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Cauliflower Calabria

Cauliflower Calabria

Cauliflower: a white, seemingly boring vegetable that unfortunately suffers from neglect in the grocery store and sometimes in the fridge has just received a facelift. And, no, it’s not cheddar cheese. Prepare yourself for a caramelized, nutty, and surprisingly light side dish guaranteed to please at your next platter party, Italian night, or simple Thursday night dinner.

Before we jump into the recipe, however, let’s introduce the Calabrian pepper. Nestled in southern Italy west of Puglia, the region of Calabria is known not only for its mountainous terrain and forests, but also for its pepper that some would compare in heat to the celebrated (or depending who you talk to, infamous) habanero pepper of Mexico. This chile pepper is used in a variety of regional dishes, and will pair well with the cauliflower. Most likely, you will find the pepper at a well-stocked grocery store cured in oil, but in some cases you can find it in a dried form.

This recipe will make enough for 2 people.

•    1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
•    3 Tablespoons of olive oil
•    1/2 teaspoon Calabrian pepper, finely minced
•    3 teaspoons of capers
•    breadcrumbs or Panko
•    flaked salt
•    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

You’ll want to heat up your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit while you prep the ingredients.

Chop the cauliflower into about 1 inch florets so that they are all the same size to ensure consistent roasting. Place just the cauliflower in a roasting pan or cast iron pan and into the oven. After about 10 minutes of cooking, toss with olive oil, capers, and peppers. Let cook for about 20 minutes more, until the cauliflower starts browning on the sides and begins to emit a nutty aroma. Make sure to stir every 5 minutes or so to keep the cooking even. Toward the end of the 20 minutes, pierce with a fork if you are able to stab the florets easily they are done. When ready, take it out of the oven, plate the florets, and adorn with a dash of flaked salt, a small handful of breadcrumbs (which you can toast lightly prior to topping), and a splash of lemon juice.

Buon Appetito!