Roasting summer vegetables comes quite naturally to most cooks, I believe, but not everyone thinks to submit their winter counterparts to the same treatment. And it’s a pity, really, when you know what good it does root vegetables and winter squash, yes, but also broccoli and cauliflower.
And this is my favorite, ultra-facile way to cook cauliflower, tossed with ras el hanout — a magic wand of a Moroccan spice mix you should really add to your kit — and a pinch of saffron threads.
The glamorous spices (what, you don’t think of saffron as glamorous?) together with the roasting method efficiently offset the cabbage-like acerbity that cauliflower detractors whine about, leaving you with golden florets so flavorsome you’ll have to fight the temptation to just transfer the batch to a big bowl and eat the whole thing while watching a movie — unless that’s your initial plan, of course.
If not, this makes a beautiful side to a duck magret or pork tenderloin, or, when spring returns, a shoulder of lamb. And because it fares just as well warm and at room temperature, it is an amenable item to add to a holiday spread.
Saffron Roasted Cauliflower
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– a pinch saffron threads
– 1 large head cauliflower, about 1.5 kg or 3 pounds (two if they’re small)
– 2 teaspoons xeres vinegar (a.k.a. sherry vinegar)
– 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, or your favorite curry powder
– fine sea salt
– freshly ground pepper
Combine the olive oil and saffron in a ramekin.
Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F), and place the ramekin on top of the oven (or some other warm spot) as it preheats, about 10 minutes, so the saffron will impart some of its flavor to the oil.
In the meantime, trim the cauliflower and separate it into florets. Spread the florets in a baking pan large enough to accomodate them without overcrowding. Add the vinegar, sprinkle with ras el hanout, and salt. When the oven has finished preheating, add the saffron and olive oil.
Toss well to coat and place in the oven to bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure even roasting, until the tips of the florets are slightly browned and the texture is to your liking — al dente or soft. Sprinkle with pepper and serve, hot or just barely warm.