Roasted to a toasty, crispy, deep brown, cauliflower’s starchy crevices turn all caramelized and nutty. This pale white cruciferous vegetable is better suited to roasting than it is to boiling or steaming into a limp, watery mass. When cauliflower is roasted, its subtle sweetness and slightly bitter edge turn robust and the texture becomes meaty.
What’s more, roast cauliflower is as delicious served at room temperature as it is sizzling hot from the oven. It makes a terrific side to roast chicken or lamb and is surprisingly perfect with seared scallops and shrimp because they, too, are naturally sweet.
But we’ve found that roasted cauliflower is so delicious it can take center plate. I admit that when I’m on my own, the recipe that follows, meant for four, actually yields just one very hearty serving.
For a main dish, top roasted cauliflower with crushed nuts or toasted breadcrumbs or sharp cheese and present on polenta, or toss it with dried fruit and a dash of lemon or orange juice and serve on saffron rice. Leftovers, if you have them, are great in a salad with chopped apples or pears and walnuts in a sharp vinaigrette.
These days, our farmers markets offer an array of colorful cauliflower with names such as “cheddar,” “orange bouquet,” “graffiti” or “purple cape” (both deep violet) and green (sometimes called “broccoflower”).
Because it is a member of the brassica family, cauliflower contains a ton of phytochemicals and antioxidants. But the main selling point is its delicious ease and versatility. So, double this recipe: Two roasted heads are always better than one.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis author and cooking instructor.