This salad, inspired by a recipe from The Modern restaurant in New York City, is like one of Shakespeare's comedies (the resemblance is uncanny, really), where every character has two roles: The cauliflower is both roasted and raw; the grapes are both pickled and fresh; the cheddar cheese is both melted and crumbled; the lemon juice seasons the vegetables, the white wine vinegar adds sharpness to the pickle brine, and both come together in a dressing.
If the salad seems daunting, here's where you can cut corners:
- Skip the pickling altogether; make the dressing extra sharp with an added boost of vinegar.
- Don't spend time shaving raw cauliflower. Roast it all!
- Don't melt the cheese with cauliflower—just crumble all of it into the salad.
- Instead of making a separate vinaigrette, use the pickling liquid as your base, adding lemon juice and olive oil.
Looking to riff? Here are some ideas for experimentation:
- Instead of cauliflower, use carrots or broccoli.
- For a leafy version, use radicchio: half raw, half roasted.
- Instead of grapes and raisins, use fresh figs and dried figs (or only dried figs); in the summer, you could use fresh and dried cherries.
- To turn it into a full meal, serve over rice or farro; with a soft-boiled egg on top. —Sarah Jampel
- Serves 4 to 6
For the pickled raisins and grapes
(generous) halved green grapes (from about 1 pound of grapes), divided
plus 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons
crushed red pepper flakes
For the salad and the dressing
heads cauliflower, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons
Salt and black pepper, for seasoning
lemon juice, divided
1 1/2 cups
(generous) crumbled sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
mustard (I used a mix: half grainy, half Dijon)
walnut oil (or substitute with olive oil)
(heaping) crème fraîche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt
coarsely chopped smoked almonds (or toasted slivered almonds)
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. Put 1 cup of the halved grapes in a heatproof bowl. Set the other cup aside for later.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the raisins, 3/4 cup of the white wine vinegar, honey, bay leaf, sea salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and allow mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by half.
- Pour the hot liquid over the grapes in the heatproof bowl. Set aside to allow the liquid to cool completely to room temperature.
- Cut 1 1/2 heads of cauliflower into small-ish florets (they can vary in size a bit!). Save the other 1/2 head (later, you'll shave it into the salad, to eat raw). Toss the cauliflower florets the olive oil, season with plenty of salt and pepper, and put on two parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure there's plenty of breathing room for the florets. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower is crispy-skinned and quite dark.
- Add 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the cauliflower on the baking sheets and 1/2 of the cheese, distributing among both pans. Put back in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese has melted into a mess on your parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Remove cauliflower from the oven and immediately stir it with the melted cheese so that the florets are coated and almost no cheese streaks remain on the parchment paper (don't allow the cheese to congeal!). Set aside.
- Make your vinaigrette: Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice with remaining 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Whisk in mustard. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil. When your mixture is creamy and emulsified, whisk in the crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To a large serving bowl, add the reserved grape halves and reserved crumbled cheese. Then take the remaining 1/2-head of cauliflower and shave it with a mandoline into the bowl. Add in the cheesy roasted cauliflower. Strain the pickled raisins and grapes (you can reserve the liquid to make salad dressing in the future!) and add them to the bowl, too. Add the chopped almonds and mix it all together. Finally, dress the salad with the lemon vinaigrette, going slowly as to not overdress.