Cauliflower has been declared one of the “it” foods of 2014 – replacing the likes of kale, quinoa and Brussels sprouts as captain of the foodie football team. Cauliflower steaks, cauliflower mash and cauliflower risotto are cropping up as low-cal, nutrient-rich replacements for meats, potatoes and rice. I’m enthusiastically riding this bandwagon.
Cauliflower is cheap, seasonally relevant, and easy - I recently roasted it in a big toaster oven to great success. Yes, it can be bland, but that's the beauty. Cauliflower is a beautiful canvas to showcase other bold flavors, and most of your experiments will actually taste great. And when you roast it, cauliflower develops an addictive sweetness and chewy/crispy texture that tastes great all on its own.
There are a few key things to keep in mind, though:
- Make sure it’s dry. If you try to roast cauliflower that’s been recently washed, it will steam rather than roast and you’ll have a hard time caramelizing it to that deep, toasty brown that we’re aiming for.
- Cutting up the head will get messy. That’s OK. But your cutting method can help keep everything under control. Remove the green leaves, then slice the head down the center through the stalk. Cut out the green stalk from the center of each half. Using your hands, pull the head apart into florets. Then, cut the florets into halves or quarters.
- Aim to create broad, flat surfaces on the pieces. You want them to have enough surface area to lay flat, maintaining contact with the pan for maximum browning.
- Use parchment paper to line the baking sheet, or foil if that’s all you have. Cuts down the cleanup time in a big way.
- Don’t crowd the baking sheet. Aim for one head/sheet.
- Have patience. Great roasted cauliflower is fully cooked through and deeply browned. If you try to rush it at a higher heat, you’ll end up with raw centers and burnt edges. Too low, and it just gets soggy.
Yield: Serves 2-4, depending on your love for cauliflower. Serves 2 in my house.
Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: 40 min Total Time: 45 min
Cauliflower (try to have one baking sheet for every head)
2 Tbs Olive oil per head
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 450F / 230C. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Toss with olive oil, salt and paper and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Flip the florets onto another side and roast another 15 minutes. Continue to roast and flip until the cauliflower is caramelized and fully cooked through. Depending on the size of the florets and how hot your oven really gets, it will take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.
So What Do We Do With All This Roasted Cauliflower?
Spanish Kale and Cauliflower Salad: Toss roasted cauliflower with torn kale, mandarin orange slices, almonds, and green olives. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. For really authentic flavors, look for Castelvetrano olives and Marcona almonds. And if you have time, dress the kale with olive oil and lemon then massage it with your hands before adding everything else - it helps soften it up.
Cauliflower with Garlic, Chile and Vinegar: Inspired by Gjelina, one my favorite restaurants. During last 10 minutes of roasting, stir in 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Drizzle on some sherry vinegar just before serving. And a little hit of chopped cilantro or parsley couldn't hurt.
Cauliflower with Lemon and Parsley: Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some finely chopped parsley to cauliflower just before serving.
Italian Cauliflower Salad: Toss roasted cauliflower with toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, capers, chopped black olives, a squeeze of lemon juice and coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup: If you have it, grate a pinch of fresh nutmeg over the cauliflower. While it's roasting, heat about a Tbs of butter or olive oil in a pot at medium-low heat. Sauté half a finely chopped onion and a clove of minced garlic til the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes. Whisk in about a Tbs of flour and a dash of salt, then add 1 cup / 235 mL milk and 1 cup / 235 mL chicken or vegetable broth (or water). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. When cauliflower is done, add to pot and puree soup with an immersion blender, food processor or blender. Adjust the consistency with more milk or broth if it’s too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Proportions are for 1 head of cauliflower.