Bagna Caudaflower

This is one of those recipes destined to be a classic. I know a lot of people who've never had cauliflower before, then tasted this dish, and fell head over heels in love with it. Cauliflower has a great meaty flavor, but it takes some coaxing to get it out. I've taken the flavors of Bagna Cauda, an Italian dip meaning "hot bath", and applied them to cauliflower, with which it pairs beautifully. And as far as I'm concerned, the garlic breadcrumb topping is great on shoe leather. Yields 2 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 scallions
  • 4 anchovy filets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2+1, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup pitted black olives (I like Kalamata, Nyon, and Beldi)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (homemade is best, you want a mix of lumps and crumbs)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Flake sea salt and coarsely ground pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Cut the cauliflower into florets of varying sizes. Slice the scallions into ¼-inch rounds. Mash the anchovies with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. On a baking sheet large enough to hold everything in one loose layer, toss the cauliflower florets, scallions, anchovies, olives, salt, and red pepper flakes. Take extra care to distribute the anchovy paste around evenly.
  3. Slice the lemon thickly (¼- to ⅛-inch thick) and place in a single layer over the cauliflower mixture.
  4. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned and tender.
  5. While roasting, prepare the breadcrumb topping. Either crush the garlic or mash with a pinch of salt into a paste. In a pan over medium heat, combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toast, tossing frequently, until deep golden brown and fragrant. Toss with a big pinch of flaky sea salt and black pepper.
  6. Garnish the cauliflower with the breadcrumbs and enjoy hot or room temperature.