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.