Pesto Cauliflower and Potato Salad 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Weeknight Vegetarian Jul 23, 2014

A vegan take on pesto (a dressing without the cheese) combines with the classic potatoes and gets lighter with the addition of charred cauliflower. For something more substantial, replace half of the cauliflower with pasta, such as gemelli.

You'll need a cast-iron grill pan.

Make Ahead: The salad can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 8 ounces cauliflower (from half of a small cauliflower)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces waxy yellow or white potatoes
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen/defrosted green peas
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (see NOTE)


Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat.

Remove/discard the thick inner stem from the cauliflower; slice the cauliflower into 1-inch-thick slices. Use 1 tablespoon of the oil to coat them on both sides. Arrange the slices in a single layer in the pan. Grill until charred on the outside and crisp-tender inside, 4 to 5 minutes, flipping the cauliflower halfway through. Transfer the slices to a cutting board and chop into bite-size pieces, transferring them to a large mixing bowl as you work.

Peel and dice the potato into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer them to a large saucepan, cover with 4 inches of cold water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes until almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook another minute, until they are barely tender. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the potatoes and peas and rinse with cold water. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Combine 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water, the remaining tablespoon of oil, the basil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, garlic and salt in a food processor; puree until smooth. Add some of the remaining cooking water as needed. Taste; add salt, if desired. Let the dressing sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, then pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.

Divide the salad among plates or bowls and top with the walnuts. Serve right away.

NOTE: Toast the nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Terry Hope Romero's "Salad Samurai" (DeCapo Lifelong Books, 2014).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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