Lovely Italian Winter Cauliflower Salad

December 6, 2013

The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, the latest cookbook from author Domenica Marchetti, plays beautiful tribute to the country's abundant seasonal vegetables in more than 100 recipes. With vegetables playing center stage, cooks of all levels will discover delicious traditional and innovative recipes from season to season, savory to sweet. Lovers of Italian cuisine will simply drool over this must-have collection of every day meals. Below is a recipe for a refreshing Winter Cauliflower Salad with olives, roasted tomatoes, gorgonzola and more that's perfect any time of year.

Winter Cauliflower Salad
Courtesy of Domenica Marchetti, The Glorious Vegetables of Italy

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.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 medium heat 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 ceringnola 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, 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 tablespoons 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.