This could be a side, but I love it as a main, served with a simple salad and some warm bread. Presenting vegetables in big, dramatic formats—stuffed bell peppers, halved butternut squashes, quartered cauliflowers—lets them snag the spotlight. Here, cauliflower is blanched, then sautéed, a one-two punch technique: A quick, salty boil seasons and parcooks the vegetable. Then, a sizzly, brown buttery sauté brings color and flavor. If you can’t find dates, golden raisins are great, too, especially if you throw in a handful of pine nuts or walnuts. —Emma Laperruque
head cauliflower, quartered (core still intact, any leaves removed)
unsalted butter, divided
dried dates, pitted and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons
capers and their brine
Juice of 1 lemon
barely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Crushed red pepper flakes
In This Recipe
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower. Return to a boil—covering the pot expedites this—and cook for about 3 minutes, until the cauliflower is flirting with being tender but not quite there. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain and dry completely.
Add 3 tablespoons butter to a large skillet—so, wide enough that each cauliflower quarter has its own space—and set over medium heat. Let the butter melt, then brown—this should take 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower quarters, flat sides down. They should sizzle. Sear until deeply browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip to the other flat side and brown again for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip again, to the flowery back (this won’t lie as perfectly, but that’s okay!). Add the remaining tablespoon butter to the pan and swirl to distribute. As soon as it’s melted, add the dates and capers. Cook for another few minutes. Add the lemon juice, then garnish with the parsley, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and flaky salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.