We just got back from a two week sojourn to Ubud, Bali, hence the lateness of this post. I did have it all cued up and ready to go while we were away but alas, we were struck with the slow internets. It’s hard to care too much though about slow internets when you’re lounging around in a sarong eating fresh mango and papaya all day.
So I actually made (and devoured) this salad a few weeks ago, when the weather was still on the cusp of summer, when there was still a hint of cool breeze in the evening. This is a perfect season-cusp salad, with the heartiness of cauliflower combined with the spring of mint and pomegranate. Since we got back though, the heat seems to have settled in. Brisbane is dry – the park is a sea of dusty brown and street-side trees are withering and dying with all of the lack-of-rain.
I’d never seen a romanesco cauliflower until I picked this one up at the market. It looks kind of like a combination between a forest moss and an underwater coral, and is the loveliest shade of pale green. It tastes much like regular cauliflower, although perhaps with a hint of broccoli in it. Either way, it is certainly very pretty!
This is the second dish I’ve made in a relatively short time that includes roasted chickpeas. Why is that? Because I’ve recently discovered that roasted chickpeas are fucking delicious. I eat a lot of chickpeas – they’re a regular in my lunchtime salads at least a couple of times a week. But lately I’ve been feeling that they’re a bit ergh, a bit bland. With a sprinkling of spices and a quick roasting though they become delightfully more-ish. So much so, in fact, that I’m tempted to just scoff them by the handful.
This salad is a combination of all of my flavours-of-the-moment. It’s really easy to make and the different elements – grilled, blanched, roasted – plus not onto but two simple dressings add a lovely depth of flavour. If you can’t get your hands on a romanesco go ahead and substitute regular ol’ cauliflower. Likewise, if you can’t find any fresh pomegranate (or if it’s just too damn expensive) you could replace it with some dried cranberries, or even a handful of fresh blueberries.
Romanesco Cauliflower, Chickpea & Mint Salad
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp sumac
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small romanesco cauliflower (approx. 280 – 300 grams)
1 cup mint leaves
10 – 12 asparagus
½ cup almonds
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
½ tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tbsp water
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Heat oven to 180°c/350°f. In a bowl mix together the chickpeas with the sumac, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt and olive oil until the chickpeas are fully coated. Spread in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for approx. 35 mins, shaking the tray once about halfway through.
In the meantime, blanch the cauliflower. Cut it up into small bite-sized florets while bringing a pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the florets, remove from the heat, and cover for approx. 5 minutes. Drain and run the cauliflower under cold water. Set aside.
Prepare the asparagus by coating with olive oil and grilling, approx. 3 – 4 minutes each side, until tender. Cut into 4cm long pieces.
Roughly chop the almonds and dry toast in a pan until they start to colour and smell delightfully nutty (just a few minutes), then remove from the heat.
In a large bowl combine the roasted chickpeas, blanched cauliflower, grilled asparagus, chopped almonds, mint leaves, and pomegranate seeds (reserving a few seeds to serve). Toss through to combine.
Prepare the dressings. For the yoghurt dressing combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, and sea salt in a small bowl and mix to combine. For the tahini dressing combine the tahini, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, drizzling in the water slowly as you mix it through (feel free to add more or less water till you reach your desired consistency).
Serve the salad with a generous drizzle of each dressing, and a smattering of pomegranate seeds on top.
Notes: feel free to replace the romanesco cauliflower with regular cauliflower – it will still be delicious. This salad is pretty sturdy and will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, although I recommend dressing just prior to eating. If you refrigerate the tahini dressing it may need to be loosened up with a dash more water prior to using.