Spicy cauliflower simmered in red wine

December 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cruciferous rich, Italian, Jack Bishop, Vegetable dishes)

I love cauliflower, but other than cauliflower curry, I actually don’t have any standby recipes for it.  I was looking for something new to try, and I found this recipe in which the cauliflower is simmered in red wine instead of water.  It sounded interesting, and, as an added bonus, it would give me a chance to use up the red wine that we often have lying around from unfinished bottles. The recipe is from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.


  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • about 1/2 cup pitted and chopped large green olives
  • 3/4 cup fruity red wine, such as merlot or zinfandenl
  • 1/2 tsp. dried hote red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbs. drained capers
  • salt


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat until golden, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower, olives, wine, and hot red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower has absorbed the liquid in the pan and is tender but still offer some resistance to the bit, about 35 minutes.
  3. Stir in the parsley and capers.  Taste and salt if necessary.

Serves 6 according to Bishop.

My notes:

This dish is very pretty.  The onions turn deep purple and the cauliflower is tinted very lightly purple.  The green parsley contrasts nicely with the two purples.

I followed the recipe exactly except my cauliflower was a bit larger than specified (2 pounds 6 ounces before coring I think), and I cut the olive oil to 2 Tbs.  Despite cutting the oil, I think the cauliflower tasted rich enough.

I had a few problems with the recipe.  First, 35 minutes was too long to cook the cauliflower.  Mine was overdone when I checked it at 25 minutes, even though it was barely simmering at that point.  Second, the cauliflower really needs to be salted at the beginning of cooking, not the end.   I’d start with 1/2 tsp. salt, but it probably needs 3/4 tsp or more.  Also, I didn’t think 2 Tbs. of parsley was enough.  I think 1/4-1/3 cup parsley would be more reasonable for this amount of cauliflower.  Also, I found the recipe a bit bland.  I was expecting stronger flavors, but I couldn’t really taste the wine (except for the sweetness it added) and the other flavors were pretty mild.  My wine was just a cheap, not-super-fruity supermarket wine, however, so maybe that was part of the problem.  Also my olives were rather mild ones.  I would have preferred to use a brighter tasting green olive, but I couldn’t find any.

Obviously, addressing the salt issue will probably help with the flavor issues, but still I think something is missing.  Next time I make this I might try adding some fresh oregano at the end, or some raw garlic, or maybe a little red wine vinegar for acidity.  I will also make sure to get really good olives and fruity wine, and maybe increase the olive and caper amount slightly.

This dish is so pretty and different looking that I’d really love to make it work.  I think it would make a great winter side dish to accompany a number of Italian pasta dishes.  Rating: B-.

Unlike me, Derek thought the flavors were quite bold.  He said it was pretty tasty, and rated it a B/B+.

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