Charred Cauliflower Salad

Charred Chopped Cauliflower Salad
Photo by Penny De Los Santos / Styling by Frances Boswell

Given the abundance of agriculture in Sonoma County, “farm to table” is practically a given in the local restaurant scene. But for Perry Hoffman, chef at SHED Café, the farm is the table.

“Just outside my front door in Healdsburg, I can find miner’s lettuce, chickweed, lemon balm, sorrel and all sorts of mushrooms,” he says. “I see our hills as a table that is constantly spread.”

The restaurant is part of the larger SHED concept, which also encompasses a market and gathering space. Locals can rub shoulders with their food and wine purveyors here over spectacular dishes prepared by Hoffman that change daily.

Chef Perry Hoffman
Photo by Caitlyn McCaffrey

“Every farm here has their niche products, and SHED was built to connect this agricultural community,” says Hoffman. “We work with around 15 farms—and some backyards—on a daily basis. Our own HomeFarm, in Dry Creek Valley, grows a diverse array of vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and edible flowers.”

Sustainable farmers, winemakers and environmentalists are all part of this community. Last year, SHED started “Taste Of Place,” a dining series that showcases local wine and food through a lens of history, terroir and agricultural philosophy.

“Each gathering is unique, from the menu to the conversations between the growers, winemakers and attendees,” says Hoffman. “Our vision has always been to create a place where the beauty and aliveness of the complete food cycle—the growing, preparing, and eating and drinking—would become visible.”

Ingredients for Charred Cauliflower Salad
  • 1 large white cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Pecan Purée*
  • Vadouvan Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1 cup toasted pecans
  • 16 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
  • 2 cups lightly packed young kale, torn roughly
Directions for Charred Cauliflower Salad

Heat oven to 450˚F. Warm large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add grapeseed oil and cauliflower in single layer, cooking in batches, if necessary. Cook about 5 minutes, until charred in spots. Transfer to baking sheet, and toss with salt and pepper to taste. Roast 5 minutes. Transfer to mixing bowl.

On large platter, spread pecan purée evenly. Dress warm cauliflower lightly with vinaigrette, and arrange atop purée. Top with pecans, dates and kale. Sprinkle with additional vinaigrette. Serves 4–6.

Pecan Purée Ingredients
  • 2 cups toasted pecans
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon salt
Directions for Pecan Purée

Place pecans, coriander seeds, bay leaf and salt in saucepan with 1½ cups water. Cover and simmer over low heat 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture into blender or food processor. Purée until very smooth. Set aside.

Vadouvan Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed), plus additional for pan
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vadouvan (a French curry-style spice blend)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Directions for Vadouvan Vinaigrette

Warm sauté pan over medium heat, and coat lightly with neutral oil. Add onions, garlic, vadouvan, mustard seeds and salt. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer into blender. Add vinegar and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. With blender running, add oils. Add salt, to taste. Set aside.

Pair It

2015 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris (Russian River Valley) Hoffman says, “We pour this wine on tap at SHED’s Fermentation Bar. Its zesty acidity complements the rich vadouvan spice and charred cauliflower. The roasted dates and pecans crave a refreshing pairing like the Trousseau Gris with its aromas of mandarin, bright minerality, a hint of spice and round textured finish.”

Published on May 26, 2017
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.


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