Folks who don't much care for cooked cauliflower should keep reading; here, the vegetable is reduced to a couscous-like consistency, raw, in the food processor. A handful of pantry-friendly, piquant add-ins and a minimal amount of olive oil create a crumbly pesto that's as good with pasta as it is piled atop crostini.
The recipe comes from New York food blogger Deb Perelman's upcoming cookbook, based on her blog, SmittenKitchen.com, which was born in 2006 and draws more than 5 million hits a month. We scaled it back to reduce the number of servings and upped the sherry vinegar. And we used Romanesco cauliflower, which gave the mixture a bit more color and crunch.
Serve with a salad of bitter greens.
Servings: 3 - 4
- Kosher salt
- 6 to 8 ounces dried linguine or fine (thinner) linguine
- 1 small (13-ounce) head cauliflower
- 1/2 cup unsalted almonds (may substitute pine nuts)
- 2 or 3 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 1-ounce chunk pecorino-Romano cheese (may substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- About 8 flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or more to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, then the linguine (allowing 2 ounces per serving). Cook according to the package directions. Drain and keep warm, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into chunks, placing them in the food processor as you work. Pulse to form couscous-like crumbs; transfer to a mixing bowl.
Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking them as needed to avoid scorching. Cool, then place in the food processor. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes, then transfer to the food processor. Coarsely chop the cheese and add to the food processor, along with the garlic, capers and parsley. Pulse to form a coarse bread-crumb consistency, then add the mixture to the cauliflower in the bowl, along with the crushed red pepper flakes.
Stir in the oil, 2 teaspoons of the vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to form a pestolike mixture. The yield is about 3 3/4 cups.
Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly, then add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create the desired consistency. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar as needed.
Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Serve right away.
Adapted from Perelman's "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" (Knopf, Oct. 30, 2012).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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