Roasted Herbed Cauliflower

Cauliflower don't get no respect. It can seem a rather bland and one-note vegetable, but that's not a bad thing. It means that you can use it with any flavors you happen to like or that suit the rest of your dish. For rich and savory, roast it with olive oil and Spanish Chorizo. For sweet and smokey, grill slices with curry or baslamic vinegar. For bright and fresh, roast with lemon, parsley, and thyme. You get the idea.

But whatever you do, don't boil or steam it. Cauliflower and other Brassica like Brussels sprouts and broccoli are served very well by hot, dry heat from an oven or grill. Well, wait. I do like steamed broccoli. Moving on.

The recipe below is a very simple template for what will hopefully become a staple side dish (or main dish! Try it in veggie tacos) on your table.

Ingredients

  • two whole heads of cauliflower
  • one sweet onion
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • olive (or vegetable) oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • hand full of oregano, chopped
  • hand full of thyme, stemmed and chopped
  • several stalks of rosemary, stemmed and chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional red pepper flakes

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 425°F. For convection, bump it down to around 410°F.

Rinse and remove the green leaves from the heads of cauliflower. Cut the head about into florets no more than 2 inches wide. The side is less important than being consistent: you need consistently sized pieces to ensure that they all cook at the same rate. Also, don't disregard the stem parts—dice those up into similarly-sized chunks and toss them in a bowl with the florets.

Cut the onion into pieces about the same size as the cauliflower and toss that in too. Add salt, pepper, half of the lemon juice, and some oil to the bowl and toss the pieces to coat. Turn the pieces out onto two lined baking sheets. You want the peices to be in a single layer and not piled on top of each other or bunched up in the pans.

Slice 3-12 (you can't have too much) cloves of garlic and add it to that now empty bowl. Chop the herbs and add them, too. Add the rest of the lemon juice and a little more oil and stir before setting aside.

Put the baking sheets in the oven and take a break for 10 minutes. Come back and turn the baking sheets around in the oven and move the pieces around in the pan a little bit. After another five minutes have passed, pull the sheet pans out and pour the herb mixture over the pieces. Toss them around to coat and put them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Adding the herbs mixed towards the end like this keeps the herbs from turning to charcoal and tasting bitter. We want the cauliflower to brown, but not the delicate little thyme leaves.

The cauliflower will be down when the edges are nice and brown and the pieces are fork tender. Remove and serve warm, perhaps will some extra chopped herbs for garnish. Also great is a topping of fresh shredded parmesan or Romano cheese.

Appendix:

For the cheese, I recommend Locatelli, a Pecorino Romano. It's easy enough to find at most decent grocery stores and is a great cheese for the price. Grate it fresh with a Microplane such as the one below. Don't ever buy pre-grated "Parmesan cheese" again. It's not Parmesan,  doesn't have any flavor, and literally has wood fiber in it as a cheap filler.

While you're at it, go ahead and spare yourself the trouble of overpriced consumer baking pans that are all different sizes, don't stack together well, and cost way to much. Donate all of your baking pans and cookie sheets and get a few commercial aluminum pans. Line them with parchment or foil for use.

The half-sheets are about the same size as a normal cookie sheet, but they also come in quarter- and eighth-sheet sizes. A full sheet pan won't fit in a home oven.

These pans are great. They heat fast and evenly, are indestructible, and clean easily. As a bonus, they stack together really easily in that little drawer under your oven.