The other night, I was craving a salad. My favorite salad that I make is Salmon Nicoise, which I need to write an updated recipe on. For now check out my previous post about salad making here.
Salads get a bad rep. Making them at home can be tedious, and ordering out is always an easier option. Especially when it comes to making homemade salad dressing. Why work so much when you can get dressing right out of the bottle?
Once you get the hang of the measurements and making your own dressing, you will never go back. Think about all the condiments that you like and that are in your fridge right now. You can make a salad dressing with ANY. OF. THOSE. THINGS!
More particularly, my husband and I recently bought a big jar of Chicago’s own Vienna giardiniera for some homemade Italian beef sandwiches. Since then, I have been eating giardiniera straight out of the jar with a fork. I love the stuff that much.
When making the salad, I wanted those spicy, pickled, vegetal notes without chomping down on actual pieces of giardiniera. And thus, Giardinera Vinaigrette was born. I knew I was going to be incorporating pepperoni into the salad and wanted another note of heat to play off the spicy pepperoni.
I also wanted a different crunch to the crisp pepperoni, so I added whatever nuts I had in the house and toasted them up. Use whatever nuts you have, just be sure to toast them yourself.
I roasted my cauliflower, but if you like other roasted vegetables, swap cauliflower for any of your favorites. I like to roast all my veggies on a rimmed baking sheet, and I’ll link to my favorite baking sheet, which can be found here.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Pepperoni and Giardiniera Vinaigrette
- 1 whole head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
- 1/2 tsp Sambal
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 2 tsp Better than Boullion or boullion powder, chicken flavor
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 20 pepperoni slices, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup cashews, lightly chopped
- 1/4 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly chopped
- 2 heads thinly sliced romaine lettuce
- 1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded
For the Dressing
- 1 heaping tbsp Vienna jarred giardiniera, chopped finely
- 1 tbsp giardiniera oil
- 1/8 cup good olive oil
- 1 large lemon, juiced and seeds removed
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 additional sprig thyme, chopped
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Begin with preheating the oven to 375°F.
- Chop your cauliflower into florets and add to a large bowl. Add your smashed garlic, Sambal, turmeric, thyme, boullion, pepper, and olive oil and toss all together until evenly coated. *NOTE: Do not wash your bowl out with the garlic Sambal mixture still in it! We will toss the roasted cauliflower in the same bowl with the spice mix to reinforce those flavors after it’s cooked, so save it off to the side.
- Take a large baking sheet and line it with nonstick foil. Add each cauliflower floret to the baking sheet, keeping each floret about 1 inch apart. Bake in your preheated oven for 15 minutes while you crisp your pepperoni.
- To a nonstick skillet, add your slices of pepperoni in a single layer and turn the heat to medium. Allow to crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- With a wad of paper towels, dab as much of the pepperoni oil out of the pan as you can. Add your nuts to the pan and toast until just golden brown, about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, flipping frequently. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Also chop your romaine and purple cabbage and arrange into your serving bowl.
- After 15 minutes, flip your cauliflower to the other side to allow to brown. You should have some crispy bits on the underside of the cauliflower. Continue to bake for 7 more minutes while you make the dressing.
- For the dressing, chop 1 heaping tablespoon on giardiniera finely and add to a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil from the giardiniera jar as well. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil as well.
- Add lemon juice, balsamic, honey, garlic, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper and whisk together well. Set aside.
- Remove your roasted cauliflower from the oven and toss it back into the bowl with the original seasoning paste from before roasting. Toss together and allow the raw garlic to soften from the heat of the cauliflower.
- Arrange your cauliflower atop your lettuce and cabbage. Top with your crispy pepperoni and toasted nuts.
- Dress the whole salad with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.