I would never think of boiling vegetables. It triggers memories of bad broccoli and mushy green beans. After recently watching an old Michael Pollan lecture on 92Y (Great collection of conversations between your favorite people, check it out if you haven’t already!). He breaks down the structure of his latest book, Cooked. I read it, when it came out a few years back. In the book he looks at food and culture through the lenses of fire (roasting), air (baking), soil (fermentation), and water (boiling). While frequently playing with roasting, baking, and fermentation, I rarely boil anything other than pasta. I took it upon myself to develop a recipe for boiled vegetable salad that was both flavorful and textured. I wanted to use boiling as flavor boosting technique.
This recipe is simple. It is inspired by a method used to both pickle vegetables and rehydrate dried fruit for salads. Ottolenghi uses this method recurrently. It is a great way of transforming raisins into sweet bursts of flavor! A brine of vinegar, salt (in this case miso), and honey is used to quickly cook the cauliflower florets, rehydrate the raisins, and later dress the salad. It is important to cook the cauliflower just enough time to both add flavor and preserve the crunch. During the ten minutes the cauliflower cooks, it absorbs a lot of flavor. Each floret becomes a delicious, crunchy mouthful of both sweetness and acidity.
I like to serve this quickly pickled cauliflower as a warm salad of grains and herbs. In this instance, sweet buckwheat and grassy cilantro, studded with golden raisins and pistachios. Like any good grain salad, this one is filling and flavorful. The crunch from the pistachios and cauliflower pairs perfectly against the chewy buckwheat, for a robust combination of textures. You could easily swap the buckwheat for quinoa, rice, or even faro. If you don’t have cilantro, parley, basil, or dill are great alternatives. No matter the combination, if the cauliflower is flavorful and crunchy, the grains well seasoned, and the herbs fresh, it will be delicious!
Miso Pickled Cauliflower and Buckwheat Salad
Cook time 25-30 minute
To cook buckwheat:
- ½ cup raw buckwheat groats
- 1 cup water
- 1 pinch salt
Add buckwheat to a small pot over medium-high heat. Toast dry for a minute or two. Add a cup of water and salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside, covered for five minutes. Buckwheat is ready when tender. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.
To cook cauliflower and make salad
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. miso paste
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small head of cauliflower, purple or green work best!
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, parsley, or dill
- ¼ cup shelled, chopped pistachios
- ½ an avocado sliced
Add water, vinegar, miso paste, honey, and garlic clove to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until honey and miso mix into the liquids. Reduce heat to low. Add cauliflower and raisins, then cover. Cook covered for ten minutes over low heat. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove cauliflower and raisins from brine. Saving a couple tablespoons of the brine.
To assemble the salad lace cooked cauliflower and raisins in a bowl with cooked buckwheat. Add chopped fresh cilantro and pistachios. Drizzle the reserved two tablespoons of dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature with sliced avocado.