Make Ahead

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

January 31, 2018
1 Ratings
Photo by Bogre
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes About 4 liters
Author Notes

Boiling water, your food processor, and heat retention do most of the work for you in this adaptation of a Tamar Adler recipe ("Cauliflower With Capers, Black Olives and Chiles") that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in February 2016. The first time I made it, it seemed to cry out for the addition of tomatoes and chick peas. From there I began experimenting, and ended up here: I've added some nori, kombu, and anchovies for complexity, pickled hot peppers and more capers to punch up the heat and brininess, some stewed tomatoes, and some chick peas for heft (and a little protein). Calling it "stewed" is perhaps a little misleading--it's almost more like you're marinating the cauliflower. In any case, the bracingly bright vinaigrette-cum-tapenade that cuts through the tomato base really elevates the whole thing. This is excellent on its own; with some bread to sop up all the juices; tossed with orzo or spaghetti or rice; with the addition of calamari; 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 method, 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 might not need all the zest and juice, 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--they remind me of a puttanesca I had somewhere in Seattle years ago that used pickled goat horn peppers. 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

What You'll Need
  • 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil (6 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
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 6-inch strip kombu, snipped into tiny pieces
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pitted black olives (like kalamata)
  • 6 tablespoons capers in brine, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup crumbled toasted nori
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon (or to taste/depending on size)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 15oz cans stewed tomatoes, drained, juice from one can 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, 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.) Combine the kombu and reserved stewed tomato juice in the bowl of a food processor and let rehydrate while you prep the rest of your ingredients. When ready, pulse this mixture together with the olives, 4 tbsp capers, a splash of the caper brine (and/or the pickled hot pepper brine), chopped parsley, nori, lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt to taste. 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. Once you have reached this melty state, stir in the tomato paste and cook about a minute, then 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. 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 contents of the food processor and the drained stewed tomatoes to the pan mixture and gently heat through. Drain cauliflower and potatoes and immediately add to the dutch oven along with the chick peas and the remaining 2 tbsp capers, 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. This is particularly good tossed with orzo and some of its cooking water.

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1 Review

Brian W. June 10, 2018
Such a creative punch of a dish. I could never get sick of eating this.