This dish is an adaptation of a recipe from the Oregonian's MIX Magazine for “Cast Iron Brassicas with Roasted Red Peppers” (http://www.oregonlive.com/mix/index.ssf/side-dish-recipes/cast-iron_brassicas_with_roasted_red_peppers.html). It's a delicious and beautiful cooktop dish, but I thought it could use some acidity and a hint of mystery. I decided to add some North African flavors with preserved lemons, olives, cumin and paprika. I used the roasted red peppers from the dish to create a vinaigrette. I also tinkered with the technique a bit as it was difficult for me to get the vegetables fully cooked as directed in the recipe. The resulting dish has the sweet nuttiness of caramelized brassicas and onions with a salty, tangy, smoky vinaigrette and pops of flavor from the preserved lemons, olives, and fresh cilantro. It is a lovely dinner party side because the prep can be done ahead of time, and a lot of the cooking time is hands-off. It can be served warm or at room temperature, which increases its versatility. It's a little rustic, a little fancy, a little familiar, a little unusual, and it plays well with a wide variety of main courses -- what more could you ask for?
Test Kitchen Notes
This did not disappoint as a flavorful side dish. It also comes together in a pinch and is sure to keep dinner guests asking for more. The triumph of this dish is a smart combination of technique and taste; by slowly roasting broccoli and cauliflower in an uncovered skillet, the dish cooks itself largely unattended. As for taste, the smart vinaigrette packs a tangy punch with a combination of flavors that is unexpected and delicious. Although a few ingredients are not pantry staples (preserved lemon, Castelvetrano olives), do not let this deter you from making this the next time you have company. It is worth the trip to a higher-end grocery or specialty market, where both of these specialty ingredients can easily be found in the olive bar. —gingerroot
6 to 8
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
large onion, thinly sliced (pole to pole)
head of cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets, large florets cut in halves
head of romanesco or broccoli, trimmed and separated into florets, large florets cut in halves
red pepper flakes
medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped, and divided
Freshly ground black pepper
brine from preserved lemons
preserved lemon, rinsed
12 to 15
Castelvetrano olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
small to medium red peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled, and diced
2 to 3 tablespoons
cilantro leaves (or substitute Italian parsley)
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron or other non-stick skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and romanesco/broccoli, and evenly distribute in a single layer. (The pan should be crowded, but if you cannot create a single layer remove a few florets.) Take a minute to wiggle each piece into place to get some surface contact on each floret. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes and all but 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped garlic over the brassicas. Season with ground black pepper, and sprinkle on the brine from the preserved lemons. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
While the brassicas are cooking, prep your lemon and make your dressing. Quarter the preserved lemon, and use a spoon to scrape out the pulp. Remove the seeds from the pulp and put the pulp in your blender. Coarsely chop one quarter of the peel, and add it to the blender. Dice the remaining peel and set aside. To the blender add the reserved chopped garlic, all but 1 heaping tablespoon of the diced red pepper, sherry vinegar, cumin, and paprika. Blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender jar, then while running slowly pour in the remaining olive oil. Taste and add a splash or two more of vinegar if the dressing isn't tangy enough. Set aside. (NOTE: This step could also be done ahead, just re-blend dressing prior to serving if any separation has occurred.)
After your timer has gone off, check a couple of florets for caramelization. If needed, cook an additional 5 or so minutes. Otherwise scatter the reserved red pepper, diced preserved lemon, and chopped olives over the brassicas. Cover the pan and allow to steam for 5 to 10 minutes as needed to cook the florets through, but still maintain some texture.
Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro just before serving. Drizzle with dressing, and serve the rest on the side. (Note: The brassicas will be under-seasoned without the dressing.)
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.