First things first, I am not fancy despite the presentation of this Blistered Peppadew Cauliflower, which can be served straight from the sheet pan or cast iron skillet, like we do on pizza night. I’m not fancy, and this was confirmed last year at an event held at my house, a blogging event. “We’ll send a private chef if you have some friends over.” That was an easy OK. It was all great until the appetizers started rolling out. And then it got really awkward.
You see, I’m pretty picky. You wouldn’t know that because I publish the recipes I like to eat. But I say just as much by what I don’t say. “Do you have any food preferences,” they asked. I told them someone in the group was a vegetarian. It was me. I’m not a vegetarian, of course, but I’ve found that I usually like the surprise vegetarian dishes better than the surprise meat heavy dishes.
The day of, a sizable van shows up with trays and trays of food. Enough for 50 people. I was hosting a small, last minute party that got even smaller from two cancellations. The dinner I thought we were having was actually a huge charcuterie board, filling the entirety of our 6-person dining room table. If you’ve studied my recipes, you’ll notice a light dusting of cheese and meat. My dining room was liberally covered in both. Heh.
There were four of us at the party. On top having a chef, a server handed out fancy meat and cheese apps. To the four of us! Beautiful apps. The thing of Instagram’s dreams. And every time, I had to say, “No, thank you.” I’m a people pleaser, and this is the thing of my nightmares.
It got more awkward, because I ate a peppadew (a sweet piquanté pepper) for the first time and continued to finish every last one on the 72-inch board. I hope no one noticed, but based on the numbers, everyone noticed. I’m telling you this story because I’m not fancy. It also happens to be my awkward peppadew love story.
When we started working on our wood-fired pizza recipe, Kev and I went to Young Joni for research. Young Joni, owned by Ann Kim, serves some of the best pizza in Minneapolis. Though our intent was to study the pizza crust, we left vowing to recreate her wood-fired cauliflower appetizer. While her sauce recipe is composed of several different peppers, I chose to lean on one pepper—the peppadew, just like that aforementioned night.
A quick steam of the florets begins the cooking process. The cauliflower is then coated in a zippy peppadew sauce and finished under a hot oven or an even hotter wood-fired pizza oven. Serve as is, or plate with a shmear of yogurt (the creamy tartness is so welcomed), plus a heavy handed dusting of chopped curly parsley and walnuts.
An awkward night, a love story, and the birth of something really good—the long story short.
A blistered cauliflower appetizer coated in a peppadew sauce with a hit of heat, sweetness, and zippy from the vinegar. Serve straight off the pan or the fancy way—over a bed of yogurt. This is what we serve at the start of pizza night
1 medium head of cauliflower
1/2 c. jarred peppadews (about 10 peppers)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
heaping 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
dash of dried thyme
a couple cracks of fresh pepper
shmear of plain whole milk yogurt
chopped fresh curly parsley
chopped walnuts (toast if desired)
Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Chop the cauliflower into florets, and place in a steamer basket fitted inside a saucepan. Add 1-inch of water to the bottom of the pan. Cover, turn to high heat, and steam for 5 minutes, no longer. (Note: steaming helps to begin the cooking process while also hydrating the vegetable to keep it from drying out under the high heat. This also allows the florets to caramelize. Onions, for example, have plenty of water to aide in caramelization, but cauliflower needs a little help. This method works for broccoli, carrots, and other sturdy vegetables.)
Meanwhile, make the Peppadew Sauce. Add all the sauce ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. This can be made a week in advance.
Onto the prepared baking sheet, add the steamed cauliflower and sauce, stirring to evenly coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until caramelized and slightly charred, stirring half way through. Taste and add more salt as needed. Serve warm as is.
Or, add garnishes. Place a light shmear of yogurt on a plate. Top with cauliflower and a dusting of parsley and walnuts.
To cook in a pizza oven, follow the steaming and sauce instructions. Then place the coated cauliflower in a cast iron skillet and cook until charred. Remove from oven to stir halfway through. Cook times will vary based on the heat of the oven. In a 900°F oven, it takes about 10 minutes.
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