I am slowly but surely embracing the coming fall. There was a chill in the air when I woke up this morning and I didn’t hate it. I felt awake and I got to wear my favorite leather jacket. People watching at this time of year is always so fun. There is literally no consensus on the proper seasonal attire. You might see one couple in jeans and turtlenecks and another in bike shorts and T-shirts. The in-between outfits are my favorite. Pairing a cable-knit sweater with flip-flops isn’t an easy sartorial feat but I’ve seen several people try. This is a season of transition. And today’s Beet Pickled Cauliflower Salad is the perfect transitional salad. It’s filled with earthy yet fresh flavors, seasonal produce, and nutty farro. It has weight and depth while still being a refreshing salad. So let’s get into it.
Let’s start with the main event – the beet pickled cauliflower. Now, this is technically a quick pickle, which means you don’t have to boil jars to seal them or anything like that. But although the word “quick” in the title, quick pickles do take at least 24 hours to properly, well, pickle. At least the quick pickles that feature hearty vegetables, like beets and cauliflower florets, do. You can pickle some finely sliced onion in an afternoon, no problem. But that’s beside the point. Basically, you have to start making this salad a day in advance. I know, it’s a bit of a pain. But trust me, when you taste this salad you will know it was worth it.
Pickling cauliflower and beets is a very simple process. Basically, you place a layer of cauliflower florets in a large jar and cover them with beet wedges. Repeat this pattern until the jar is relatively full with about an inch of headroom at the top. I put my cauliflower in raw and I purchased pre-roasted and peeled beets to save time. But you can easily roast the beets yourself if you can’t find any packaged. You can also parboil the cauliflower if you like it a little more tender. The pickling process does tenderize the cauliflower quite a bit but it does retain a fair amount of crunch.
Next pour equal parts apple cider vinegar and water into a saucepan and add salt, sugar, and aromatics. I went with yellow mustard seeds and crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick. But feel free to add whichever whole spices speak to you. You can also swap the apple cider vinegar for a different variety. But I would suggest sticking to a lighter-colored vinegar as anything dark will alter the color of your finished pickle. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and swirl the pot until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the mixture over the veg and let cool. Seal the jars and let pickle for 24 hours. See? Easy.
The next day, cook some farro and set to work making your goat cheese and walnut croutons. These are not really croutons, as they are obviously not toasted bread. But they do fulfill the same purpose in this Beet Pickled Cauliflower Salad. They supply the dish with a little crunch. Not to mention the goat cheese brings richness and tanginess to the salad. Making these nuggets is very simple. Roll the goat cheese into little balls, using a 1/4 teaspoon as a guide, and then roll those in a pile of crushed walnut pieces. I prefer to crush my walnuts using a mortar and pestle because I find it gives me more control over the consistency of the pieces. But you could also just pop some walnuts in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin.
Finally, it’s time to make the dressing. I opted for a honey Dijon vinaigrette made with white balsamic vinegar. But again, you could select another vinegar, like white wine or red wine vinegar. Basically, this vinaigrette is a blueprint for any vinaigrette your heart desires.
- Equal parts oil and vinegar
- Add garlic or shallots or both
- A little something extra, this could be mustard or cheese or whatever.
- Something sweet, I went with honey but you could use jams or jellies and you can lean on this ingredient a little for balance or a lot to take your dressing in a sweet direction.
- And finally, salt. Because everything needs, loves, and wants salt.
From here all that remains is to add some radicchio, the bitterness really balances everything out, and toss everything together. I prefer to dot the surface of the mixed salad with the goat cheese walnut croutons rather than tossing them in with the salad. This approach keeps them from getting lost at the bottom of the bowl and also helps them maintain their shape. But again, this is totally up to you. Finish the salad with fresh mint leaves and you’re done!
That’s everything you need to know about this Beet Pickled Cauliflower Salad. It’s nutty, earthy, creamy, salty, sweet, and fresh. It is all the things and it’s exactly what you need as we transition from summer to fall.
Beet Pickled Cauliflower Salad
- 1 Large mason jar
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 mortar and pestle optional
Beet Pickled Cauliflower
- 1/2 head cauliflower cut into florets
- 3 cooked and peeled beets cut into wedges
- 1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1¼ cups water
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
Goat Cheese Walnut Croutons
- 140g (5oz) goat cheese
- ½ cup walnuts roasted, unsalted
Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Salad
- 1 cup radicchio leaves torn, tightly packed
- 1½ cups cooked farro
- Fresh mint leaves for sprinkling
For the Beet Pickled Cauliflower
- Place the beets and cauliflower in a large jar in alternating layers. Set them aside.1/2 head cauliflower, 3 cooked and peeled beets
- Pour the vinegar and water into a small saucepan. Add the salt, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, and mustard seed. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the salt and sugar dissolve.1¼ cups apple cider vinegar, 1¼ cups water, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, 2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- Pour the pickling liquid over the beets and cauliflower until fully immersed. Let cool before sealing the jar and leaving to pickle in the fridge for 24 hours.
For the Goat Cheese Croutons
- Roll the goat cheese into a series of small balls, using a 1/4 teaspoon as a guide. Set the goat cheese aside.140g (5oz) goat cheese
- Pour the walnuts into a mortar and pestle and crush until the pieces are small but not fine. **½ cup walnuts
- Transfer the walnut pieces to a plate and working with one goat cheese ball at a time, roll the cheese in the walnut pieces until fully encrusted. Chill until ready to serve.
For the Vinaigrette
- Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set it aside.¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Salad
- Drain the pickled cauliflower and beets and place them in a large bowl. Add the farro and radicchio and pour the vinaigrette over top. Toss to coat.1 cup radicchio leaves, 1½ cups cooked farro
- Transfer the salad to a large platter and dot the surface with the goat cheese walnut crotons. Finish with a sprinkling of fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.Fresh mint leaves