In the center of San Francisco’s Mission District there’s a small, relatively unknown bakery named Tartine with a charming wait-staff and minimal wait time. As if! Tartine is the most highly regarded French bakery on the West Coast, and the owners definitely take advantage of their notoriety to inflate the prices and train their employees to answer questions in the most condescending manner possible. Ambience aside, I still love to visit it whenever we’re in the area because my family and I agree that they make the best paninis we have ever tasted.
Their paninis are made on enormous, 12 inch wide slices of their pain au levain and can satisfy 2, even 3 people for lunch. Every time I go, I try a different variety. My favorite thus far has been the panini with pecorino cheese, olive oil, lemons, almonds, and sage. The lemon keeps everything bright despite the rich flavors of the olive oil and almonds, and the salty pecorino ties the whole thing together.
Of course, the minute that I finished that panini, I knew that it would be only a matter of weeks before I made it for myself at home. Sure enough, one cold evening in January, we all felt like we were back in the Mission district, only without paying $12 for a Panini. Recently, I had been thinking about the almond mixture that is layered on top of the pecorino, and I wanted a way to adapt it for the warmer weather into a lighter, more refreshing recipe. This is where the cauliflower comes in. I roasted some cauliflower over high heat until its sugars caramelized while I worked on the dressing.
For the dressing, I combined the zest and juice of a lemon with salt and pepper. Parsley replaced the sage to move the flavors from January to June. While the cauliflower was still hot I poured the lemon juice mixture and the parsley over the florets for maximum flavor absorption, then folded in some chopped toasted almonds. Ultimately, the cauliflower nowhere near what that panini looked like at Tartine—cauliflower is no substitute for bread, after all, but it’s a delicious riff on a fantastic combination of flavors.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 small head of cauliflower (1 ½ pounds), cut into 1 inch florets
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons chopped almonds, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 425 F.
- Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt, then arrange it in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 425F for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, mix together the lemon zest, lemon juice, a pinch of kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and the parsley in a small bowl.
- Toss the roasted cauliflower with the lemon juice mixture until thoroughly combined, then fold in the toasted almonds. Add salt as needed to taste and serve.