My daughter who dines at all the trendy places told me about a whole roasted cauliflower they had at a middle eastern resto in Toronto, Fat Pasha. I have steamed a whole head of cauli before but never roasted it, so of course I had to try it. It was kind of fun to make and serve. I roasted it on the outdoor grill and it didn’t really take as long as I thought it would. You have to start testing it by piercing the cauliflower with a long thin knife after about 15 minutes and remove it from the oven or grill while it still has some resistance. The time it takes to cook depends on the size and freshness of your cauli and the level of heat of your grill or oven. If you overcook it it will become wet and mushy, not the way you want it (been there, done that). You want some resistance left.
You can top the roasted whole cauli with many things and drizzle with various sauces. This time I opted for middle eastern flavours so I roasted a red pepper, chopped it into confetti and topped the cauli with the roasted pepper, roasted pine nuts and tahini sauce. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top completed the flavour palette. Oh, quite good I must say. If roasting the peppers is too much I am sure you can use fire roasted peppers you buy in a jar or try your local Italian deli for freshly roasted red peppers.
You can serve is as an appetizer and let your guests tear off florets by themselves, or you can slice it into wedges or slices and serve it as a course on its own or as part of dinner. I can visualize roasting a few heads of cauli for a larger gathering and piling them up on a large platter. Can be quite a conversation piece.
1 head cauliflower
1 large roasted red pepper (see below but use fire roasted peppers in a jar if you wish)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup tahini paste
1/2 cup water, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Juice from half a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh thyme leave
Lemon wedges for serving
Cut off the root end of the cauli being careful not to separate any of the florets. Remove the extra leaves and with a small knife cut into the stem until you have removed enough of it so the cauli can sit flat on its bottom.
Place the cauliflower on a baking dish (I used cast iron skillet), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Roast in a 450℉ oven or on a grill on medium-high heat until done. Be careful not to overcook, you want some crunch and resistance left. Check it every 15 minutes or so and it can take about 30-45 minutes, depending on your cauliflower and oven.
When ready it should be golden brown on top. Remove and set aside.
While the cauliflower is cooking on the grill cut the red pepper along the natural seams, remove white pith and seeds and lay on a baking sheet skin side up.
Broil the red pepper in the oven until the skin is blackened and puffed. If you are roasting the cauli in the oven then broil the pepper before or after.
Remove from the oven and cover for a few minutes to loosen the skin. When cool enough to handle remove the skin (you should be able to just pull it off in one piece).
Cut the pepper into small dice and set aside.
The pine nuts:
Place the pine nuts in a small skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and stir until the pine nuts turn golden. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Spoon the tahini paste into a bowl.
Add a 1/3 cup of the water and mix with a whisk until smooth, adding more water as necessary to reach a creamy sauce. It will get smooth as you continue to whisk.
Add the salt and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over.
Add the garlic, taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice.
Assembling the dish:
Place the cauliflower on a serving plate, drizzle with the tahini sauce, scatter the red pepper confetti over and sprinkle pine nuts, parsley and thyme.
Serve with lemon wedges and extra sauce on the side.