Before we start, we apologize for the slightly monochromatic look of the blog these days. Between last week’s roasted parsnips and this post for spiced, roasted cauliflower, we are cooking a lot of white-ish veggies. But what makes for somewhat challenging photography can still be good food, and such is the case with this cauliflower dish. As anyone who knows their vegetables will tell you, roasted cauliflower with a touch of oil and spices is terrific, and for what it lacks in color, it more than makes up in flavor.
And the rest of the world seems to agree. From India to Europe and here in America, many cuisines embrace the cauliflower as a healthy, flavorful vegetable. And it is worth noting that cauliflower comes in many shapes and sizes. You can find orange, purple and green cauliflower in many markets along with the fractal geometry shaped Romanesco variety (very tasty in salads, btw). In all cases cauliflower is nutrient-dense, particularly vitamin C, and has very high fiber. This stuff is good for you and tastes good. Now you just need to cook it right.
And that is where choosing the right cooking method makes a difference. You can certainly steam or boil cauliflower and serve it with butter, salt and pepper. And cauliflower, cream, cheese and a touch of herbs makes for a lovely (if somewhat less healthy) dish. But oven roasting is where cauliflower really starts to sing. Cauliflower is naturally earthy and sweet and when you roast with a touch of oil and seasoning the flavors concentrate and you get a touch of caramelization. If you add some strong, aromatic spices to the roasted cauliflower like cumin or curries, then you suddenly get a truly complex and flavorful dish. We prefer to use a bit of cumin and coriander, but curry certainly works well, as do savory herbs. Feel free to adjust this basic recipe to your taste.
The recipe is very simple and only takes about 30 minutes. You just make a paste of olive oil, salt, pepper and spices or herbs. We use ground cumin, cumin seeds and ground coriander. (FYI, you can briefly warm the spices in a dry pan over medium heat to “wake them up” a bit, this is worth the effort). Besides the spices you use, the only choice is how you prepare the cauliflower. You can cut off the florets and toss them in the oil and spice paste, put them on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Or, you can cut thick slices or “steaks” from the cauliflower and brush the spice paste onto each side, and then roast in the oven (another good cauliflower “steak” recipe here from the SF Chronicle). We like both methods, the only extra work is to be sure to flip the “steaks” halfway through cooking.
So what do you get? Firstly, your kitchen will smell great while you roast the spiced cauliflower. Don’t discount this, it is a lot easier to sell veggies to kids (and adults) if they make the kitchen smell like a spice bazaar. Secondly, you get a very sweet, salty and spicy vegetable with a soft interior and a crunchy, roast-y, caramelized exterior. Good dishes have a range of flavors and textures, and this recipe certainly delivers. And finally, you get a versatile dish. You can serve the florets as a snack or a side and if you make the “steaks” you can even serve them as a main course of a light lunch. But however you serve spiced and roasted cauliflower, we bet you will be happy.
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use any variety of cauliflower for this recipe.
- If you don’t have cumin seeds, just add a bit more ground cumin.
What You Get: Sweet, salty, spicy and crisp cauliflower.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 30-40 minutes. Anytime dish.
- 2 medium heads of cauliflower, stem and green leaves removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Scallion, chives and/or Italian parsley, for garnish.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the oil, salt, pepper and spices in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
- Cut the florets off the cauliflower and break into roughly 1/2 inch pieces. If making “steaks” cut the cauliflower cross-wise into 3/4 inch slices. Toss the florets in the oil mixture and/or brush the oil mixture on both sides of the “steaks”. Place the cauliflower pieces on a large baking sheet.
- Roast the cauliflower in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until soft in the center and golden brown on the outside. Flip the steaks or toss the florets halfway through the cooking time. When done, remove the cauliflower from the oven, taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with sliced scallions, chives or Italian parsley, if you like. Serve.
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