Bluefish. Donut peaches wrapped in prosciutto, glazed in maple, and grilled. Butter lettuce with buttermilk basil dressing. Heady Toppers from Vermont.
Homemade hot dogs in buttered, pan-toasted brioche buns. A bottle of my favorite rosé, ZeC Vin de France from Château Tour Grise with “House of the Rising Sun” in the background.
Steamed pork and cabbage dumplings. Spicy beef tongue. Sautéed bitter melon. Hot tea and a Tsingtao in Chinatown.
Paper-thin radish rounds with raw tuna and fluke, sliced by a knife made by a man in Japan. Eaten at 10 pm in the dark on a patio table with the light of a half lit lantern.
Handmade fettuccini tossed with cooked down fairytale eggplants and heirloom tomatoes.
Fried cauliflower. Fried Japanese sweet potatoes so hot they blister the inside of your mouth. Charred octopus and dirty rice.
Cast-iron cooked rib-eye with a salad of tomatoes, peaches, and torn basil.
A bottle of bubbly from the Loire as dinner. Overlooking sailboats.
Fried chicken skins. Grilled romaine salad. Chicken liver mousse on toast.
This is how you do it. This is how you romance dinner.
The sandwich I am writing about today is special. I had its bones scribbled down in a kitchen notebook months ago. Months before I met the man I am now dating. The dinners above we shared. The sandwich recipe is his. Both the man and his recipe came to me by way of a mutual friend. Both unexpected. Simple in preparation. And yet complex in all the right ways.
A sauce of capers and plumped raisins with some jalapeño heat. Anchored by buttery cauliflower. Topped with a sharp sheep’s milk feta. Sandwiched between smoky homemade flatbread.
What is listed below is my interpretation of his recipe. A meal from a man I’ve been enjoying for months.
P.s. Check out my article in the fall issue of edibleBoston. It’s about making homemade sea salt and includes some recipes from pastry chef, and matchmaker, Brian Mercury. He introduced me to this sandwich after we collected seawater from Maine to make the salt. The introduction to his friend came later.
Cauliflower Sandwich with Raisin Caper Sauce
For the cauliflower steaks
a head of cauliflower, you will have extra
For the raisin caper sauce
about 1 tbsp butter
a jalapeño or serrano pepper, chopped with the seeds (you can remove the seeds for less heat)
about 1/3 cup raisins
1-2 tbsp capers, plus a little of their brine
a few tbsp apple cider vinegar
For the flatbread
see instructions below (prepare ahead)
or use store-bought pita bread or homemade pita, recipe here
sheep’s milk feta
To make the flatbread (if doing so) make the dough as described here. Once the dough has risen (which will take about an hour), with floured hands, divide it into four equal pieces. Prepare your grill; if you are using charcoal it will take about 20 minutes to get the coals ready for grilling, but you’ll want to use a part of the grill with medium-ish heat (i.e. you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grate for about 3-5 seconds), so be sure to seek out a part of the grill that isn’t super hot.
Stretch each piece of dough with your hands until it is about 9 or 10 inches in length. Place it on the grill until it starts to bubble (this will take 1-2 minutes). Flip the dough with a spatula and continue to cook the flatbread another minute or so. (This process happens quickly. The flatbread will only have a little color to it; it should be fully cooked, but still soft. If you wish, you can also brush the flatbread with a little olive oil after you’ve flipped it.)
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough (you may be able to do more than one piece at a time, depending on if you are grilling other things as well). Technically, this will make enough for eight sandwiches. I put the leftover flatbread in my freezer once they cool and use the microwave to defrost them as needed.
To prepare the rest of the sandwich, slice the head of the cauliflower so that you get “steaks,” about 3-4 inches in length and no more than a ½ inch thick; it needs to fully cook in a sauté pan so the steaks should be fairly thin. Pour a glug or so of olive oil into a hot pan and add a teaspoon or two of butter. Place a few of the cut cauliflower steaks in the pan, but don’t crowd them. Season with salt. When the cauliflower is browned on its underside, flip it, and season the other side. Cook the cauliflower until browned on both sides and fully cooked. Don’t move it too much in the process, let it caramelize. Repeat until you have cooked as much of the cauliflower as you want. (This will depend on the number of sandwiches you are making, figure two to three steaks per sandwich.)
While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the butter in a pan. Add the chopped pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften. Add the raisins, capers, plus a little of their juice, and the vinegar. Let everything cook down a bit until the raisins start to plump, adding a little water if things look dry. (You may also add a little more vinegar too, just taste before you do to make sure the sauce won't be too acidic, if you think it might be, stick to water.) Taste and add more salt, if needed. Once the sauce is as you wish—it should be salty, sweet, and have some heat to it—blend it together in a food processor or blender; here you could also add a little water (or vinegar if it needs a little perking) if it could use a bit more liquid. Set aside.
To assemble the sandwich, cut a flatbread in half so that you have two pieces each about 5 inches in length. Using one piece, place a few cauliflower steaks on the bottom half of the flatbread; top with a tablespoon or so of the caper raisin sauce, 1-2 ounces of feta, and a few slices of leaf lettuce and fold the top half of flatbread over the contents of the sandwich. (If you are using pita, just place some cauliflower, sauce, feta, and lettuce in each of the pita halves.)
The yield for this recipe is variable. You can make one sandwich and have leftovers. You can make more than one sandwich. (You should have enough sauce for at least 4 sandwiches.)
-This looks like a lot of steps, but much of it is for the flatbread. Sub in premade pita and you’ll have your sandwich in 20 minutes or so.
-This is another recipe that’s easily tailored to preference, so treat it as a suggestion. This is an interpretation of an interpretation of a loose interpretation of a sandwich from Clover.
-The fried Japanese sweet potatoes are amazing. They are from Strip-T's, which has easily produced some of my favorite dishes in Boston. Oops, it’s in Watertown.
-The chicken skins, chicken mousse, etc. came by way of The Salty Pig. It’s also a fantastic restaurant and worth checking out if you haven’t been yet. Like the Salty Pig? Try Canary Square. They are doing some pretty amazing things. It's in Jamaica Plain. And you should go. Lastly, the Zec wine was from my favorite wine shop in Boston: The Wine Bottega.