It’s possible that every season when I come to Kea is newly marked as my favorite. Currently it's WINTER. It might be partly due to the fact that I get outrageously cold at the hint of a summer breeze, and winter here is never so beastly as NYC. Kea in January has all the fun parts of winter without the ankle-length parka and the concern that your hands might never warm up enough to effectively unzip your jacket.
We had two days of crisp spring air and sunshine followed by two days of proper wintery grey skies… and SNOW! Four days on the island had us wondering how many weeks had gone by; something magical happens to the passage of time when spring turns to winter and long walks down empty roads and green slopes speckled with sheep become afternoons by the open fire actually roasting chestnuts (that'll be my next post).
I can understand the appeal of Greek summer, but if there’s any way you can avail yourself of the cheap flights and time off over the winter holidays to get yourself to a Greek island, DO IT!!
Though summer produce and spring shoots are months away, Kea still manages to have some fresh veg on offer at the start of the New Year. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce populate our garden, and Maria and Margherita’s farm stand is dominated by massive squash.
So, with huge heads of cabbage and cauliflower filling our fridge, I paused to consider making more pickles and saurkraut. But luckily I remembered having seen a few recipes bounding around the internet for roasting cauliflower whole-head intact. How superb!
There’s nothing quite so pleasurable to me as making something simple, beautiful and delicious with the limited ingredients that I already have in the kitchen, partic-u-lar-ly if this happens on an icy grey day in Kea.
We made this for lunch, Day 3 and chomped away at the substantial stalks and lemony florets rather chuffed that we’d found an exceedingly easy and enormously satisfying way to let the flavor of fresh and local cauliflower do the work.
All sorts of food writers have written forests of pages about the nuttiness of cauliflower, but I’d never tasted it so clearly as I did with this recipe. The capers and lemon give just the right zing to unite the caramelized sweetness and the earthy nuttiness of the cauliflower.
TIP: Use a pretty baking dish and keep cooking it until it’s past the lightly browned stage. The extra caramelization will make a sublime difference in taste.
Roasted Cauliflower Globe with Olive Oil and Capers
adapted from Gourmet 2006
1 medium-large head of cauliflower
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Capers in brine
make it happen:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F/235°C.
Lightly oil a pretty baking dish just a bit bigger than the cauliflower head.
Strip the leaves and core the cauliflower, leaving the head intact by cutting a rough pyramid from the base of the stalk. Roll cauliflower head around a small bowl with sufficient olive oil (~1/4 cup) to lightly coat florets. Keep the bowl and whatever oil remains to the side as it will be perfectly suited for whisking up the dressing.
Put cauliflower base down/florets up into baking dish. Sprinkle with ~1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake mid-oven until tender, 1 to 1.25 hours.
Using bowl from before, top off olive oil to equal ~1/4 cup, add juice of 1/2 a lemon, 2 TB capers, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and whisk.
When cauliflower is cooked and nicely browned, remove from oven and drizzle with the dressing. Once split and on our plates, we served it with an extra little drizzle of olive oil and nothing else. For us, it was perfection.
You might enjoy sprinkling around a bit of parsley, should you have it, as that will add a nice jolt of green that the brined capers simply can’t.
However you dress it up, it’s an instant winter classic.