Stewed Cauliflower, Tomatoes, and Chick Peas with Lemony Uplift, ala Tamar Adler

By Chris Hagan
January 31, 2018
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Author Notes: Boiling water, your food processor, and heat retention do most of the work for you in this adaptation of Tamar Adler's recipe for "Cauliflower With Capers, Black Olives and Chiles" that appeared in the New York Times in February of 2016. I added some nori, kombu, and anchovies for complexity, pickled hot peppers and more capers to punch up the heat and brininess, some stewed tomatoes for sweetness, and some chick peas for heft (and a little protein). Calling it "stewed" is perhaps a little misleading--it's almost more like marinating. In any case, the bracingly bright vinaigrette-cum-tapenade that dresses the dish really elevates it. This is excellent on its own; with some bread to sop up all the juices; tossed with orzo or spaghetti or rice; or served alongside a nice piece of fish. A mixture of yellow, purple, and white cauliflower (or even Romanesco) in conjunction with the red tomatoes makes the dish especially stunning visually, but if you can't get your hands on anything but plain old white cauliflower, that won't affect the flavor in any way. Alternatively, use a mixture of white and/or yellow cauliflower and sub in some blue or purple potatoes, which is actually my preferred route lately, as the potatoes play beautifully with the chick peas, as well as with the anchovies and briny things. A note about ingredient quantities: the recommended amounts of anchovies, hot pepper, and lemon are what you can consider opening bids. If you have unusually large lemons, for instance, you probably won't need all the zest and juice of both, which is why it's important to taste as you go. Same goes for the anchovies and pickled peppers. Feel free to omit some or all of both, or to use more. You can also use chili flakes in lieu of the pickled hot peppers, although I really love the pickled peppers here and I think you will, too. Also bear in mind that this gets better the longer it sits around, so consider making it a day in advance. Lastly, I should note that the photo included is from an earlier version of this recipe which did not include the chick peas. Again, this is adapted from Tamar Adler in the New York Times: https://cooking.nytimes....Chris Hagan

Makes: about 4 liters

  • 1/3-1/2 cups good-quality olive oil (6-8 turns around the pan)
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 8 flat anchovy fillets, drained
  • 6 pickled hot peppers, such as fefferoni or pepperoncini, very thinly sliced, or hot chili flakes to taste
  • 1 6-inch strip kombu, snipped into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 cup (a large handful) pitted black olives (like kalamata), roughly chopped
  • 5 tablespoons capers in brine, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup crumbled toasted nori
  • zest and juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste/depending on size)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 15oz cans stewed tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
  • 3 pounds cauliflower (preferably a mixture of white, yellow, and purple; or use 1 1/2 lbs cauliflower florets plus 1 1/2 lbs blue or purple potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas (or 1 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)
  • salt and pepper to taste)
  1. Break cauliflower into large-ish chunks and set aside. (They don't have to be perfectly uniform florets. This dish should have a rustic feel.) Pulse together kombu, olives, 3 tbsp capers, a splash of the caper brine (and/or the pickled hot pepper brine), chopped parsley, nori, lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, salt to taste, a splash of olive oil, and the reserved stewed tomato juice in a food processor. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it well. While water is boiling, acquaint olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and hot peppers over a very low flame in a vessel with good heat retention, and which is large enough to comfortably hold all the ingredients, such as a dutch oven. You're not looking to brown anything; what you want instead is for the anchovies to slowly dissolve into the oil and for the garlic and peppers to get soft and melty. Low and slow is the way to go. If you hear the sound of sizzling, the heat is probably too high. Once you have reached this melty state, stir in the lemon juice and continue cooking over very low heat, a couple minutes more. (Be judicious at this stage--not all lemons are created equal in terms of size or juiciness. You may not need all the juice. Taste and adjust the amount according to your palate. It should be tart at this stage, but not overly bracing. Essentially you are making a warm vinaigrette, so be mindful of the oil-to-acid ratio.)
  3. Boil cauliflower (and potatoes, if using) for 5 minutes, until cauliflower is just tender. At the same time you add the cauliflower to the water, add the olive mixture, the stewed tomatoes, and the remaining capers to the olive oil-lemon juice mixture and gently heat through. Drain cauliflower and potatoes and immediately add to the dutch oven mixture along with the chick peas, and gently stir to coat everything in the sauce. Bring just to a simmer, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand at least a half hour for everything to infuse, although the longer it sits, the better it gets. Can be served hot, cold, or room-temperature.

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