Keep this elegant dish in mind for your holiday table - or any table, really. Because it's pretty awesome.
My natural tendency is to downplay everything -- my standard response is a mixture of aloofness and indifference. And by nature, I am an insane perfectionist. I will shoot and reshoot food photographs. I will write, rewrite, revise, rewrite the revision, revise again, and, if I'm dissatisfied, delete everything and start over. I mean, #selective. It goes without saying that it's very hard for me to be effusive or excited about anything. But this cauliflower thing? This is actually pretty good.
I love this recipe so much that I "tested" it more times than I needed to to actually get the quantities down. It's indescribably delicious, with a double dose of mustard, warm and pungent vinaigrette, sweet and lightly-pickled shallots, crunchy roasted cauliflower, briny olives, and chewy pistachios. My advice: you can never add too many pistachios to a dish. In fact, disregard the stated quantity and add as many as you like. That's not to even speak of the tiny cauliflower florets that naturally break off and become perfectly crisp in the oven. Those little cauliflower bits are the best part -- they soak up the vinaigrette and become sour and salty. I mean, it's pure lechery.
All different colors and varieties of cauliflower are now on display at the local markets. Know that if you buy purple, orange or lime green cauliflower, it will retain its beautiful color throughout the cooking process. According to Deborah Madison (my unassailable authority on all vegetable-related matters), the different-colored varieties offer different antioxidants, too. For example, the purple cauliflower produces anthocyanins and the orange heads contain much more vitamin A than the white.
The flavor of this dish comes down to three essential elements: spicy and pungent mustard, a sweet vinegar, and a roasted cruciferous vegetable. Beyond that basic formula, you can take the recipe in several different directions. Instead of, or in addition to, cauliflower, try broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts. For a sweeter dish, leave out the grainy mustard and the green olives. If you don't like pistachios, substitute walnuts or pecans. If you don't like olives, omit them and try capers or nothing at all. If you don't have white balsamic vinegar, try red wine or champagne vinegar. It's a terrifically adaptable recipe.
Mustard Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup pistachios, raw and unsalted
1/3 cup green olives, sliced
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees.
Prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together the shallot, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, and white balsamic vinegar. Let the vinaigrette sit for at least 15 minutes and preferably while the cauliflower is roasting.
Optional move: dry roast the pistachios for 5 to 7 minutes or so in the oven or in a skillet over medium-low heat. (I prefer to eat them raw).
Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and peel and slice the stem into 1-inch pieces. Spread the cauliflower out evenly on a large baking sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan halfway.
Whisk the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the vinaigrette and toss with the cauliflower as soon as it comes out of the oven. (It's important to dress the cauliflower while it is still warm.) Add the pistachios and green olives and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately.
Note: I used two heads of cauliflower for the photos and doubled the vinaigrette -- always an option if you're serving a crowd. If you do not have white balsamic vinegar, substitute red wine or champagne vinegar. For a sweeter dish, omit the wholegrain mustard and the green olives.