Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tender Roasted Cauliflower

Printable Recipe
Roast a cauliflower and it becomes something completely new and actually tastes good. The little florettes brown and sweeten up with a bit of caramelization and the sliced stem pieces soften into a rich translucence that just melts in your mouth. Honestly, I don't even like cauliflower in any other form, but by the time I was finished shooting this roasty goodness I had nibbled up at least as much as this whole plateful. There may or may not have been half a head of cauliflower missing by the end of the evening. Can't say. This experience actually has me thinking about roasting all sorts of vegetables I usually shun just to see what they might become. High heat seems to intensify the natural sugars and stave off the rather objectionable flavors.

Grab a long skinny knife. We're about to take down a head of cauliflower. I broke away the first layer of leaves on this one. The idea is to slip the knife into the middle at an angle and give the cauliflower a complete turn so all the remaining leaf bits are cut away with the core.   Try to do a little better job than I did with this one....

Now you can just grab the whole thing and easily break it into a bunch of individual florettes. Don't waste any of the stems, slice them up and see how they roast up very differently than the rest, almost like a sweet sauteed onion.
Break the bigger florettes down until you have a lot of pieces about the size of a marble, well, a big marble. Maybe a grape.   OK, finally we have a big pile of cauliflower. And if I had remembered to tell you in the beginning to set the oven to 450 we'd be almost home free.   Use a big sheet pan drizzled with olive oil and transfer everything to be seasoned and tossed.

Just a tablespoon or so of onion pulp.
And by seasoning I mean plain old salt and pepper and one little secret. Planed onion. If you don't have a microplane, get one. But until then you can grate the onion on the finest teeth of the box grater. You just need a tablespoon or so of juicy pulp to really add a nice little something extra to this dish.  OR, even better - if you happen to have a shallot, use that and the sweet mild flavor will pay off in a big way.

OR use 1/2 Shallot instead of onion.

 Next a sprinkling of salt. Some grinds of pepper from my one handed, fully automatic (meaning battery driven) Graviti  which happens to operate by gravity. Yeah. All you do is turn it over and it does its grindy thing while our other hand is busy stirring or, maybe, taking a picture.

And finally another drizzle of olive oil and you can dig in with sparkling clean hands to scoop and toss everything over and over till it is all coated completely. If you scrimp on the oil these little nuggets just dry out and get ugly. Besides, olive oil is good for you - have some.

OK, ready to go! Pop it in the oven, give it a stir at 15 minutes and check again 10 minutes later and taste test. Bring it out just after the florettes soften and the last hint of crunch is gone, probably 30 mintues total. I like vegetables raw or with a bit of crunch in the right recipe, but the flavor change is worth waiting for with this one. It does make a difference to leave it in the oven until the pieces are browning up and softened.  Eat and Be Surprised! Feed to picky children! and Husbands!

1 Head of Cauliflower
Onion or Shallot
Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper

It's FallFest at the Food Network website and you'll find me there from now till December! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. For now, check out these other mouth-watering recipes for Cauliflower, including lots of other ideas for roasting it:

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