All it takes is a few pantry items—olives, capers, garlic, chili flakes and lemon—to infuse otherwise plain cauliflower with ample spunk. Here the caramelized cauliflower is embellished with briny capers and olives, pungent garlic, spicy chili flakes and bright lemon zest, culminating in an extravagant weeknight side dish that is deceptively simple to make.
The recipe calls for adding the capers, lemon zest, garlic, chili flakes and olives 3-4 minutes into the 20-minute cooking time. I did this and was a little disappointed because the olives and capers lost their characteristic briny flavor and all the garnishes tasted the same. Next time I will add the capers, et al. right before I remove the cauliflower from the pan. I also squeezed lemon juice over the finished cauliflower to brighten the flavors. I have left the recipe below as originally written so you can make your own decision of when to add the other ingredients.
Spicy Italian-Style Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, about 2 lbs
3 Tbsp olive oil, or as needed
½ tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped, or to taste
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp red chili flakes, or to taste
3 Tbsp finely chopped pitted black or green olives
- Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower and trim off the stem end. Cut the cauliflower into ½-inch slices from the top to bottom, using the entire head, florets and stalks. The cauliflower will break up as you slice it, leaving you with pieces of varying sizes and shapes.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (You may need to cook the cauliflower in batches.) When the oil is hot, add the cauliflower. Allow it to sizzle and begin to brown, stirring often so it does not scorch.
- When the cauliflower begins to soften slightly, after 3-4 minutes, add the salt, capers, lemon zest, garlic, chili flakes and olives [or add after cauliflower is cooked to maintain the distinct, briny flavor of these ingredients]. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the cauliflower is golden brown and the other ingredients have caramelized and the flavors have melded, 10-15 minutes. As you stir, scrape the pan with your spoon to loosen the caramelized bits that have stuck to the bottom.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with chili flakes, capers and salt. Serve at once.