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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Get it on the table #2: Roasted Cauliflower

First, have I mentioned my abiding love for frozen foods? And frozen vegetables, in particular? Well, feel the love.

And while I cannot function without frozen spinach, and I'm lost without frozen rice, I'm pretty sure that the greatest frozen vegetable of all time is cauliflower. Yep, cauliflower. If you do not like cauliflower, it is because some Nurse Ratchet type steamed it and fed it to you an a partitioned, green melamine plate. Try it again my way, will you? When you roast cauliflower, something happens that turns this weird, spongey, cabbagey brainshape into divine vegetable bacon. Seriously, it gets all brown with crispy bits and sweet and caramel-y, and just flat-out awesome.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 bag cauliflower
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°. (I am often too lazy/hurried to wait for the oven to get fully up to temp, but it is better this way.)

In a bowl, toss the cauliflower and the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit about 15 minutes, if you can stand it. The salt will draw out some of the water and help bring the sugars to the surface, which means better browning. (Aside from the deliciousness factor, there may be a nutritional benefit: apparently, when cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables are cut, they release healthy chemicals called isothiacyanates; the chemicals continue to develop until the vegetables are cooked.)

Spread the cauliflower out on a rimmed baking sheet--nonstick if you've got it.*

Roast the cauliflower for 25-40 minutes, turning very occasionally. This is one of those foods that benefits from a degree of benign neglect: if you turn them constantly, your oven will lose heat and you will never get the cauliflower caramelized. Still, you want to make sure any smaller pieces aren't over-roasting and that you aren't getting any too-dark spots.

This cauliflower makes a great alternative to mashed or roasted potatoes; it's great pureed with milk/broth for a hearty winter soup; you can add it to your favorite pasta dish; you can go Sicilian and serve it at room temp with chili flake, capers, and olives; you can make a bunch ahead and throw it onto a store bought cheese pizza (some slices of chicken sausage wouldn't hurt, either--I'm just sayin'). This may be the world's most underappreciated vegetable. But not if I can help it.

*Have you tried the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch nonstick cookware? It ain't cheap, but Sweet Fancy Moses it sure works well. I am not affiliated with Williams-Sonoma in any way (though W-S, if you're reading, I'm happy to become a product tester!)--this is just one hell of a cracker jack product. I have three of the jelly-roll style pans (one large, two small) so that I can roast to my heart's delight. I've had my eye on the muffin tins for a while, but given the paucity of muffin baking going on at my house, I have thusfar exercised restraint. Admirable, yes?


MuseBootsi said...

Tastes like popcorn!
Or propcorn.

Nancy said...

Made something like this for Thanksgiving. added garlic, salt and pepper and some red pepper flakes. Also added some thyme leaves.
Folks enjoyed it.