Meat Lite: Cauliflower Ain't No Wallflower

Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by the book coauthored by the two, Almost Meatless, due out in spring 2009.

It's always the same sad scene: raw cauliflower in a forlorn pile on an otherwise empty crudit├ęs platter. At best, a few florets get called upon merely as a carrier for some mayo-dense dip. It's the only thing preventing partygoers from dunking bare fingers. Outside of this uncooked cameo, cauliflower earned a terrible reputation for its role in the ridiculous late 1990s low-carb diet craze as the mash in mock mashed potatoes.

Despite the bad rap, I've always liked cauliflower OK. But one of the recipes from our forthcoming cookbook, Almost Meatless, boosted me on the bandwagon, beyond the status of fair-weather dipping fan. Our Chicken and Curried Cauliflower Salad Sandwiches turned out to be a surprising favorite of the sixty or so recipes my co-author Joy Manning and I developed. They feature cauliflower, not as space filler for absentee meat or food trickery, but for its tender yet crunchy structure, adaptability to cooking methods and fellow ingredients, and earthy, assertive flavor.

When I saw the season's harvest piled high like captured cumulus clouds in wood crates at the farmers' market, I was excited to start experimenting with similarly satisfying recipes. Roasted Cauliflower Waldorf Salad proves the meaty worth of this cruciferous vegetable. In addition to autumn apples, crunchy celery, and toasty walnuts, the cauliflower backdrop is the perfect place for leftovers of roasted chicken, turkey, and pork inspired by the chill in the air.

If you passed up the lonely florets at a recent party, you owe cauliflower a shot at proving your prejudice wrong.

Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. Her blog, Crumbs On My Keyboard, is dedicated to delicious things in Philadelphia and lots of other places.

Author's Note: The salad benefits from a sit in the fridge to allow the flavors to come together. If you don't already have cooked meat on hand, it's easy to roast a chicken breast or turkey tenderloin along side the cauliflower while it cooks. Season the meat, place it in a separate baking pan in the same oven, and roast until cooked through.

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Meat Lite: Cauliflower Ain't No Wallflower

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4
This recipe appears in: This Week in Recipes

Ingredients

  • For the roasted cauliflower:
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch florets
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • For the salad:
  • 1 cup cubed cooked chicken, turkey or pork (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1 medium apple, diced small (crisp, crunchy varieties like Honey Crisp or Stayman Winesap work well)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery

Procedures

  1. 1

  2. 2

    While the cauliflower roasts, make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  3. 3

    When the cauliflower is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, toss the meat, apples, walnuts, raisins, celery and cooled cauliflower. Add the dressing and stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to come together.

  4. 4

    Serve the salad on toasted bread, mixed greens or on its own.

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