As I was scrolling through the side dish recipes in our index, it struck me that Jessica and I are big fans of salads with nuts, cheese, and veggies. No iceberg or romaine for us! Check out this rockstar list of combinations: sweet potatoes+kale+cheddar+almonds, butternut squash+parmesan+walnuts, kale+goat cheese+pecans, brussels sprouts+asiago+walnuts. Today, I’m adding another knockout band of flavors to our favorite salads: cauliflower+cheddar+walnuts (and grapes).
The cauliflower is roasted, which means it’s already a winner. Hard to believe, but the veggie tastes even better with toasted walnuts (that toast while you roast the cauliflower) and a sharp and creamy cheddar. But then it gets more addictive with the addition of red grapes and parsley. A simple vinaigrette ties the whole thing together and makes a unique and pretty winter side dish.
It’s impossible to name the most important ingredient in this salad. The cheddar brings richness, the walnuts add warmth, the grapes are fresh and sweet, the parsley brightens and balances, the cauliflower is the hefty heart of the matter, and the dressing unifies with a subtle tang. The salad takes a little effort (roasting, chopping, crumbling, whisking), but it’s a perfect partner for low maintenance or stovetop main dishes. I especially like to serve this with roasted pork or chicken and go back and forth between tastes of the simple proteins and the exotic salad.
You might be thinking, “great, but no way I’m eating cold cauliflower.” That’s a fair argument and I admit to hesitating before sampling my first forkful. It works, though—especially with a hot main dish for contrast. If you’re willing to take the leap of faith to dive into a pile of room-temperature cauliflower, you’ll be rewarded bite after bite.
cauliflower, walnut, grape, and cheddar salad
adapted from Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
The raw cauliflower must be completely dry before being tossed in oil and roasting—if it’s still wet from rinsing, the florets will steam before they roast and the finished product will be soggy.
To crumble cheddar, use your hands to break it into small bits. I really like using an English cheddar that’s been aged 20 months. It crumbles easily and has a creamy, sharp flavor.
The recipe makes 4 servings, but you can easily double it. The pictures in this post are from a double batch.
1 lb cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 tablespoons canola oil
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon honey
¼ cup (20 g) walnuts
1/3 cup (50 g) seedless red grapes, halved
1.5 ounces aged Cheddar, crumbled
2/3 cup (10 g) flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few dashes of pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring twice, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
While cauliflower is roasting, toast the walnuts in the oven at the same time: spread nuts in an even layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool and then chop coarsely.
For the dressing, whisk together the oil, vinegars, mustard, honey, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Shortly before serving, put the cauliflower, nuts, grapes, cheddar, and parsley together in a large bowl. Add dressing and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.