the seeds and membrane.  Slice lengthwise into thin strips and set aside.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets and potato slices in 2 Tbs olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until tender but not falling apart, and the cauliflower is browned and getting crispy on the edges.  Give the pan a stir every 5 minutes or so during roasting.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together the remaining 4 Tbs olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, garlic cloves, herbs, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  4. Lay the greens on a large platter or in the bottom of a large, wide bowl.  Arrange the roasted cauliflower and potatoes on the greens, and top with the red pepper strips.  Drizzle with the dressing.  Serve immediately.

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