Thursday, March 2, 2017

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower


Lately it seems there has been a proliferation recipes showcasing new ways to use cauliflower. From using it to make a pizza crust; to creating faux mashed potatoes, rice and/or risotto; to transforming into hamburger buns; and yes, to even using it to make chocolate pudding. Who knew cauliflower could be so versatile? Apparently quite a few people. I can't help but wonder what took so long for these unexpected, creative uses of cauliflower to begin making their way into the 'mainstream'. Or maybe all of these creative adaptations have been around for awhile but my cauliflower making lens has been a bit myopic. Although I have yet to venture down the sneaking in healthy cauliflower to replace 'bad' carbs road, I am a big fan of roasting this humble vegetable.


Last year I posted the recipe for insanely delicious Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Cheese. Although the preparation for dish is actually a three step process. Brine, boil, and then roast. Which may have made it one of those recipes some would put in the category of 'too many steps'. And I get that. Although in just one bite, even those who prefer preparation simplicity over complexity, would immediately consider shifting over to the multi-step end of the continuum.

So I have a surprise for you. This Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower is a one step, roast only process. And if there was ever a recipe to transform the way you feel about or make cauliflower, this would be it. You may never pair a grilled steak with a potato again. Seriously.


Roasting vegetables mellows and sweetens their flavor. The high, dry heat from the oven helps to caramelize the vegetable's natural sugars, resulting in an incredible depth of flavor not experienced if eating it raw, blanched, fried, or steamed.The roasting process not only removes bitterness of the raw vegetable but will completely alter your opinion of it. The vegetables benefitting the most from roasting are potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, squash, brussels sprouts, and, last but not least, cauliflower.


A large head of cauliflower, a large sweet onion, four or five cloves of unpeeled garlic, some sprigs of fresh thyme, good quality olive oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese are the only ingredients needed to make the Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower. 


When cutting the cauliflower into florets, try to retain their long stems. For really large florets, cut them half lengthwise. Be careful not to cut them into tiny pieces. Rather the rings, cut the onion into wedges. You should be able to get at least 6 wedges from each onion half. 


Vegetables need high heat to tenderize. Finding the 'sweet spot' roasting temperature depends on the vegetable. The original recipe called for roasting the cauliflower, onions, and garlic at 425 degrees (F). Feedback from others who had made it indicated that level of heat often lead to burning. The roasting temperature suggestions ranged from 375 degrees (F) to 400 degrees (F). Rather than choosing one temperature over the other, I used both. For the first 15 minutes, I roasted the vegetables at 375 degrees (F). For the remaining amount of roasting time, I increased the oven temperature to 400 degrees (F). The result was utter roasted perfection.

Once you have roasted the vegetables 35-40 minutes (tossing at least once), you sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese. You will continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower forets are tender.


When transferring the roasted vegetables to a serving platter, remove the skins from the cloves of garlic. You can cut the roasted garlic up into pieces (so everyone gets a little taste) or you can keep them whole (so only some get to experience that additional layer of flavor). You decide.


The Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower is at its' best served hot from the oven, although, I found I could not stop picking at it once it came to room temperature. I also wanted to lick my plate, but kept my manners in check.


Destined to be your all-time favorite roasted cauliflower dish as the pairing of the roasted vegetables with the parmesan cheese puts it in a side dish category of its' own. Satisfying, rich, deeply flavorful, elegant, and classic don't even begin to describe the Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower. Perfect as a weeknight or dinner party side dish. Definitely worthy of going on the last meal list.

Recipe
Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower (Slight adaptation to Bon Appetit's Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower recipe, February 2013)
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large sweet onion, cut into wedges
4-5 springs fresh thyme
4 - 5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).
2. Toss cauliflower, onions, unpeeled garlic cloves and thyme in olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
3. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss and increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Continue cooking for an additional 20-25 minutes.
4. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and continue to roast for an additional 10-12 minutes (or until cauliflower is tender).
5. Remove skins from garlic cloves. 
6. Transfer to a platter. Serve immediately. Optional: Grate some additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over top before serving.

Notes: (1) Serve the roasted garlic cloves whole or chop up. Recommend chopping up so everyone gets to experience their roasted deliciousness. (2) While not completely necessary, would recommend grating some additional parmesan cheese over the plated vegetables. (3) Highly recommend using a sweet onion, like a Vidalia or Maui for optimal flavor.


Views along Waikiki Beach, Oahu (February 2017)


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