Roasted cauliflower chunks with millet and romesco sauce

As Spring continues to tease us in NYC, this week I am (finally) back peddling (and pedaling) my salads to people in my local community here in Brooklyn. True, it has taken me a while to get here but I am absolutely thrilled to be back doing what I love most. My salad subscription business here is a member-only salad club for local vegetable lovers. I'm starting out small again, cooking and delivering (myself!) just to my local neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. Today, as I pounded the pavements with my trolley full of salads, I remembered the thrill of being out on the streets and sharing my food with local people. Days like this leave me unconditionally satisfied and damn excited about my small approach to food which continues to have a big impact. 

Back in the kitchen, I've also very excited about this new salad. Some recipes you literally carry around for years. This is one of them. One of my signature moves in salad-making is playing with different sauces from around the world, so I can't quite believe it has taken me this long to incorporate a Spanish romesco sauce into my repertoire. Romesco is my favorite kind of sauce as there are so many variations. It usually incorporates peppers with nuts, garlic, olive oil, chilli and tomatoes. Mixing and matching is the key - use almonds, hazelnuts or even pine nuts. My friends at NYSHUK tell me that adding a spoon or two of harissa makes the best romesco. Many even use bread to thicken it up. 

For my romesco, I've kept it fairly traditional, with grilled peppers, tomatoes, and almonds spiced with paprika and cayenne. And while the ingredients are decidedly summer in feel, it is still easy to produce a flavor packed sauce by using good quality deli bought grilled peppers and tomato puree. What I love about this is that it turns romesco into a condiment easily made from larder ingredients. 

As my sauce du jour, I currently make big batches to keep in the fridge and slather on roasted vegetables, sandwiches, soups and bread. Romesco adds a lovely, savory richness to many dishes and it is perfect in salads. For this week’s recipe, I have roasted thick chunks of cauliflower, almost to resemble ‘steaks’ (an idea from my friend Luisa Brimble) and have paired it with healthy romesco-flavored millet. Millet is a great gluten-free grain but you can easily substitute with whatever grain or cereal you have in the pantry.


Roasted cauliflower chunks with millet and romesco sauce

Substitute millet with your fave grain such as quinoa or farro. You can grill your own peppers if you wish, but store bought ones work just fine. Spice it up with as much or as little cayenne pepper as your palate dictates. The romesco can be made ahead of time and kept chilled for up to 7 days.

Serves 4

  • 1 ½ cups millet (or other grain such as couscous)
  • 3 cups liquid vegetable stock
  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into ½ inch slices
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp slivered or flaked almonds, toasted
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper

Romesco Sauce (makes about 2 ½ cups)

  •  1 cup (250g) grilled red peppers/capsicum
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup (100g) almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch sea salt and black pepper

Preheat an over to 190˚C/375˚F.

To make the romesco sauce, put the peppers, garlic, almonds, tomatoes, paprika, cayenne, vinegar and parsley into the bowl of a food processor or blender and whizz it together. Slowly drizzle in to the oil and process until smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Place the cauliflower steaks onto a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Roast in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden and tender.

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to the boil and add the millet. Cover and cook on low heat until all the stock has been absorbed. If the millet is not yet tender, add a bit more water as some brands may take longer to cook. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and all the millet to sit for 10 minutes - this will allow the grains to dry out further and fluff up.

Add a few big spoons of romesco to the millet and stir through to coat the grains, until they are tinted red. Place the cauliflower chunks on a serving platter, spoon over the romesco-covered grains and toss just a little. To serve, scatter over almonds, parsley, spoon over a little more romesco, drizzle with a little oil and finish with a final season of salt and pepper. 

SALADHetty McKinnon