Here is a somewhat unusual recipe from me. It is for a warm salad, a genre I rarely make as the centerpiece of a meal but then when I do I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It’s not the first such recipe I’ve posted—see also this Bean Salad with Artichoke Hearts and this Octopus and Chickpea Salad—but it might be my favourite. It’s very tasty and comes together very quickly with a nice mix of flavours and textures. As always with my bean cooking, I use Rancho Gordo beans. I recommend something like their Ayocote Blanco bean for this but you can’t go very wrong with any of their other white beans or with their Flageolets for that matter. This recipe only uses two cups of cooked beans and rather than cooking them for this recipe, I recommend saving two cups of beans you’ve prepared for another purpose (such as this Lamb and Bean Stew). Good tomatoes are a must. I’ve been using Jaune Flamme tomatoes from my garden: these are roughly ping pong ball-sized and have a wonderful sweet and slightly tart flavour. If you don’t have any at hand substitute the best cherry tomatoes you have. The other important thing is to crisp up the cauliflower nicely. I use a cast iron pan and a hot oven to caramelize the tops of the florets without the whole becoming too soft. The florets are coated in ground cumin first and this adds a savoury warmth.
- 2 cups cooked and drained Rancho Gordo Ayocote Blanco beans or similar
- 2 cups cauliflower, broken into small florets
- 1 tspn freshly ground cumin
- 3/4 cup fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 cup arugula, torn by hand
- Olive oil, 1 + 4 tblspns
- Balsamic vinegar or flavoured vinegar of choice, 2 tblspns
- Heat your oven to 450ºF.
- While the oven is heating toss the separated florets in a cast iron pan with the ground cumin, a big pinch of salt and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Try to place as many of the florets head down as possible.
- Place the cast iron pan in the oven (there’s no need to wait for it to come to temperature first) and roast the cauliflower for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the pan from the oven and leave the cauliflower in it as you proceed with the rest.
- In a large platter mix the cooked beans with the tomatoes, salt, the remaining olive oil and the vinegar.
- Add the torn arugula and mix in.
- Stir in the roasted cauliflower.
- Taste and adjust for salt as needed.
- As you can probably sense, this is less an exact recipe than an approach. You don’t have to have a 1:1 ratio of beans and cauliflower; a bit more of one and a bit less of the other will be fine.
- Same for the olive oil and vinegar: adjust your ratio as you like. But use good olive oil and good vinegar. I use a fig balsamic for this.
- The cauliflower is not turned when it’s roasting so that the tops can become nicely crisped. You may want to check, however, at the 20 minute mark to make sure it’s not burning. And keeping the roasted cauliflower in the hot pan while assembling the salad and not adding it till the end will help preserve the crispness.
- If you don’t care about this being vegetarian/vegan you could probably add some anchovy.
- And if you want more acid you could certainly grate some lemon zest over or stir in a bit of yuzu kosho.
- Resist the temptation to add even more things—you don’t want it to get too busy.
- This works well as a meal in itself—add some crusty bread. It would also work well as a side dish.