As a kid cauliflower was one of my least favorite winter vegetables. The stench, as it cooked in a large pot of water for considerable time—my father liked it well-cooked, almost mushy–lingered for hours, if not days in the kitchen of our Athens apartment. Of course my mother didn’t know that the longer you cook the cauliflower and its cousins– the cabbage, the Brussels spouts etc.–the worse they smell. My father, who knew nothing about cooking, insisted that she should add celery leaves in the water; but we often didn’t have any to add, or my mother knew that it wouldn’t eliminate the smell, so this became the cause for a shouting match. No wonder neither I nor my sister looked forward to cauliflower salad.
When I started to cook in my kitchen I tried to learn more about each of the vegetables, especially about the ones that I remember as challenging. There was no instant internet search then. I had to look up books and ask my scientist friends. I found that steaming the cauliflower florets—something not common in traditional Greek kitchens–was a big improvement; very little smell. But roasting it in the oven was a revelation! Practically no smell, especially if I added a few branches of thyme or oregano; and the roasted cauliflower was delicious, even without dressing!
Paired with carrots, sautéed with lemon and olive oil, and complemented with anchovy-garlic-caper-lemon vinaigrette it is much more than a salad; it becomes the main attraction, even if it accompanies fish or meat.