cauliflower salad with green olives and capers

We had an election returns nail-biting and wine-drinking gathering last night (I refused to call it a party until given good reason to) and so, well, to say I’m a bit slow today might be a bit of an understatement. That said, even as I scrubbed grimy, chocolaty fingersmears off the sides of champagne flutes this morning with a raging morning-after headache, I never regret a good party.


Nothing worse than coming to a party around dinnertime that doesn’t actually provide dinner. But, since I didn’t want to have a dinner party, but the kind where you could come and go as your schedule allowed, hot food was out. Instead, we settled on cheese and breads, olives and salads, like this one.

Now, I love cauliflower. I always have. I like it in pasta, I like it in gratins (coming soon!), I like this dead-easy silky cauliflower soup and I like it curries and salads.

celery hearts and leavesmincing yolk with garlic and saltolive oilsherry vinegar

But I never expect cauliflower to be the kind of thing that people get excited over. It’s no great uniter. I admit it: I figured there would be a good amount leftover; I figured I’d at least have enough for lunch today. No such luck! Next time, I’m not making this salad. It’s too good, and too popular. Consider that a warning.

One year ago: Simplest Apple Tart

Cauliflower Salad with Green Olives and Capers
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

The original recipe calls for escarole or watercress, but I actually kind of like this better without the lettuce leaves. It keeps better for hours, as awesome for advance preparation (I made it the day before) as it is for staggered dinner times.

1 small firm head cauliflower or broccoflower, about 12 ounces
1 hard-cooked egg
Sherry vinaigrette (below)
2 scallions, including an inch of the greens, thinly sliced
1 cup diced celery heart with leaves
1 small green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
12 pimiento-stuffed Spanish green olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1/2 cup parsley leaves

Slice off very thin slices of cauliflower, working your way around the head. Quarter then thinly slice the cauliflower. Be sure to include the stalks, too, peeled and thinly sliced.

Smash the hard-cooked egg yolk with the garlic and salt when you make the vinaigrette. Keep the dressing a little on the tart side.

Dice the egg white and toss it with the vegetables, olives, capers, and parsley. Add the vinaigrette (below) and toss again.

Sherry Vinaigrette

1 or 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
salt and freshly milled pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Pound the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mortar until it breaks down into a puree. Combine the garlic, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl, then whisk in the oil and season with pepper. Taste and correct the balance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

56 comments on cauliflower salad with green olives and capers

  1. Cauliflower is actually my favorite vegetable. But, I haven’t tried any of your cauliflower recipes! I keep meaning to try the pasta, and I’m glad you reminded me of that soup.

  2. Do you think this would work with barely steamed cauliflower? I unfortunately cannot eat broccoli or cauliflower raw, its a texture thing, but I love lettuce free salads.
    Also, I’d like to say that I’m so happy you’re doing NaBloPoMo, so many more recipes for me to look at!

  3. i am not into cauliflower for some reason, but this recipe sounds yummy and the photos are very much calling “eat me” so I may try with the broccoflower first.

    sorry to hear about your head ache!

  4. Wow, you have done a lot better finding the great recipes in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone than I did! This sounds great too and I still have the eggs from the excellent galette! Thanks for finding the good ones for us.

  5. I’ve always loved cauliflower – it and radishes were always the two things I grab off the crudite tray!

    I’m having a floating party this Friday night, and I’ve been trying to figure out an easy, fuss-free menu. This is a definitely possibility because like yours, hot food is out!

    Thanks for the recipe and as always, the eye-candy photos! (And thanks for the picnik suggestion in your email awhile back. It’s the next best thing (read: cheaper) to photoshop!)

  6. This is great! And healthy…I am definitly tossing a link in my blog about this. I use cauliflower as a filler while I am watching my weight. I add it to mashed potatoes, soups, and just about anything I can toss it into.

    Thanks again for another great recipe. I love, love, love your blog!

  7. Jerzeetomato

    I have been looking for that type of high glass bowl forever. I saw Guy Fieri using it 3 years ago and have never been able to find it. Deb what is it?
    I bought cauliflower in Lancaster at various farm markets last week as big as my head. The produce this fall is unreal big.
    The salad looks just incredible. Lovely colors and flavors, a real winner.

  8. Heidi

    If there isn’t a “Best Food Blog Award” there should be.
    You would, hands down, win in every category…..Best Recipes, Best Photos and Best Descriptions. Can’t go a day without checking in to see what’s cookin.

  9. Wow, what a treat to find your recipe awaiting me this morning. I pick up my CSA delivery today and will have at least one head of cauliflower. I just finished up last week’s cauliflower last night. I’ve been eating it all different ways, but have never served it like this. What a great combination! Thanks! I do appreciate your blog! Great recipes, great writing, great photos.

  10. Cauliflower is so unappreciated! But this is a great recipe and simple. If you are looking for something to do with the leftover cauliflower, I actually just made a baked macaroni and cheese with cauliflower.

    I was shocked at how well it worked out.

    I love that you make dressing in a coffee mug. You should also try using an old mustard jar so you can shake it up. Also makes it easy to store!

  11. Nancy from PA

    Oh, wouldn’t this be pretty made with one of those new-fangled colored cauliflowers? Imagine the coral-colored one all mixed up with the bright greens of the pepper and celery. That would jump right off the plate at you! I do love cauliflower.

  12. deb

    Jerzeetomato — I am obsessed with these bowls, too, and I am not ashamed to admit that I started crushing on them when I saw them on a couple Food Network shows. Taller than they are wide, they’re perfect for saving space, and the fact that they’re good, clear glass means they can be used for mixing and serving. Ob-sessed. Best part? They’re $20 for 4 nested ones (1, 2, 3 and 4-quart). Link here.

