Vermont in March: The snow has melted to reveal dead grass and frozen mud; a bounty of dog poop and cigarette butts; cardboard, beer cans, and Sunday circulars that have blown out of recycling bins. My muse and I walk by the lake most days, where the ice has broken up and smashed into one corner of the bay. It's gorgeous and bitterly cold, which is what I aspire to be, as well. My muse aspires to pee on every single bush and tree lining the waterfront.
While my cauliflower roasts, I compose a poem called "Ode to a Sleeping Dog...Seriously, Chester, That's My Pillow. The One I Put My Head On at Night."
I set it aside to cool for a few minutes and toast some walnuts and make the dressing, while my muse does yoga (Extended Dog Pose).
Seriously, how mad are you? My muse and I want to know.
He eats kibble, I partake of Roasted Cauliflower and Watercress Salad and pine for blossoming trees, an iceless lake and squashless grocery store, my muse running through fields of wildflowers, his ears flapping in the gentle breeze. I'm going to be waiting until June, because it turns out Vermont skips spring entirely and after an extended winter moves right into summer. Until then, Roasted Cauliflower and Watercress salad: The cauliflower, still warm, ever so slightly wilts the watercress. A slick gloss of sherry vinaigrette. Toasted walnuts. A little cheese.
Roasted Cauliflower and Watercress Salad
Adapted from my girl Melissa Clark at the New York Times
I've eaten this salad, and variations on it, many times over the past couple of months. As often as not I've used spinach instead of watercress—delicious. It's also good without the cheese if you're some vegan hippie type. You can refrigerate all the different parts in separate containers and then bring them to work and assemble a salad for lunch; your coworkers will be very impressed/think you're crazy into Tupperware (the salad won't be quite as good because the cauliflower isn't warm, but it's better than a Cup-O-Noodles from the vending machine).
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated
1½ teaspoons kosher salt, separated
¾ teaspoon pepper, separated
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 bunches watercress, large stems removed
¼ pound Gruyère, diced or grated (about 1 cup)
2/3 cup toasted walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and dark golden, ~30. Let cool for 10 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, and then whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons oil.
3. In a salad bowl, toss the watercress, cheese, nuts, and warm cauliflower. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until well combined.