I am always looking for that special vegetable dish around the holidays. Something a little different and distinctive. I think I found it! Fine Cooking featured this recipe just before Thanksgiving and I had to give it a test run! You probably recall that I most of my life I have had an aversion to anchovies....I think it started with my dad always having anchovies on our pizza. That is truly a good way to RUIN a pizza!
I overcame the aversion when I made Shrimp and Pasta Puttanesca. I realized that the anchovies just add an intriguing layer of flavor. The same happened with this lovely cauliflower dish...it was delicious with layers of flavor.
with Anchovies, Olives and Capers
1 medium-small head cauliflower, about 2 pounds
1 large clove garlic, peeled
Pinch of Kosher salt or sea salt
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained (I used four fillets.)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
15 black olives (such as Kalamata) pitted and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, more to taste
2 tsp capers, roughly chopped (I left them whole.)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or 1/8 tsp Aleppo pepper
Prepare the cauliflower by cutting individual florets. Cut the large florets into quarters, medium into halves, leaving the small florets whole.
Make a paste by mincing the garlic, salt and anchovies together. (Mash with the flat side of a knife until they become a paste. Or use a mortar.) Scrape the mixture into a large shallow bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the olives, lemon juice, capers, lemon zest and the red pepper flakes. Stir well.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half the cauliflower pieces in a single layer, flat side down. Cook the cauliflower until well browned on the bottom, 2-4 minutes, and then transfer to a plate. Add the remaining one tablespoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining cauliflower, but do not transfer from the skillet. Return the first batch of cauliflower to the pan, turn the heat down to low and carefully add 2/3 cup water. Cover and let steam until the stems are just tender, 6-8 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked cauliflower to the bowl with the anchovy mixture. Add one tablespoon of the cooking liquid. Let sit 1 minute to warm and loosen the mixture, and then gently to coat the cauliflower and evenly distribute the olives and capers. Serve warm or at room temperature.
We decided that this was a lovely dish and excellent vegetable for a special meal!