Marinated Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Saffron

For this Spanish-inspired tapas dish, we infuse cauliflower and chickpeas with a complex, saffron-scented marinade.

Marinated Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Saffron
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS The small portions in tapas demand big flavor in every bite, so we set out to enliven creamy chickpeas and earthy cauliflower in a bold, Spanish-inspired marinade. First we blanched the cauliflower, softening it so that it would readily absorb the dressing. We established the marinade’s base by blooming saffron in hot water to coax out more of its distinct, complex flavors. Heating smashed garlic cloves in olive oil infused the oil with flavor and tamed the garlic’s harsh edge. Along with the saffron, smoked paprika and a sprig of rosemary gave the marinade a vibrant brick-red hue and earthy, aromatic flavor. Thin slices of lemon lent bright citrus flavor and made for a pretty presentation. We stirred together our marinade, adding the saffron and flavor-enhancing sherry vinegar (a go-to ingredient in Spanish cuisine) off the heat. Canned chickpeas were a time-savvy choice, promising reliably tender beans without the wait. We combined our marinade with the chickpeas and cauliflower and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator, allowing the flavors to meld and deepen. The chickpeas and cauliflower emerged with a golden hue, brimming with deep, complex flavor. Use a small sprig of rosemary, or its flavor will be overpowering. Garlic will soften over time. This dish can be served cold or at room temperature.

½ head cauliflower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1-inch florets
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
½ lemon, sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large saucepan. Add cauliflower and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until florets begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Drain florets and transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet.
2. Combine ¼ cup hot water and saffron in bowl; set aside. Heat oil and garlic in small saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and beginning to sizzle but not brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in sugar, paprika, and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in saffron mixture, vinegar, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
3. Combine florets, saffron mixture, chickpeas, and lemon in large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. To serve, discard rosemary sprig, transfer cauliflower and chickpeas to serving bowl with slotted spoon, and sprinkle with parsley.


Appetizer & Meze