How, oh how is Christmas next week? Once again the season is coming and going all too rapidly for my liking. There are still presents to be bought, cookies to be baked, movies to be watched, etc. etc. We are headed to Florida for our friends’ wedding this weekend, so all holiday preparations are currently on hold. Before we leave, I am trying to nail down the Christmas dinner menu. We are spending Christmas in Chicago with my family, and this year my mom is ceding all responsibility for Christmas dinner to my sisters and me. This is a big deal. Historically, she has been solely in charge of her own kitchen. I think the fact that grandchildren are now in the picture has something to do with it. Spending time with grandchildren > than control over the kitchen. I cannot complain!
This cauliflower salad is a strong contender for a spot on the Christmas menu. It is a special salad, indeed, with bold contrasting flavors and textures. It can hold its own alongside any Christmas roast, and it can be served at room temperature. Need I say more? It is inspired by a salad my aunt makes with crispy pan-fried capers. That little jar of capers lurking in the back of your cabinet can be transformed in a matter of minutes into crispy, salty wonders. They are quite a revelation. The nutty, caramelized cauliflower combines with the salty, crunchy capers, the slightly bitter radicchio and the tangy, bright Meyer lemon to delicious results.
I love the flavor of Meyer lemon in this salad. These yellow-orange beauties are currently in season, and I cannot get enough. Meyer lemons are much sweeter and more fragrant than regular lemons, with an almost herbaceous aroma and deep yellow hue verging on orange. I adore them. If you cannot find Meyer lemons, regular lemons will do just fine in this recipe. I would recommend slightly decreasing the amount of zest you use in the dressing and as garnish.
What is on your Christmas menu this year? Enjoy! xx Maggie
For the Salad:
- 1 small head cauliflower, chopped into small florets (approximately 4 cups)
- 4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for frying capers
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1 small head radicchio, halved, cored and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp capers, drained
- Meyer lemon vinaigrette (see below)
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 tsp Meyer lemon zest
- Juice of 1 Meyer lemon – about 3 tbsp (mine was particularly juicy, so you may need 1.5)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Meyer lemon zest
- Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 400° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Arrange cauliflower florets on pans, leaving ample space among the florets. Roast cauliflower for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Check at 20 minutes to make sure the cauliflower is not browning too rapidly. Remove once it is nicely browned and edges are crispy.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a jar or small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while you continue whisking. Whisk until emulsified and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside.
- Next, fry the capers. Cover the bottom of a small saucepan with about a 1/4 inch of olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Test temperature by placing one caper in the oil. It is ready when the caper sizzles. Add the remaining capers to the pan and fry until crispy and lightly browned — about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer capers to a plate lined with a towel.
- Assemble salad. In a large serving bowl, combine radicchio and roasted cauliflower. Drizzle with dressing (you may not need all of it!) and toss to coat. Garnish with crispy capers, chopped parsley and additional lemon zest. Enjoy!
While Meyer lemons are lovely in this salad, regular lemons will do just fine.