  13. I LOVE cauliflower, and my husband just made a cauliflower pasta from that same cookbook last night – I blogged this morning about my children’s reaction.

    Another favorite of mine comes from (I think) Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the Mediterranean Diet. You steam the cauliflower, then place it in a hot oven on a jelly roll pan with a little chicken stock, and sprinkle liberally with grated gruyere cheese. It’s quick and easy and a perfect weeknight supper side.

  14. Interesting combination. The pepperiness of the cauliflower mixed with the salty zip of the capers – the satisfying crunch – it almost sounds like a snack rather than a salad. — jean

  15. Susan

    I have never been able to enjoy cauliflower much. The crumbly, gritty texture of the florette and bland flavor just does nothing for me. I use it in those vegatable/dip platters. It’s okay there, because it’s not as crumbly raw and the non-flavor is fine as a vehicle for a robust dip.

  16. alphie

    I suspect making it in advance actually improves it – because the raw cauliflower has a chance to absorb flavors… what a great recipe.

  17. Elizabeth

    I love love love food. Really love it.
    There are about 5 things I won’t eat.
    And you’ve fit three of them here (capers, olives, cauliflower!)
    Just had to share. It’s amazing! At least I know I can move on to the next recipe (love the stuff on here by the way…just couldn’t believe one tiny recipe could cram in food I hate most!

  18. Here’s the deal, sister friend. You are a food grown up and I am a simpleton. And this recipe is EXACTLY what makes me feel so in adequate!!! Ok, I jest, but must say that there has never been a meal prepared in my home which includes CAPERS and OLIVES in the same dish! I did enjoy a fabulous salmon over pumpkin and saffron couscous on election night however (restaurant of course).

  19. This looks absolutely wonderful! I love cauliflower… I actually canceled a very important doctors appointment yesterday morning because I was so wiped after watching the election returns. Rescheduled ;-)

  20. Wish I had a bowl of that waiting for me today……I happen to adore cauliflower, but I understand why you would think there’d be leftovers. I think people, for whatever reason, don’t like the IDEA of cauliflower, but given a good dish containing it, they’ll scarf it down and go for more!

    And besides, the whole thing looks so beautiful!

  21. Can I second how great this salad is? I made it a year ago and have been searching for a reason to make again ever since. I don’t know if you did this with your recipe, but I’d almost double the amount of dressing. The egg yolk in the dressing is so so delicious!

  22. Hi Deb, I love your blog and this is actually my first comment even though I’ve been a reader for about 2 years. I love cauliflower as well and my local farmstand has amazing cauliflower this time of year. I decided to try your Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes. It turned out pretty good. It was my first foray into making Indian food but I think it went well! I’m inspired to try more. Thanks for your great blog!

  23. Nadia

    Cauliflower is incredible steamed and eaten with a tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice and garlic dressing. Add salt to taste.

  24. Katie

    Why can I not picture how to slice the cauliflower? Long Saturday maybe. It’d be better if I could blame the hang over except. . . I can’t.

  25. I had used cauliflower in different recipe, and salad also , but never knew the recipesthat you have mentioned. My son loves salad and i am going to try those right now. Hope i will be able to see a cute smile on his face. thanks for sharing…

  26. Becci

    I’ve made this cauliflower dish four times (with slight variations, depending on mood and what’s available in my fridge) since you posted it. A. May. Zing. It’s become my favorite salad — okay, maybe ties with a classic spinach salad. Thank you for expanding my repertoire.

  27. Sarah

    I remembered this recipe and pulled it out this weekend to use up the cauliflower that my 4 year old insisted I buy for her. So good!

  28. The perfect storm occurred in my frigo the other day…all the ingredients (‘cept green pepper for which I subbed out a hunk of jicama) were in there, and all were left with no other specific purpose but to be eaten before heading out of town.
    I’d bookmarked this recipe ages ago and never got around to making it. For shame!! Tis so, so yummy! Thanks a bunch for a salad I will be making again and again.

  29. Cindy

    I was looking for a variation on my usual salad lunch… and this fit the bill. I left out the bell peppers (they don’t like me), and added chopped, seeded tomatos…. mmmmm….

  30. Mila

    I made this yesterday, though I did not have celery or capers on hand…but it still rocked my world. I actually steamed the cauliflower for about two minutes, so it wouldn’t flake, and added more of the egg whites. I also had smaller stuffed green olives as opposed to Spanish, so I added them accordingly. Very delicious, and I even like it sans the dressing. I agree it would be better without the lettuce leaves, as it is – I cut the parsley a little bigger….so it ended up perfect. Thanks!!

  31. Annie

    I just made this last night for a large group of friends at a DIY Pizza Party. Super hit. Perfect balance of hearty and light. Thanks!

  32. Luisa

    I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge waiting for me that I just didn’t feel like cooking. I googled Cauliflower Salad, and of course you had a recipe! (you always have what I’m looking for). This salad is perfectly tasty and easy to throw together! Thank you!

  33. Marcee

    Deb, when you say slice the cauliflower thin and peel the stalks, is the peeling for where thick only or all the way up to the flower part. Want to try it this – sound tasty

    1. deb

      Marcee — I just do the parts that are easily peel-able, i.e. usually the thickest part of the stem, which usually has the toughest skin.

  34. Lauren

    I know this is an oldie, but somehow I stumbled upon it and have been waiting all week to get through my leftovers to make it. Today was the day and I got out the ingredients and discovered I’d somehow forgotten to buy the cauliflower. 😬😬😬😬 I was so psyched on the salad I made it anyway, subbing a half of a green cabbage I had in the back of the fridge. It turned out great! I used two eggs and 3 tablespoons of red vinegar and a few extra olives and an extra tablespoon of the capers and I can’t stop eating it. It’s so briny and crunchy and fresh! Yum!