Jim Dixon’s DIY Dish: Reinforced Cauliflower Salad

In Naples this salad, called insalata rinforzata, is often made on Christmas Eve.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business, Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Reinforced Cauliflower Salad

In Naples this salad, called insalata rinforzata, is often made on Christmas Eve and “reinforced” over the next week with more pantry staples (olives, capers, anchovies, etc) and even more cauliflower. The recipe is a rough guide, so feel free to substitute for the canned, pickled, and briney ingredients. Or call in your own reinforcements with ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, stale bread cubes, and other fresh herbs.

1 cauliflower (white, colored, or Romanesco)

1 red onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, preferably the inner stalks with leaves, chopped

1/2 cup pitted olives (black, green, or mixed)

2 tablespoons capers*

1/2 cup jarred or pickled peppers

1/4 gherkins or similar pickles, chopped

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

3-4 anchovies, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

*Salt-packed capers taste the best, but soak them in cold water for 15 minutes before using, and taste the salad before adding any salt since the olives and anchovies are also salty.

Drop the whole cauliflower stem end down in salted boiling water, flip it over after 2 minutes, and take it out after 1 more minute. Don’t wait for the water to come back to a boil, the three minute bath cooks it enough to be slightly tender but not mushy. Put the cauliflower in a bowl to cool and drain for a few minutes, then chop it coarsely (the core, too) into large but still bite-sized pieces.

Put everything in a large bowl, and mix well. Taste and add more salt if needed. This tastes best at room temperature.