Pan roasted cauliflower rubbed with smoked paprika, french lentils simmered with thyme, chewy sweet and salty shiitakes, and the smokiest zippiest sauce to finish it off. This recipe is oh so delicious. It’s of the cuisine I’ve named Pan-European, with cauliflower being from the Mediterranean, smoked paprika being Eastern European, the lentils being French (duh), and the sauce inspired from the Catalan salbitxata (which really seems to be a version of romesco that also includes tomatoes). And the shiitakes, well, they don’t quite fit into my analogy, given that I’ve used a mushroom from East Asia for it’s preferable texture.
I really love this recipe. I love the smokey flavors and the contrast of textures from the different components. I love how it can be dressed up and plated beautifully for a fancy dinner, or tossed together in a bowl and brought to your weekend potluck. I love that it includes my favorite things: cauliflower, lentils, a flavor-packed creamy sauce. You’ll note I don’t mention mushrooms, because, to be honest I don’t love them and they are there for my husbands benefit (and yours).
We really should take a moment to go over how wonderful this sauce recipe is. While I’ve tried my fair share of romesco sauces, I had never heard of salbitxata until flipping through my copy of Plenty More (a seriously gorgeous book). Based on my internet research, it seems as though salbitxata typically doesn’t include red pepper, but Ottolenghi’s version does and I thought it would add great sweet, smokey flavor to the sauce. Toasting the almonds before use enhances the sweet, nutty flavor, providing the perfect base. Roasting chiles and garlic alongside the red pepper until their skins are blackened gives extra smoked flavor. I used fire roasted canned tomatoes and loved the result, but with tomato season coming upon us, roasting a few fresh tomatoes alongside your peppers and garlic would also be perfect in this. Sherry or red wine vinegar brings a slight sourness to the sauce, balancing out the smokey flavor. A pinch of salt is all you need to enhance the flavors, and smoked paprika is icing on the cake. The last ingredient, olive oil, emulsifies the sauce, turns it a brighter orange, and combines with the ground almonds for that rich creamy mouthfeel. Not to mention, the richness of the sauce balances out the lightness of the veggies and lentils, and makes for a filling meal.
It might seem as if there are a lot of things going on in this recipe. And to some extent, yes, there are a lot of components to prepare for the dish. But each one is really quite simple, and if you work on them simultaneously the dish will come together in no time!
A simple workflow that works for me is:
- Begin with the sauce, pre-heating the oven and getting your ingredients out and prepped while it heats.
- While you’re toasting and roasting your ingredients for the sauce, cook the lentils, setting aside when ready and cover to keep warm.
- Let your roasted garlic and chiles (and pepper when it’s ready) steam while you first blanch then panfry your cauliflower.
- Whip up the sauce in the blender or food processor while you sauté your mushrooms (if making).
We really enjoyed eating this recipe and hope you do too! If you try it (or if you just try the sauce–seriously, do it), let me know! Leave a comment and/or rate the recipe below, tag me on Instagram, or let me know on Facebook! I love seeing & hearing about it when you guys make my recipes!
- The roasted red pepper sauce makes plenty of extra, so you can easily double or triple the cauliflower and lentils to serve more people!
- The recipe is delicious served warm or cold! Perfect for summer get togethers!
- You can certainly switch out the cauliflower with or include other veggies in the recipe. Zucchini and summer squash would pair nicely with the sauce. Skip the blanching step for the quicker cooking veggies.
- You can choose another lentil variety, but make sure it’s one that holds its shape when cooked.
*adapted from Plenty More *fire roasted tomatoes are really great here
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce*
Sweet Smokey Shiitake (optional)
To make the roasted red pepper sauce
To make the French lentils
To make the cauliflower
To make the optional shiitake mushrooms
*adapted from Plenty More
*fire roasted tomatoes are really great here