Back when I was a staff member at eGullet, one of the most popular discussion threads was one about - and I'm not kidding - roasted cauliflower. Check it out; the discussion, thus far, has lasted 16 pages and 472 posts. How on earth, you might wonder, can a vegetable as omnipresent and seemingly boring as cauliflower inspire such devotion?
If you have to ask, you clearly haven't tried roasting it.
Roasted cauliflower is a revelation. A vegetable that was good and slightly cabbagey becomes delicious when roasted to an absolutely blackened crisp. Lightly golden won't do it in this case - the darker, the better.
Now, you can eat roasted cauliflower plain, right out of the oven. Toss it with enough salt and pepper, and you've got yourself a delicious side for pretty much anything. It's also great with capers and raisins, or a bit of curry powder. This week, I decided to try tossing mine with a light lemon vinaigrette and a generous helping of crushed red pepper. Thanks to the addition of lemon zest and the honey in the vinaigrette, the result was sweet, salty and spicy. Totally good for me, and totally addictive.
What could be better than that?
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon
1 head of cauliflower, cut into stemmed florets (about 4 cups)
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, toss the florets with a tablespoon or so of the olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Grease a jelly roll-style cookie sheet (or shallow roasting pan) with a bit more olive oil. Spread the florets out in one layer on the prepared pan.
Roast the cauliflower for 30-45 minutes, until it is cooked through and dark brown - even black - in most spots. Trust me.
In the meantime, whisk together the lemon juice, honey and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon of oil and set aside.
Once the cauliflower is roasted to your liking, remove the pan from the oven and place the cooked cauliflower in a large bowl. Toss with the lemon zest, crushed red pepper, parsley and a pinch of salt. Mix well, taste and adjust for seasonings, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 3-4 as a side.