Sautéed Cauliflower with Green Olives and Tomato

Cavolfiore con Olive Verdi e Pomodoro


I don’t think of myself as a fancy cook. Presentation is not one of my first thoughts, but I am not insensible to an attractive-looking dish as long as its appearance signals the flavors I am about to experience. The tomato dice and the green olive sections look very pretty in this Apulian-style cauliflower, but they are there for reasons of taste. Cauliflower, if it hasn’t been around too long, can be quite mild, sometimes tediously so. Here, however, the residual bitterness of the olives and the acidulousness of the tomato help the cauliflower’s potential sweetness make taste impressions that, by contrast, are both more intense and more lively. Bear in mind that cauliflower is one vegetable that wants to be cooked thoroughly—not until it is mushy, of course, but it has to be decidedly tender; otherwise, it will always retain a disagreeable trace of sourness.


  • A head of cauliflower, about pounds
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup very thinly chopped onion
  • 16 green olives in brine, pitted and quartered
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 1 cup really ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled raw, seeds scooped away, and cut into fine dice


  1. Trim away the cauliflower’s green leaves and wash it in cold water.
  2. Choose a saucepan that can amply contain the whole cauliflower head, fill it three-quarters full with water, and bring the water to a boil. Drop in the cauliflower and cook until it feels very tender when tested with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and, as soon as the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, cut it into pieces about inches big.
  3. Put the olive oil and the chopped onion in a 10 or 12-inch skillet, and turn the heat on to medium high. Cook the onion, stirring once or twice, until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add the cut-up cauliflower, the olives, salt, and a liberal grinding of black pepper.
  4. Cook over lively heat for 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally turning over the contents of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the diced tomato, turn all the ingredients over, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. Serve at once when done.