Sunday, November 20, 2011

garlicky roasted cauliflower

lately i've been really frustrated with the gets-dark-at-4:30 part of living in the pacific northwest. now that i don't get home before 6, my only time to see the sun is during my lunch break. that means it's tough to get pictures of things for posting.

poor quality drawings from the computer's paint program are not exactly the same, but as those of us working for state agencies say, "good enough for government work!" (note: no one actually says that. state employees are incredibly dedicated and selfless individuals, clearly.)

you know how cauliflower is really gross when you eat it raw or boiled? well, it is. it's a little weird and sharp-tasting raw and once you boil or oversteam it, it gets all sulfur-y. no thanks. but when you roast it in a hot oven with chili flakes and garlic, it becomes another beast altogether - a pleasant and piquant taste sensation that i can't get enough of. if it helps, you could call it its french name - chou-fleur. that sounds fancy and perhaps tastier than boring old gross old cauliflower, aka the last vegetable on the tray when the dip runs out.

first, preheat the oven to 425. then cut a head of cauliflower into little florets. they don't have to be totally uniform in size, but you should aim for some degree of sameness. i usually cut the head in half, take out the stem part, then try to slice along its natural branches somewhat. then cut the bigger parts in halves or quarters - the more flat sides they have, the more delicious browning there will be (maillard reaction, ftw!).

then mince a good 4-5 cloves of garlic. you don't have to get them minutely small.

put the cauliflower chou-fleur on a large baking sheet with some chili flakes and perhaps a tablespoon or so of olive oil. stick it in the oven and let it go for 15 minutes or so.

after the 15 minutes, check to see if it's becoming brown. if so, go ahead and stir the florets around a little, so the other sides can get some heat. check it every 5-10 minutes after this and stir if it seems to need it. depending on how large the florets are (and how hot your oven actually is - those dudes can range pretty far afield from their nominal temperatures), it could take another 15 minutes or so.

when the little darlings are cooked through and nicely browned, add the garlic and let things cook for another 5 minutes or so, just so the garlic can get toasty and delicious without burning.

then lemon up the whole thing, add some salt and pepper, and eat up. this is good as a side for chicken or fish or with a couple of fried eggs on top and some crusty bread on the side. you can also add other flavorings, like thyme, za'atar, smoked paprika, etc. tossing some sesame seeds in when you add the garlic is not a terrible idea, either.

This method works well with brussels sprouts and broccoli, which are also among the poor maligned members of the brassica family. just cut them (brussels sprouts in halves or quarters) and roast away. green beans are also amazing done like this (especially the sad stringly green beans of fall). seriously, even if you think you don't like these guys, you will probably like this. also, none of these would be at all out of place at your thanksgiving repast.

1 large head cauliflower
4-5 cloves garlic
chili flakes
salt & pepper
juice from 1/2 - 1 lemon

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