Although you can enjoy this salad at any time of year, I find that its refreshing crunch is especially welcome in winter, when the foods we (or at least I) eat tend to be of the rich, stick-to-your-ribs sort, such as stews and braises, or oozy baked pasta dishes.
1 medium head cauliflower (1 lb/455 g), trimmed and cut into florets
1 large rib celery, sliced on the bias
1 cup/115 g coarsely chopped pitted olives (I use a mix of green and purple, such as cerignola and gaeta or kalamata)
1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup/30 g diced red onion
2 tbsp coarsely chopped slow-roasted tomatoes (recipe follows) or bottled sun-dried tomatoes
1 fresh chile pepper, very hot or mildly hot, your preference, minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup/60 to 120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 oz/85 to 115 g gorgonzola piccante, crumbled
Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan and fill the pan with water up to but not touching the bottom of the basket. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Arrange the cauliflower in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until just tender, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl. Add the celery, olives, parsley, garlic, onion, roasted tomatoes, and chile pepper and toss gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle the lemon zest and lemon juice over the salad. Season with the salt and toss again. Drizzle in the olive oil, starting with 1/4 cup/60 ml and adding more if you like. Cover the salad and let it marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate until chilled if you prefer it cold. Right before serving, fold in the cheese.
Cook's Note: Any or all of the following items would make good additions to the salad: sliced carrots, sliced fennel bulb, roasted peppers, or diced salami.
Makes 1 1/2 lb/680 g (4 packed cups)
Over the years, I have used these slow-roasted tomatoes in pastas, risotto, soups, and stews. They also make an excellent topping for bruschetta, as well as an accompaniment to roast chicken, grilled steaks or sausages, and baked polenta. If plum tomatoes are not in season, use cherry tomatoes instead (see recipe variation). They will need less time in the oven than larger tomatoes.
2 1/2 lb/1.2 kg plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup/120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin
1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil (optional)
Heat the oven to 275°F/135°C/gas 1.
Arrange the plum tomato halves, cut-side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over them. Scatter the garlic slices and fennel seeds over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the tomatoes for 3 to 4 hours, or until they are partially collapsed and caramelized but not dry. They should look somewhat shriveled but still be juicy.
Scrape the tomatoes, along with any juices from the pan, into a container with a tight-fitting lid. If you're not using the tomatoes within 2 days, top them off with olive oil so they are submerged, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Cook's Note: You can omit the fennel seeds, if you like, and instead season the tomatoes with some chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano or thyme, or season them simply with salt and black pepper.
Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomato Variation: Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange them, cut-side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet so that they are just touching one another. Proceed with the recipe. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, or until they are somewhat shriveled but still juicy.
Domenica Marchetti, The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, Chronicle Books (2013).
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