In late September 2010 as I was roasting my way through a heat wave, I first wrote about roasting vegetables and my willingness to fire up the oven even as the temperature reached 90. But now, while much of the country is still shivering and shoveling snow (not here in California where it’s expected to be in the 70s today), it seems like a good time to learn to cook cauliflower by firing up that oven and enjoying the ambient heat and delicious results.
Inspiration from the Farmer’s Market
On a recent visit to the farmer’s market, I realized not everyone thinks of popping their cauliflower in the oven. A woman was staring at the gorgeous heads, apparently pondering her purchase, so I struck up a conversation and she asked me how to cook cauliflower. I suggested roasting and she looked at me a bit surprised. “Really? What do you flavor them with and how long do they need to cook?” So when my Sunday farmer’s market visit this past weekend yielded two gorgeous heads of cauliflower – one purple and one green, I decided it’s time to write about this crunchy cruciferous vegetable.
Vivid Color and Flavor
On Monday night, I cut both heads (they were small) into florets, popped them on a parchment-lined pan (a huge timesaver for clean-up), drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven on 400 degrees convect roast. About 15 minutes later they were ready – a bit crunchy on the outside, just tender on the inside, and completely devoured by the end of dinner. When I took them out of the oven, I drizzled them with meyer lemon juice and we grabbed them straight from the parchment to add to our dinner plates.
Variations on a Theme
Other flavor choices could be za’atar – a middle-eastern spice blend – which tastes glorious on cauliflower. Parmesan cheese added before or after roasting marries beautifully with the lemon juice, or how about a bit of that pistachio dust from the cookbook RIPE by Cheryl Sternman Rule? You can also add other veggies that will cook in similar time frames such as broccoli or carrots. Think about what your main course is, what’s in your veggie and spice drawer and just draw inspiration from those elements. But honestly, the olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice will work with almost any main course and bring out the best of the cauliflower every time.
What’s your favorite cauliflower preparation? Have you ever roasted it? Have you ever tried the other colors and do they taste the same to you as white? Leave a comment below – let’s talk about cauliflower!
- 1 large head cauliflower or 2 small
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- meyer lemon juice from ½ medium lemon (optional or just use regular lemons)
- Preheat the oven to 400 convection roast (if you have this setting) or 425 degrees regular cook.
- Cut the cauliflower into florets - relatively the same size. Spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each) then mix the florets around a bit to be sure they are evenly coated with the oil and salt and pepper.
- Cook for about 10 - 12 minutes, open the oven door, and check for tenderness with a fork and move them about with some tongs. Cook for about 5 - 8 minutes more depending on how hot your oven is and how large you cut the florets.
- Remove from oven when crisp but tender when pierced with a fork or you take a bite.
- Drizzle all over with lemon juice immediately, then serve piping hot or let sit until the rest of the meal is ready. They are delicious even if cooled down a bit.