Cauliflower, Olive, Pepper and Caper Salad (Insalata di Rinforzo)

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cauliflower olive pepper and caper salad recipe
Ed Anderson/Food of the Italian South

Our love for cauliflower knows no bounds (we eat it roastedricedmashed and popcorn-style). But we didn’t know the Italians had a thing for the cruciferous veggie too—until we found Katie Parla’s recipe for cauliflower, olive, pepper and caper salad (insalata di rinforzo, if you’re fancy) from her new cookbook, Food of the Italian South.

“This Neapolitan holiday staple, also called burdiglione, is traditionally served on Christmas Eve to provide rinforzo (reinforcement) to a lean, fish-based meal,” she writes. “The ingredients are seasonal—Neapolitans pickle peppers after the summer harvest and begin using them once the weather cools. In Naples, the pepper of choice is the papacella, a squat, flattened pepper, but you can substitute bell peppers or another sweet variety here.”

We couldn’t possibly save this one for just Christmastime. Let’s eat.

Reprinted from Food of the Italian South. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Parla. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC


Quick-Pickled Vegetables

3 cups white wine vinegar, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons sugar, plus more as needed

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

3 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch-thick rounds

2 red or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch-thick pieces

1 small red onion, halved and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices


Sea salt, as needed

1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets

½ cup olives—rinsed, pitted and halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

6 salted anchovy fillets, cleaned and cut into ¼-inch pieces

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Make the Quick-Pickled Vegetables: In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar with 3 cups water and bring to a simmer over low heat.

2. Add the kosher salt and sugar. When both have dissolved, taste the brine; it should taste balanced, like something you would put on your salad. Adjust as needed with vinegar, salt and sugar.

3. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, carrots and bell peppers to the brine. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, then add the celery. Return to a simmer and cook for 1 minute more, then add the onion and cook for 2 minutes more. Drain the vegetables in a colander, transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

4. Make the Salad: Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water and, when the salt has dissolved, add the cauliflower. Cook until tender but still holding its shape, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and immediately plunge it into the ice bath to cool.

5. When the cauliflower is cool, drain and transfer to the bowl of pickled vegetables. Add the olives, capers, anchovies and parsley.

6. Pour the vinegar and olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside to allow the flavors to marry—at least an hour or up to two days in the refrigerator—before serving.

Note: Alternatively, you can simmer each vegetable separately in step 3. You want the vegetables to be al dente but cooked through: Cook the carrots and bell peppers for about 5 minutes each, the celery for about 3 minutes and the onion for about 2 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
  • 199 calories

  • 11g fat

  • 19g carbs

  • 4g protein

  • 9g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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