Thursday, July 14, 2011
Refreshing with ice cold cauliflower salad
¼ cup cauliflower broth
red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
½ parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon nutmeg
When visiting my grandmother for weeknight suppers, she had always made us a salad, changing with the seasons from beet to cabbage, cauliflower to celery root, carrot to tomato. Tirelessly she would work with what was available in her little vegetable garden and on the market, using always the same recipes and the same techniques she had learned as a young girl in winter school. Abundance nurtures creativity, austerity values the well-known.
On the way to my grandmother’s house, we’d speculate which salad there would be that day, the choice of vegetable being the only unknown variable in the predictability of suppers consisting of thick slices of bread, cheese and cold meats. She lived at the top of a steep hill, and the last ten minutes walking up there in the glittering evening sun got us panting and grasping for air.
The first thing to do upon arrival was to run into the kitchen and go right for the fridge, where the salad of the day would have been cooling for a couple of hours in a beautiful bowl. My day was made if it was cauliflower, my favorite, the cauliflower florets gleaming seductively in their oil and vinegar dressing. With the savage appetite of a still growing teenager, often I could not wait for everyone to sit at the table, instead shoveling one refreshing forkful after the other into my greedy mouth.
Nowadays, cauliflower is sadly underestimated, much like its relative, cabbage. There is nothing glamorous about it, maybe because it grew in our parents' gardens and was cheap, or maybe because no matter what you do with it, it will always stay down to earth and refuse all pomposity and gaudiness? That is what I adore in cauliflower and what I adore in my grandmother’s timeless recipe. It is simple but does bring out the flavor and is as refreshing as a cold lemonade.
To prepare the cauliflower, you just have to wash it, cut the head in half vertically and cut a little cross into the two stalks so it cooks more evenly. Then it has to be boiled in salt water for around 15 minutes, depending on its size. I have noticed that the custom prevails to eat vegetables nearly raw, but this is not what this recipe calls for. The cauliflower shouldn’t be so soft it can be mashed, but tender enough to offer only a little resistance to the bite.
In the meantime, you can prepare the dressing: some of the water the cauliflower is boiling in, mixed with canola oil (or any neutral tasting vegetable oil), red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, the chopped parsley and a little bit of nutmeg (which complements cauliflower well in general). Once the cauliflower is done, cut it into medium pieces, cover it with the dressing and let the salad rest in the fridge for some minutes (the longer, the better; in fact, this salad tastes even better on the second day). Relax and enjoy ice cold.
Life is good!