Cauliflower is not a widely appreciated vegetable. This is perhaps understandable given that many people’s experience of it is the boiled article, whose bland taste is faintly reminiscent of old cabbage water and not much improved even with lashings of cheese sauce. Steaming is only marginally better, in that some of the original fresh taste is not leached away as it is with boiling, but it still does not curry much favor with a lot of diners, particularly children.
Roasting, on the other hand, produces a cauliflower treat that even confirmed haters can warm to… The subtle notes of the fresh vegetable are enhanced, instead of diminished, and the process gives a rich, in some ways ‘nutty’ depth to the vegetable. Mostly, I have usually only included cauliflower as just one item in a mélange of roast veggies, but I recently put together the following preparation as a ‘cauliflower-only’ side-dish for a steak dinner…
- 1 small cauliflower, separated into florets;
- 2 tbsp. chopped Garlic;
- ½ tsp Salt;
- 1 tbsp. fresh Thyme;
- 1 pinch Celery Salt;
- 4 tbsp. Lemon juice;
- ½ tsp minced Lemon Zest;
- 8 tbsp. Butter;
- 4 tbsp. thinly sliced Scallion (green part only);
Combine all the ingredients except the cauliflower florets and scallion sections into a small bowl and zap in the microwave until the butter has melted and started to become ‘frothy’.
Put the florets in a large bowl and pour over the butter mixture, making sure that the florets are all well coated, and leave this to rest for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees and spread the florets evenly over a greased baking pan, leaving a little space between each. Spoon over any chunks of garlic left in the bowl and reserve the bowl and any congealed butter at the bottom for later.
Pop your florets in to the oven and roast for about 20 – 30 minutes. The length of the time will depend on the size of the florets and the desired degree of ‘done-ness’. Ideally, you should finish with florets that are tender and have some dark golden carmelization here and there.
Once the florets are roasted to your taste, put them back in to the bowl with the remaining butter and add the scallion. Toss until the leftover butter is melted and absorbed, and the scallion is just lightly wilted by the residual heat. Plate and serve immediately.
Obviously, this is a dish you can improvise with in lots of ways. You can replace the butter with olive oil, vary the herbs and seasonings or change the relative amounts, and even add more substantial ingredients such as chopped red pepper, or tomato… The Lemon juice used here is just enough to add a faint background taste but you can increase the amount of zest or even omit the lemon altogether and substitute something else. Have fun with the theme….