For People Who Think They Don’t Like Cauliflower
A lot of people say they don’t like cauliflower. In most cases, that’s because they’ve only had cauliflower after it’s been boiled to death. Bummer — too much boiling turns this vegetable into a bland mushy mess, and the unpleasant cabbagey cooking odor can be a turn-off. Misguided cooks may try to cover up the mess with a mystery “cheese” or “white” sauce, and then bake the whole thing into submission. Their guests suffer collateral damage.
So cauliflower can be a tough sell. But roast cauliflower? It’s like a different vegetable. Roasting deepens and concentrates flavor. The vegetable becomes sweeter, and reveals hidden taste dimensions that most people find irresistible.
Best of all, it’s an easy recipe that practically cooks itself.
Recipe: Roast Cauliflower
As discussed in the recipe for Roast Sweet Potatoes, roasting works well with vegetables because a hot oven evaporates moisture, making veggies tender and caramelizing their natural sugars. The process is easy: Just toss cut-up veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper before roasting. You can add herbs or garlic if you want to kick up their flavor.
You can roast cauliflower (or any vegetable, for that matter) at oven temperatures ranging from 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer 400 – 425 for cauliflower. It takes longer to cook at lower temperatures, and at higher temperatures it has a tendency to char somewhat (which I regard as a good thing, although not always something I want).
Roast cauliflower is so good you may be tempted to eat the whole thing at one sitting. By yourself. But I usually figure that one head yields 4 to 6 side-dish sized servings. If you need more, just add another head of cauliflower. Leftovers store well in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.
- 1 head cauliflower, washed, cored, and divided into florets
- 1 - 2 tablespoons pure olive oil (the cheap stuff; the aroma of extra virgin olive oil dissipates during roasting, so you’re wasting money if you use that)
- optional garlic, cayenne pepper, or other herb/spice (see Notes for use and quantity discussion)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or any temperature between 300 – 500; but roasting time will vary; see Notes).
- Wash cauliflower, remove any leaves, and cut in half through the axis (or poles). Remove the woody core. Cut into florets.
- Put cauliflower florets into a large bowl. Add olive oil (enough to lightly coat the pieces), salt, and pepper. Toss until the florets are coated. (If you’re using optional garlic or herb or spice, you’d add it at this step; see Notes.)
- Spread pieces on large rimmed baking sheet or in a casserole baking dish. You want the florets to be in one layer, and not touching (to promote even cooking).
- Roast the cauliflower until the florets are tender throughout, but not mushy. At 400 degrees, this usually takes about 40 – 45 minutes, but I start checking at 30 minutes. Stir pieces once or twice during roasting to promote even cooking.
- If you want a bit more char on your cauliflower (at this temperature you won’t get much), run the baking pan under the broiler for a few minutes until you achieve the result you desire.
Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve!
- If you’re roasting meat, this dish (or any roast vegetable) is an ideal accompaniment, because it will cook at any temperature you’re likely to use for cooking the meat.
- But oven temperature affects how quickly cauliflower roasts. At 500 degrees, it could take as little as 35 minutes. At 300 degrees, it may need a good hour and a quarter (maybe even longer). Start testing the cauliflower at the 30-minute mark, and keep testing every 10 – 15 minutes until you determine that it’s done.
- After oven temperature, the factor that will most affect roasting time is the size of your cauliflower florets. Smaller ones will roast faster, large ones slower.
- Spreading out the cauliflower florets so they don’t touch promotes even and rapid roasting. If you pile them into a casserole, they will roast and will still be good. But they definitely won’t char (which you might not want anyway) and their surface texture won’t be quite as crisp.
- You can use more or less olive oil than called for in Step 3, depending on what flavor you want. If you want a really low-fat dish, you can get by without using any olive oil, although the cauliflower will be somewhat dry, and also less flavorful. If you go the “no olive oil” route, spray the baking sheet with baking spray to reduce sticking.
- Garlic goes well with roast cauliflower. Peel and mince 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and toss with the oil in Step 3.
- Likewise herbs (I like dried thyme) or spices (I favor cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and/or ground coriander). Use about 1 teaspoon (half that if you want only a hint of flavor) and toss with the oil in Step 3.
- Or try any herb or spice that you are fond of. If it sounds good to you, it probably will be.
You can garnish Roast Cauliflower with a little freshly grated cheese (Parmesan is particularly nice) just before serving.
- Sprinkling balsamic vinegar over the cauliflower just before serving is another nice variation.
- Roasting can maximize the flavor of just about any vegetable, not just cauliflower or Sweet Potatoes. For example, lots of people think they don’t like Brussels sprouts. But once they try them roasted (and tossed in balsamic vinegar just before serving), they change their minds.
- You can find cauliflower at the supermarket year-round, but its peak time is fall and winter. So right now is the best time to buy it
Make a Double Batch
Cauliflower, like other cruciferous vegetables, is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains loads of vitamins, has antioxidant properties, and contributes anti-inflammatory benefits. The website The World’s Healthiest Foods has much more information, if you’re interested.
Although I’m all in favor of good nutrition, I’m more interested in flavor. In the taste realm, Roast Cauliflower delivers – and then some. Its flavor is so good, you’ll probably eat more than you think. So make a double batch. Leftovers taste great served cold, and it reheats quite well.
It’s also good as an ingredient in other recipes – like soup. Specifically, Curried Cauliflower Soup. Which is the subject of a post coming later this week.
You May Also Enjoy Reading About:
Roast Sweet Potatoes
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Tossed Spinach Salad with Parmesan
Potato Salad Basics