I remember when I began my training all of the ingredients seeming incredibly exotic. As someone who just arrived from the small-town Midwest, I had to search for definitions of agnolotti, mortadella, bottarga, etc. just to begin to understand the menu. Prepping for that job opened up a whole new world of food for me and was the first step in knowledge and experience to get me to where I am today. It was also a jumping off place that led me to my next two jobs (the second of which I am still at today).
For all I learned there (and for the friends I made) it saddens me that I cannot go back and for a moment experience a few of the memories created there through the restaurant's food. Some days especially I think I would give anything for just one plate of the short rib agnolotti or the smoky tagine. But I can at least try to recreate a little of that world through the lens of my own kitchen.
One of the most interesting flavor combinations I came to learn while there is the combination of uber-salty fish like sardines or anchovies with a hint of something sweet, like dried fruit. There is something cloying about this duo that tantalizes your taste buds and leaves them crying for more. When paired here with slightly crisp roasted cauliflower it becomes a dish that would be lovely alongside herb-rubbed lamb or a hearty fish, but is just as nice for a simple lunch.
Sweet and Salty Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower
2-3 TB olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 TB capers
1/8 c. toasted slivered almonds
1/8 c. raisins
1 TB anchovy paste
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Chop the cauliflower into 1 1/2" florets. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 30 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl add the anchovy paste and lemon juice and whisk briskly while drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil. Once it has emulsified, set the dressing aside.
After the cauliflower is roasted place in a medium bowl and toss with the capers, almonds and raisins. Add the dressing, stir, and then taste. Add salt and pepper if necessary and serve. This salad is just as good room temperature or chilled as it is warm.