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Cauliflower & Date Salad in Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

It sounds weird but cauliflower and dates are a natural pairing. Add pomegranate molasses, onions, pine nuts, and feta cheese, and it just works. It’s really tasty!

This salad layers both flavors and textures. Onions and dates are mixed with the pomegranate dressing and allowed to marinate slightly. When the still-warm roasted cauliflower is mixed with the vinaigrette, it absorbs the dressing and softens the dates and onions. Before serving, the salad is garnished with even more onions and dates, adding a fresher level of crunch and zip, chewiness and sweetness.

1 head of cauliflower, washed and patted dry

2 TBS olive oil

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 TBS pomegranate molasses

2 TBS olive oil

½ cup thinly sliced red onions plus more for garnish

¼ cup thinly sliced pitted dates plus more for garnish (6 – 8 dates in total)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1 TBS fresh flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish

2 TBS toasted pine nuts plus more for garnish

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.

Remove the leaves and stem from the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces or break into florets. Place the cauliflower in an even layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle the cauliflower with the 2 TBS olive oil and sprinkle it with garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place the cauliflower in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the cauliflower over. Roast for another 15 – 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown and fork tender but not mushy. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the pomegranate molasses. Whisk in 2 TBS oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add the ½ cup of red onions and ¼ cup of dates to the vinaigrette and marinate for a few minutes.

Add the warm cauliflower on top of the vinaigrette. Using a large spoon, carefully fold the vinaigrette up from the bottom of the bowl until the cauliflower is coated. Add the parsley, pine nuts, and the feta cheese and carefully fold them in. Taste the salad for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Pour the salad onto a serving platter. Garnish with onions, dates, parsley, and pine nuts. You can serve this salad warm or at room temperature.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) Make it vegan. Substitute vegan feta cheese or cashew-based Parmesan cheese for the feta.

2) For extra tang and crunch, garnish the salad with a few tablespoons of pomegranate seeds.

3) Substitute toasted walnuts or roasted and lightly salted pistachios for the pine nuts.

4) Substitute chopped dried figs or dried cranberries for the dates.

5) To some people, pine nuts taste metallic. And while pine nuts are technically seeds, they may be cross-contaminated with tree nuts. If you have a tree nut allergy, read the packaging and avoid the pine nuts if they were processed in the same facility as tree nuts.

For the crunchy component then, substitute French fried onions, chow mein noodles, or toasted sesame seeds…and again, read the packaging if you're allergic to nuts. Popped amaranth or fried chickpeas would also be delicious in this salad.

6) If you want more feta cheese, use more! I used a wonderfully stinky and quite salty sheep’s milk feta (made with microbial rennet) so in my salad, less was more. You can also use goat’s cheese, ricotta salata (salted ricotta), aged Montasio (mountain cheese) or chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano instead.

7) Use a 1-lb bag of frozen cauliflower instead of fresh. Defrost completely and drain. Pat dry; a lint-free kitchen towel would work better than paper towels. Follow the recipe as written but roast for only 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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