There is something to the austerity of winter that makes the bounty of spring feel indulgent. With its relentless cold dark days, heavy wet snow and endless parade of root vegetables, those first few bright green things of spring seem positively fanciful. Vivid colors abound, curls, tendrils, feathery tips, sweet delicate flavors spring, unsurprisingly, is very bewitching indeed.
We put the screens in the windows and doors at the farm the other day. A simple gesture, albeit not a simple task, signaling a time of year when days are spent with the windows flung open and the cool (often still downright chilly) clean air rushes through the house; working its way into all the corners and blowing out the last cobwebs of winter.
And its this air, the air of Spring that is always the most remarkable for me. Gusting and blowing as if its bringing the life forces of the universe with it. It gently (and sometimes not so gently) dries out the earth and coaxes leaves and blossoms from their winter dormancy. It draws me out too, out of the cozy little winter world i’ve spent the last months creating by the fire with pots of tea and books, hearty soups and deep rich reds- pulling me wholly into the present, into the here and now of the world and turning my attention to the world unfolding. And, at this time of year, this is exactly how I want my food to taste – of the land, of the new season, of the new earth, of the moment. There are tender green things popping up everywhere; the first shoots of rhubarb are appearing above the surfaces and the chives too. Only a few inches tall, I check them daily, eagerly awaiting the moment when they are high enough to cut and sprinkle on salads. And I’m dreaming of purply chive blossoms. The snow has melted back to reveal the thyme and sage still green beneath and begging to be used in dishes in the kitchen.
So, I’ve spent a good many evenings these lad days in the kitchen window feeling the air on my face and admiring the way it puffs at the tips of tree branches and their newly acquired green leaves. I love the way the entire world seems to smell of fresh grass and damp green, the brightly lit sunny days and cool nights. I find the very first thing I am craving are herbs. Bright and earthy and comforting – the recipe for this herb and cauliflower salad was born to satiate this little craving of mine and usher in spring. Its made it to our dinner table a good many nights now and I love the lightness of this salad. The roasted cauliflower satisfies that lingering craving of the winter diet for something warm and slightly starchy and the roasted walnuts give it a richness but all of the bright herbs and citrusty capers really embrace the new season.
be sure to soak the capers (see instructions below) as this allows their sharp flavor to shine through without adding a big hit of salt to the dish. a few sliced green olives wouldn’t go amiss here either if you have them on hand nor would roasted sweet potato.
Roasted Cauliflower & Herb Salad
serves 2 -4
- one large head of cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 bunch of italian parsley, washed
- 1 bunch of dill, washed
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted
- 1 large crisp sweet apple, washed
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp smoky paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
- salt & pepper
preheat oven to 425
- place capers in a small bowl of cold water. make sure they are completely submerged
- in a small pan toast spices; paprika, cumin & fennel seeds, over medium high heat until fragrant. 30 seconds to 1 minute
- toss toasted spices with cauliflower florets, olive oil & salt and pepper
- roast cauliflower until fork tender, and slightly crisp at the edges. approx 20 mins
- wash and dry herbs. pluck leaves of parsley and small clusters of dill from their larger stems into a large bowl.
- dice apple and place into bowl with parsley and dill
- drain and squeeze capers, roughly chop and add to apple and herbs
- when the cauliflower is cooked through, remove it from heat and let it cool to room temperature before adding it to the bowl with the apple, herbs and capers.
- toss mixture with apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. if it seems a bit dry, add a drizzle of olive oil more
- add toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds to the bowl and toss well to combine
- serve immediately