This is cauliflower that deserves a spot at your table when you have special guests for dinner. Amazing that we can now write such a phrase after a couple of years of social isolation. I go as far as saying that even cauliflower haters will be pleasantly surprised. The sun-dried tomatoes add richness and the olives and balsamic vinegar that acidity that lightens things up. Absolutely delicious. And, by the way, it is vegan-friendly.

(inspired by Crossroads)

1 head cauliflower, florets only, chopped in pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil (for oven roasting) or olive oil spray for air-frying
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
slivered almonds, slightly toasted, to taste

If roasting the cauliflower in an oven, drizzle the florets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in 425F oven for about 30 minutes. If using the air-fryer, spray the florets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and air-fry for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Reserve. The cauliflower can be roasted hours in advance or even the day before.

Put a large saute pan over medium-heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the celery and shallots, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring often. Add the reserved cauliflower, the balsamic vinegar, adjust seasoning. Right before serving, add lemon zest and juice, and top with the toasted slivered almonds.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I don’t know which ingredient elevates this recipe, it is a tight match between the sun-dried tomatoes and the green olives. At any rate, it was an outstanding side dish. I highly recommend it. We enjoyed it with grilled chicken breasts, super simple. Just a marinade with olive oil, Garam masala and salt.

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I’m always trying to find different ways to prepare zucchini, as we both love it so much. One of my favorite recipes is a simple stir-fry like this one, but the timing (and the size of your pan) must be just right, as a slight variation will result in overcooked, limp zucchini, with no bite whatsoever.  This recipe from Fine Cooking follows a totally different path to the stir-fry happy-ending.  Pieces of zucchini are lightly salted and sit for 10 minutes, a process that will draw out a lot of moisture and the bitterness that might turn some people off.  After that, you will be on your way to a tasty side dish.

(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine #65)

2 medium zucchini
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt + more for seasoning
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely diced
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced

Wash the zucchini and dry them with paper towels. Trim off the ends and quarter the zucchini lengthwise. Arrange the zucchini, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Blot the quarters dry with the paper towels. Cut each quarter on the diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick pieces.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Pour in 2 Tbs. of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini browns and softens enough that you can cut through it with the side of a fork, about 5 min. Take the pan off the heat, toss in the sun-dried tomatoes and basil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the lemon juice and  serve immediately.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I have a bit of a troubled relationship with sun-dried tomatoes.  The ones that come packed in oil are often too greasy for my taste, but their texture is much better than the dry-packed ones. My approach is to buy the ones in oil, and before incorporating in the dish let them rest on a piece of kitchen paper to blot the excess oil away.

Fresh tomatoes would not deliver the same punch of flavor.  Sun-dried tomatoes are similar to red pepper flakes, instead of having their flavor uniformly diluted across the dish, they give you little spikes of heat.  Perfect!

This was a delicious way to prepare zucchini, yet another recipe that can be adapted in many ways.  Try adding roasted red bell pepper in place of sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro instead of basil, a bit of mint…  Don’t omit the lemon juice, though.  It is a must!

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