Recipe: Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Sherry Vinaigrette and Fried Capers


Yep, purple cauliflower. We were invited to a somewhat impromptu potluck the other day, and I was going to make an orzo gratin with a saffron cream sauce to use up the pasta from Thanksgiving, but then Sarina told me that the host was making pasta. I got off work at 2:45 and we wanted to leave for the party about 4:30, so I needed to find something I could put together relatively quickly. I ran by the closest grocery that has some decent produce, and saw four heads of this beautiful purple cauliflower that I had never worked with before.

On the drive home I started to think about what to do with it. I didn’t want to do a gratin with cheese or cream because I wasn’t sure what the pasta sauce was going to be. I love the flavor of roasted cauliflower and my mind was still going in a Spanish direction. That set me to thinking about capers, and then the famous fried capers in the Cafe Flora Caesar salad, and then I remembered I already had a nice vinaigrette in the refrigerator that I could add sherry vinegar to.

A plan was set in motion, and I ended up with the recipe below, which I think tasted good. It definitely had big flavor, and the purple cauliflower really retained its color. At serving time I garnished it with a lot of whole flat parsley leaves for contrast and a fresh herbal hit.

Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Sherry Vinaigrette and Fried Capers
Serves 8 as a side dish
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Vegetarian and vegan

  • 4 heads cauliflower, preferably the purple variety
  • 1 c. jarred roasted piquillo peppers or red peppers, sliced thin (or roast them yourself if you have the time)
  • 1/2 c. small capers
  • 1/2 c. canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 c.  top quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. sherry vinegar
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 c. homemade or bought breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and use convection if you have it.
  2. Take apart the cauliflower into large bite sized florets. Up to you if you want to use the stem or not.
  3. Toss the cauliflower with 1/3 c. of the olive oil and a few pinches of salt, and roast in the oven. You should use two pans, but one of them can be the one you will ultimately serve in. They will shrink a lot during roasting. Check and toss them occasionally. Roast until they are quite tender and have significant brown spots. You don’t have the real roasted flavor until you see those caramelized bits.
  4. Meanwhile, rinse the capers, dry them in paper towel, and carefully fry them in the canola oil. Watch out for spattering! Fry until quite dark but not burned, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
  5. Make a vinaigrette in the usual way with 2/3 c. of the olive oil, the sherry vinegar, lemon juice, and half of the garlic. Season highly with salt and pepper.
  6. Toss the breadcrumbs with 1/4 c. olive oil and the remaining garlic.
  7. When the the cauliflower is done, let it cool for a few minutes. Add the capers and red peppers. Start tossing with the vinaigrette, a little at a time until you reach your preferred level of dressing. I’d like it to be highly flavored but not drenched. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
  8. Put back in a nice, broilerproof serving dish and cover with the breadcrumbs.
  9. To serve, run under the broiler long enough to get the breadcrumbs nice and toasty, then garnish with lots of parsley.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, November 26th, 2007 in Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

8 Responses to “Recipe: Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Sherry Vinaigrette and Fried Capers”

  1. Reply
    October 27, 2008 at 8:50 pm #

    This sounds awesome. I was looking for images of purple veggies for a post and happened upon this deliciousness. I can’t wait to try it!

  2. Reply
    February 20, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I too grabbed the purple cauliflower when I saw it for the first time. I then searched the Web looking for a recipe that was designed especially for it. What I found were lots of recipes that just seemed to substitute purple cauliflower in dishes designed for white cauliflower. This one was the only exception. I had everything on hand to make it (including a fresh red bell pepper to roast), so it was show time. It came out fabulous! I’ve been in that market several times since then, hoping to get some more of the purple cauliflower, but they didn’t have it. I even asked about it, and they said it was a special purchase their buyer had made and they might not have it again. That was some months ago, and I never saw the purple cauliflower there again until 2 days ago. I bought it, made the recipe again, and was just as thrilled with it. It is so suited to the purple cauliflower that I will never make it with anything but. I think the rich vinaigrette with sherry vinegar would overwhelm the blander white cauliflower and conflict with the orange cauliflower and the green broccoflower that the same market periodically has. Besides, this special purple cauliflower deserves a recipe all to itself. Thank you again for providing it!

  3. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    February 24, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    Hey Robyn – thanks for the note! I appreciate that you are noticing the details of what individual vegetable varieties want, not just giving them a "one-size fits all" treatment.

  4. Reply
    October 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Another winner! Thanks for adding color and flavor to the table!

  5. Reply
    November 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    As is so often the case, I set out with good intentions…and fail. There was no purple cauliflower at the store(s). I forgot to get sherry vinegar. We didn’t have as many breadcrumbs as I thought. But the dish, even with white cauliflower, fewer breadcrumbs, and a mix of wine-vinegar with a LITTLE balsamic, was a big hit. I have one suggestion, though: anyone making this should make 3x the capers. Why? Because people will walk by, grab one fried caper to try, say, “WOW!” and then find a reason to walk by another 20 times, leaving you with just one caper to put on your cauliflower. They’re amazing!

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Ah yes, the dreaded "caper shrinkage". That was always an issue when I was working the pantry station at Cafe Flora :).

  7. Reply
    February 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    hi Michael,

    hope all is well–I googled purple cauliflower after it arrived in my CSA today, and this amazing post popped right up. Just what I had been looking for.

    Not sure if you remember me from Foodbuzz, but it was great to see all the changes to the blog and the BOOK! Congrats.

    Hope all is well..


    • Reply
      February 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      How could I forget you with a handle of “Ryan the Girl”? Nice to hear from you!

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