With the recent “cauliflower crisis,” which sent cauli prices upwards of $10 per head, the pressure has been on to turn that expensive cauliflower into something damn delicious. I felt the pressure when I got a cauliflower in my weekly organic delivery last week. Cauli is my favourite veggie and I wanted whatever I made to be goooood. So I put the question out there on social media: what should I make? People piped in with great ideas and recipes.
But the cauliflower that I wanted to cook and eat is this.
This recipe was originally created by an old friend from university, Vanessa Gilmour Farnworth. Vanessa always painted these incredible, psychedelic paintings, and she clearly employs her aesthetic when cooking, too. She created this recipe a few years back and it’s become the winner of many dinner parties.
When I decided to make this salad, I got to thinking about how artists can make beautiful food. Artists know their materials in and out, the colours, the shapes and textures.
Sure, when you’re cooking with real ingredients, with all the bright colours and beautiful shapes, you can easily make beautiful food. (You can even make beautiful food out of packaged junk food, as parody chef Jaques La Merde showed us.)
Mina Stone, the personal chef and author of Cooking for Artists, says that when she invents a dish, she thinks of the colours, “When you look at your plate, I feel like all those items should be really beautiful together.”
Vanessa’s salad is beautiful. There’s the colour palette with the the muted white cauliflower, feta and the pale green cabbage, punctuated with hits of bright green parsley, purple onion and reddish-brown kidney beans. Kind of reminds me of this painting by Anne Moran and Robert Brown.
Then there’s the mixture of cooked and raw, soft and crunchy: cooked cauliflower and kidney beans, soft feta cheese, crunchy raw cabbage and onions.
And because this is a healthy lifestyle blog, I at least have to mention the health benefits. There’s the detoxifying, cancer-fighting power of the cauliflower and cabbage, the immune-boosting power of the red onion and parsley, the collagen-boosting parsley, the fibre-loaded (read: filling) veggies and kidney beans, and, of course, protein-packed sheep’s milk feta.
When you cook with bright, beautiful colours, you get a range of health benefits from different phytonutrients on your plate. Simple as that.
Here’s my take on Vanessa’s healthy and delicious salad. It’s highly addictive and I highly recommend. Have it be your contribution when a host asks you to bring a salad. Or make it at the beginning of the week and let it hang out in the fridge as you pull forkful after forkful out for lunch and dinner. You can’t go wrong.
- 2 tbsp + 2+ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
- ½ a small-ish head of green cabbage, shredded
- ¼ large or ½ small red onion, sliced very thinly
- 1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup sheep feta, crumbled or chopped into small cubes OR 1 cup toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- 1 lemon, juiced
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Toss the cauliflower florets with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet (or two, so the cauli doesn’t get overcrowded). Pop into the oven and bake until the cauliflower is tender and the edges are browned, around 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, shred the cabbage, finely slice the onion, chop the parsley and feta, and zest the lemon. Drain and rinse the beans.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and let cool.
- Once cool, toss all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- This salad is best after it has rested for at least an hour.