Crunchy, Cruciferous, Winter Salad Doubles as a Holiday Table Side or Christmas Brunch Centerpiece
Probably like many of you, I woke up this morning in a snowstorm kind of blur and realized Christmas is really just two nights and a day away. My favorite time a year, without a doubt. Church bells toll throughout a beautifully decorated downtown Charleston and my heart starts warming with memories of Christmas’s past and those yet to come.
I’d intended to get this recipe to you sooner, but here it is, hopefully in time to flesh out your holiday table with glorious cruciferous crunch, the red, green and white colors of the season, and cheerful, tangy creaminess. I’ve been making a conscious effort to get more of these foods into my diet, and this is a truly delicious way to enjoy them. I’m guessing most children will enjoy this, too. I know my cat Mr. Purrfect and dog Rocky were especially interested in their cauliflower offerings.
This salad would be perfectly wonderful alongside a standing beef roast or turkey and also paired with a Christmas morning or brunch frittata, omelet, or turkey sandwich. Make it a few hours ahead and up to the night before serving so the flavors can develop to their holiday best. To make the florets, cut away nearly all of the hard stems from the broccoli and cauliflower and either crumble or cut into the smaller pieces pictured here.
Holiday Cauliflower-Broccoli Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts
(Serves 6 to 8)
For the salad:
2 large stalks broccoli, stalks removed and cut into florets – about 3 cups
1/2 large head cauliflower, core and stems removed, and cut into florets – about 2 cups
1/2 small onion, very finely chopped – about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup coarsely chopped sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
For the dressing:
1/2 cup whole sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s)
1 tablespoon horseradish cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Toss the broccoli, cauliflower, onion, cranberries and walnuts together in a large bowl. Separately, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish cream, mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and chives in a small bowl until smooth. Toss the salad with the dressing to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours before serving, chilled.
Wishing you and yours the best and most wonderful, happy, delicious, blessed and beautiful holiday and gateway into 2019. I have some exciting news to be sharing with you soon. Until we get there, I’ll be taking time with you to slow down and savor the joyful season.
Remember that song from Monty Python about “Wonderful Spam, Marvelous Spam”? Whenever it pops into this cheese-head’s head, the words are always automatically converted to “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese, Cheese, wonderful cheese, marvelous cheese!” Like so many of us, I am a bona fide cheese devotee. If I could get away with eating it three times a day, I would do it. As it is, I try and keep it down to a few times a week, and always try and stick to the best quality, most delicious cheese I can find.
As heady as cheese is in its “natural” state, it’s arguably even more decadent in a smooth, silky sauce, as in the Cheddar Cheese Bechamel Sauce and Roasted Cauliflower recipe that I created and tested last week for a book I’m working on about French sauces for Gibbs-Smith.
A virtual fondue, this sauce would be exquisite for dipping bread cubes, fat pretzels, and raw vegetables. I loved it so much, I found myself eating it by the spoonful, as if it was a soup. Indeed, by adding a bit more cream or milk, it could become just that. Here, I use it as a sauce to cover sweet roasted cauliflower florets. It would also be sublime on broccoli, a juicy steak, and roasted potatoes. It’s excellent for entertaining because it can be prepared ahead and gently re-heated at the last minute.
Save this for your back-to-school repetoire. Kids will love this ooey, gooey cheese-treat after school or anytime of day or night.
Cheese Sauce Bechamel with Roasted Cauliflower
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
For the bechamel base:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons All-Purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
3/4 cup Half & Half
2 cups lightly packed best-quality grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons best quality white wine (suggest Chardonnay)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the cauliflower:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (see directions below), about 3 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish (optional): 2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 450F. Prepare the bechamel base. In a large sauce pan, melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium low hear. Whisk in the shallots, and cook until softened, whisking, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons AP flour, and continue cooking until bubbling and cooked through, about 2 minutes, whisking all the while. Pour in the milk and Half & Half in a steady stream, whisking the entire time. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking gently, whisking, until the sauce starts to thicken and set up. This will take 10 minutes. To finish the sauce, whisk the grated cheese into the warm sauce in 2 or 3 handfuls, until melted and smooth. Whisk in the butter until melted and incorporated. Whisk in the wine. Taste and season according to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve warm over low heat.
Meanwhile, rinse the cauliflower head thoroughly. Cut the base from the cauliflower head, pulling off any external leaves. Cut into quarters. Cut awy the solid, tough core from each quarter and break off the florets into about 2″ chunks. Toss in a roasting pan with the olive oil and a generous dash of salt and black pepper. Roast in the pre-heated oven, stirring 2 or 3 times, for about 25 minutes, or until tender and very lightly browned.
Serve the cauliflower on individual plates or a platter with a generous portion of sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.