I have been unsuccessful with roasted cauliflower. And I don’t know why. Maybe I skimped on the olive oil needed during roasting. Maybe I didn’t roast it long enough or at a high-enough heat to get that characteristic roasted nuttiness. Maybe I didn’t break up the florets to the right size so they’d roast evenly. Who knows. But I’ve never been able to achieve that same roasted flavor or texture I experienced when I roasted asparagus, broccoli or green beans. Cauliflower is definitely different than those other vegetables and it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but it didn’t seem impossible. Yet after a few mediocre results (even when I added Parmesan cheese to it), I gave up on it for awhile thinking my expectations may be a bit lofty for this vegetable.
But on a recent trip to the farmers market, I came across purple, green and orange cauliflower all stacked together, and I couldn’t resist. The bright colors leaped out at me, and I knew I needed to get to the bottom of this desire for roasted cauliflower once and for all. I was envisioning nutty, roasted cauliflower with crispy bacon and little bits of Gorgonzola cheese to serve alongside beef or chicken. So I set out to give the cauliflower a head start with a flavor boost from a quick trip into a pot of chicken stock. I let it boil for a few minutes before I quickly broke it into florets, tossed it with olive oil and put it under the broiler to get as much color on it as possible without turning it to mush.
I put the cauliflower into a bowl and used a knife to cut the florets into bite-sized pieces, added some crumbled bacon and Gorgonzola, and some thinly sliced shallots. From the outset I had my doubts thinking the step to add flavor may have made the cauliflower softer than I would have normally enjoyed. But I went with it and added a some seasoning.
It was just okay and I was somewhat uninspired at that point. I resigned myself to thinking it wasn’t going to be the way I had hoped and I had other things to get to, so I put the cauliflower into a smaller container, drizzled some olive oil, red wine vinegar and a squirt of lemon over the top, covered it up and stuck it in the refrigerator until the next day when I would have more time to figure out what I was going to do with it.
But when I tasted it the next day, it tasted just like potato salad. I was actually kind of surprised that it tasted as good as it did considering my lackluster impression the day before. After a quick Google search, I saw that I was not the first one to make this low-carb discovery. There are many variations on cauliflower faux potato salad, and I was obviously late to the party. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to share my colorful version, which I think really helps to make it more appealing.
You could add some of the more typical additions like mayonnaise and hard-boiled eggs, but I left it as it was to keep the flavors intact and the calories manageable. And honestly, I didn’t miss the mayo at all. Think of it like a colored cauliflower chopped salad with all the flavors of potato salad minus the hefty calorie count. I know this will be a definite make again salad especially in the summer when warm days call for lighter fare.
Sometimes your kitchen mishaps lead you into a new direction. Cauliflower is often a low-carb substitute for potatoes and this combination is a more healthful spin on traditional potato salad without all the guilt.
- 1 1/2 heads colored cauliflower
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 3 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- scant 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- squeeze of lemon (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Turn broiler on to highest setting (mine was at 500 degrees F).
- Pour chicken stock into a large pot.
- Cut heads of cauliflower in half and place into pot. Cover. Bring to a boil and cook cauliflower until it just begins to soften, about 4 minutes.
- Quickly and carefully remove cauliflower and allow to drain slightly before placing it on a baking sheet.
- Using a knife, cut the core of the cauliflower out and cut the largest florets into smaller, more uniform pieces.
- Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and place under broiler for about 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower begins to take on color without overcooking.
- Place cauliflower into a medium bowl and using 2 knives, begin to chop into smaller pieces.
- Add crumbled bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar and additional salt and pepper if necessary.
- Refrigerate until well-chilled. Overnight is best.
- Garnish with crispy crumbled bacon and serve.
This isn't a mayonnaise based version and I didn't even think to try it that way. All of the potato salad flavor was already there and I felt mayonnaise would have been in the way.
The short time the cauliflower boiled did not have any impact on the colors.
While we tend to prefer our vegetables al dente, this preparation favors slightly overcooked cauliflower because it mimics the texture of a potato. Essentially, you don't want crunchy cauliflower in this salad.