A whole cauliflower is quite a presence on the table, especially when you've scattered over it a sauté of yellow peppers, red tomatoes and bright green herbs. This recipe is a boon to a special meal with courses, as the cauliflower is served at room temperature.
Slice it like a cake to show off the vegetable's brainy interior.
1. Make the sauce: Film the bottom of a 6-quart pot with olive oil and set it over medium heat. Flavor the oil with garlic by stirring the crushed cloves around the pan with a wooden spatula, pressing them into the pan to release their flavor into the oil. Once they turn blonde (not brown!), discard them.
2. Add the peppers, hot pepper, a little salt and pepper, and cook 3 minutes or until they soften but retain their bright color. Turn the heat to high; stir in the oregano, basil and tomatoes. Sauté about 1 minute. Add the vinegar. Boil 1 minute, and remove the sauce from the heat. Let cool to room temperature, and season to taste. Add the capers and parsley to the sauce just before spooning it over the cauliflower.
3. To steam the cauliflower, place a folding steamer basket in a pot large enough to hold the cauliflower. Pour about 2 inches of water into the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Using two spatulas, ease the cauliflower onto the steamer basket. Cover the pot, and steam about 8 minutes or until the cauliflower is barely tender. Remove from heat, and let it cool 10 minutes.
4. To serve, set the room temperature cauliflower on a flat platter. Spoon half of the sauce over it, and pass the rest at the table.
Pasta with Caramelized Cauliflower: Brown pieces of the cooked cauliflower in olive oil in a large saucepan; toss with the sauce and hot pasta and a generous shaving of bright tangy cheese like pecorino.
This recipe appears in Italian Holidays: Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Issue 3, which is available as an e-book.
Chef Thomas Keller, author of Ad Hoc at Home, explains how to season food with salt and vinegar, and why you should temper your food.