On a whim the other day, I bought a head of cauliflower. Actually, what happened was: I was in line to checkout at Whole Foods. I had unloaded everything onto the conveyor belt, and saw the woman ahead of me with a head of cauliflower. I thought to myself: hey, — I haven’t bought that in a really long time. Since the woman ahead was still checking out, I quickly backed up my cart and ran over to the produce section (the Wee One was in the cart, or else I would’ve just left the empty cart sitting there). I found the cauliflower, and the deal was sealed when I saw it was on sale. But then I ran into one of the moms from my son’s preschool, and we chatted a minute or two about her recent trip to Mexico. I turned back to my cart, and couldn’t figure out where my groceries had gone. Only then did I remember that I’d unloaded them all onto the checkout belt, and had simply walked away without explanation. I jogged (as fast as I could while wearing clogs and steering a grocery cart) back to the checkout counter, where I found an understandably irritated cashier who looked at me as if she wanted to tell me where I could stick my cauliflower.
Wednesday night, I roasted a chicken for dinner, and had in mind to also roast the cauliflower. I did some searching, and while it’s easy as pie to do, I wasn’t going to be able to roast the chicken and cauliflower at the same time, due to significant differences in heat requirements. No matter, I just did the cauliflower first, and roasted an acorn squash with the chicken. When it came out of the oven, it was so lovely I couldn’t help but take a bite. It was the best cauliflower I’ve ever tasted — roasting has a magical effect on vegetables, and intensifies their flavors, even when those flavors are delicate. It was tender and sweet, with a salty butteriness in each bite (even though no butter is used). I ate a whole wedge, just standing there over the pan, stopping myself from going further because I was supposed to make a quick trip to the gym before dinner (while my accommodating husband fed himself and the kids).
I came home from the gym, helped get the kids to bed, and then sat down with my plate of food. Tim walked in and said, “That squash was really good.” Long pause. “The chicken was pretty lemon-y, but it was also great.” Period. As in, no further comment. “What’d you think about the cauliflower?” I asked. With a shrug, and a sidelong, wrinkle-nosed glance at the leftovers, he said, “Eh.”
“WHAT???? I thought it was the BEST cauliflower I’ve EVER TASTED!!” I exclaimed.
“You did? I don’t know. I think I have cauliflower baggage.”
And that was that. But you know — to channel Bobby Brown — that’s his prerogative. And in the realm of baggage, cauliflower is a fairly benign victim.
But, guys, it really is the best. Says me, who has enough baggage for a small team of psychoanalysts at an R1 university, but none of it having to do with cauliflower.
Roasted Cauliflower (from multiple sources)
Cutting the cauliflower into wedges (rather than florets) helps aid in caramelization since more surface area of the vegetable comes in direct contact with the pan.
Preheat oven to 475º, and place rack in lower third of oven.
Trim outer leaves of cauliflower, and cut head into 8 wedges (first cut head in half pole-to-pole, then each piece in half two more times, leaving stem intact to hold florets — see photo). On a foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, place wedges on their side and drizzle with a couple tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn wedges to other side, and repeat with 2 more tablespoons oil, salt and pepper. Rub pieces gently to coat.
Cover pan tightly with foil, and roast for 10 minutes. Uncover, and roast for 10 more minutes. Turn pieces gently with tongs, and roast 10 more minutes until nicely caramelized and tender.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil, and serve.*
*This, I found, was more delicious right out of the oven than it was two hours later — so try to plan so it is roasted just before dinner.