For many chefs, cooking is its own form of artistic expression. For Iron Chef Stephanie Izard, flavor-neutral veggies like cauliflower are a dreamy blank canvas.
In her new cookbook, Gather & Graze: 120 Favorite Recipes for Tasty Good Times, Izard reveals how she turns seemingly bland veggies into delicious culinary masterpieces.
"I approach vegetable dishes the same way that I would approach a protein or non-vegetable dish, by focusing on layers of flavor," Izard explains.
Exhibit A: Her standout recipe for roasted cauliflower and pickled peppers. "I caramelize the outside with garlic crunch butter, which also adds tasty garlicky notes," she says. Izard adds that the pickled peppers give spice and acidity while the preserved lemons brighten everything up. Pair that with Parmesan for a savory note, mint for a refreshing layer, and pine nuts for the right amount of crunch.
The real secret to this recipe, according to Izard: enhancing rather than overpowering the cauliflower.
Want to try it for yourself? Keep reading for the recipe.
Pan-roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers
For the crunch butter:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the picked Hungarian hots and bananas:
2 cups champagne vinegar
3/4 cup natural sweetener of your choice
1/4 cup salt
3 banana peppers, seeded and sliced into thin rings
3 Hungarian peppers, seeded and sliced into thin rings
For the roasted cauliflower:
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 head of cauliflower, quartered, any leaves and the core removed, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp crunch butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pickled Hungarian hots and bananas
2 Tbsp cleaned and julienned preserved lemon peel
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp torn fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
For the crunch butter
1. In a small bowl, mash the butter with a fork until softened.
2. Add the garlic, bread crumbs, and Parmesan and mix until fully incorporated. Cover and store in the fridge for up to one week.
For the picked Hungarian hots and bananas
1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar, natural sweetener, and salt to a boil.
2. Put the peppers in a heatproof container with a fitted lid. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the peppers and let cool to room temperature, making sure the peppers are fully submerged in the liquid.
3. When completely cool, cover the peppers and refrigerate for up to one month.
For roasted cauliflower
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, or until caramelized, about six minutes.
2. Season with the salt and cook until just tender, two to three more minutes.
3. Stir in the crunch butter, letting it melt, then toss in one-half cup of the cheese, the pickled peppers, preserved lemon, one-fourth cup of the mint, and one-fourth cup of the pine nuts. Cook for two more minutes.
4. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and garnish with the remaining one tablespoon each Parmesan, mint, and pine nuts.
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