Yesterday got me thinking about flavorful vegetarian cooking. I have been a vegetarian (or, now, a mostly-vegetarian, with apologies to those who are offended by the concept) for my entire cooking life. So I have never relied on meat to flavor my food. What do I rely on? Vegetables, heat applied to vegetables, fat, salt, spices and herbs. I also know and revel in the range of textures and flavors that each vegetable can provide on the plate: a beet can be meltingly sweet and earthy or brightly crisp and bracingly imbued with lemon or ginger. Fennel can be a licorice tangle of crunch, a whisper of greens in a salad, or carmelized to a sweet and savory mush that is barely haunted by anise flavor. And I get excited every time I discover a novel way to cook a vegetable.
By way of illustrating the range of a humble vegetable, I thought I’d share a very simple but utterly delicious recipe for roasted cauliflower. Compare it to this simple, creamy 5-ingredient Cauliflower Soup (cauliflower, onion, olive oil, water, salt). Compare it to this Smoky Cauliflower Frittata. You can take a cauliflower in a lot of directions. But once it’s roasted, that’s pretty much the end of the line for a cauliflower in our house. It often gets eaten off the sheet pan before dinner is even on the table.
Roasted Cauliflower: Chop one head of cauliflower (or two, if you want one left to put on the table with dinner) into medium florets, and chop the remaining stem into slightly smaller pieces. If the leaves are large, chop them as well, otherwise leave them whole. Pile onto a roasting pan, including the tiny bits–these will brown into delicious little salty bites. Toss with olive oil and salt and roast at 450. Turn with a tongs after 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes after that, until they are nice and brown on all sides (about 45 minutes total). Hide from passers-by until serving.