I’m coming to the end of my early fall cauliflower crop, six lovely heads that have matured from seeds I started in early June. I wrapped the leaves around the just-forming heads in mid-August, and, protected this way, beautiful full cauliflowers formed a month later.
The last time I wrote about cauliflower was early summer, 2012 when I explained how I coddle along this challenging-to-grow vegetable and offered my favorite way to cook cauliflower: simply roast it. Roasting is still my favorite way to prepare cauliflower because the caramelizing that happens as cauliflower roasts in olive oil brings out its earthy but delicate sweetness.
So of course I had to roast the first few heads I harvested. For a party, I followed my go-to recipe, slicing large pieces into ¼ inch wide fans, arranging them on a sheet pan, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling on salt and pepper and roasting them at 375 until they were soft and caramelized.
With six heads of cauliflower, though, I decided to branch out a little bit, looking for recipes that still called for roasting but added other flavors. I should have done this branching out years ago because I found some great recipes. In Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2014 cookbook Plenty More he offers a roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad that totally suits this fall season. I was even able to use the Canadice grapes ripening on our arbor. The raisins marinated in the vinaigrette complement the fresh grapes and the crumbled bits of Cheddar cheese and the chopped hazelnuts add richness. Best of all, though, the flavor of roasted cauliflower comes through.
Roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad
1 large head cauliflower broken into bite sized florets
6 tablespoons sunflower or other light oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed
2/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved
3 oz aged Cheddar cheese, coarsely crumbled
2/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°
Toss the cauliflower florets with half of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the dressing, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the raisins and let them marinade for at least 10 minutes.
Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, grapes, Cheddar and parsley. Pour the raisins and dressing over the top, toss together, transfer to a large platter, and serve.
Inspired by the success of this move from plain roasted cauliflower to other flavors, I was ready to take on a Food 52 recipe that appeared in my email last week. Titled Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower, it’s a slightly modified recipe from Melissa Clark, one of my favorite cookbook authors.
Nicholas Day, creator of this version, introduced the recipe as: lightly adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Her version has whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds. It’s a spice mixture that’s very adaptable, obviously; my current version is below. Also, if you don’t have sliced almonds, substitute some chopped almonds or cashews.
1 large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2teaspoon coriander seed
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground cinammon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 425° F. With a mortar and pestle, or the flat side of a chef’s knife, lightly crush the coriander seeds. Add the crushed seeds to a bowl along with the cumin, cinnamon, olive oil, and salt.
Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss them with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.
This combination of cauliflower, spices and nuts makes a great side dish warm or cold. I also used it hot the other night as part of a pasta sauce, adding grapes and hazelnuts in a nod to Ottolenghi and thinly slicing a bunch of succulent fall arugula leaves and tossing it in to the hot pasta and spicy cauliflower so it wilted slightly. With grated pecorino cheese, this pasta with cauliflower made a hearty fall dinner.
I have one more cauliflower left in the kitchen garden. I’ll need to decide soon how to prepare it.