A couple years ago I took a cooking class called "Misunderstood Vegetables." Cauliflower featured prominently. It’s broccoli’s albino, sun-deprived cousin. It’s the quadrant that’s always leftover on those party-sized crudité trays, indicating that people would rather voluntarily eat the Velveeta cheese dip than suffer through raw cauliflower dipped in ranch dressing. I can honestly say I’d never cooked cauliflower prior to this class, but now I will literally eat an entire head for dinner (by myself).
The key is to roast it in hot, hot heat with lots and lots of olive oil so it gets covered in caramelized, brown, crispy goodness. I took a platter of plain old roast cauliflower in a jalapeño cilantro dressing to a foodie-potluck once and earned compliments from even the most
snobby discerning of cooks. It’s that good.
I made this dish for dinner a few nights ago and topped it with a poached egg. (If you hang out here long enough, I think you’ll find that I top many things with a poached egg and call it a meal. Really, you can hardly go wrong). I had a dipping sauce left over from some Indian take out, but I highly highly recommend that you make this dressing instead. I’ve even had cilantro-haters (you know, the ones whose brains are wired all weird) douse their cauliflower in this stuff.
Oh! And if you’re looking for more vegetable inspiration (misunderstood or not), you should check out the new book coming out by the authors of The Flavor Bible called (wait for it…) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible! It’s not so much recipes as it is suggestions for what kind of vegetables taste good with what other kind of vegetables. If it’s anything like their first book, it should be awesome. (Just to be abundantly clear, no one pays me to recommend their products here. In fact, no one pays me to do anything currently. I offer these opinions free of charge, out of the goodness of my heart and concern for your vegetable intake levels…)
Adapted from The Pantry @ Delancey
1-2 heads cauliflower (depending on desired serving size)
1 jalapeño, finely minced (I leave the seeds in - the lime juice helps mellow them a bit)
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
4 T. olive oil
Combine finely minced pepper, chopped cilantro and lime juice in a jar. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and shake well. Taste and season more to your liking.
Preheat oven to 475
Slice cauliflower into “steaks.” This maximizes the available browning surfaces far better than breaking off florets. Lay them out on a sheet pan, taking care not to crowd the pan so each piece is in contact with the surface.
Coat (and I mean coat) in olive oil. On both sides. There should be a bit of olive oil visible on the pan after you’re done rubbing it all over, but not so much that they are sitting in puddles ready to be fried. Generously salt and pepper each side.
Roast in a hot, hot oven until the “face down” side starts to brown (15ish minutes?). Flip each piece over and roast for ~15 or so minutes to brown the other side. I usually have to rotate the pieces around the pan as my oven doesn’t heat evenly.
Layer in a serving dish and top with dressing. Serve immediately as a side dish, or top with a poached egg and some parmesan cheese and call it a meal.