Rooting out roasting revelations
April 24, 2013
On its face, this recipe is about roasting cauliflower with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Really, this recipe is about the wonders of roasting root vegetables and a flower: Cauliflower.
I first started to roast vegetables only after I had some cauliflower I did not know what to do with. I was an au pair in Germany, which also meant I was the cook for the family of four, in addition to childcare. A green milk crate appeared at our front door once a week, filled with mostly-local fresh fruits and vegetable. Many I had never seen before.
The guest-mother, as the terminology goes, would always make a cauliflower soup with a hand blender but it became bland and boring. I took to the Internet and discovered roasting. The discovery, combined with my then-new-found love of parchment paper, opened a whole world opened of possibilities, including to burn myself, a necessary evil.
When I roasted cauliflower, it was usually the favorite side-dish at dinner. I’d put it on the table and continue to get everything else set placed. By the time I’d sat down, the cauliflower was almost always gone.
One of the other fresh vegetables that came was kohlrabi, something I did not know existed before my time there. When I looked up the German word in the dictionary, lo and behold, the same word was staring back at me from the English side of the column. I can now find it all the time, but at price points I’m rarely eager to engage. Still, with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and some attention so thinner slices did not burn, roasted kohlrabi was and is delicious.
The other vegetables that arrived in the bin, and I could find at the local market, were the deep red beet roots and rutabagas, Mangelwurzel and, really, anything that came in the milk crate.
Since then, I’ve branched out into the delicious when raw, and equally-delicious-when-roasted, Jíccama. With round underground veggies, I cut them into quarter inch thick slices, thinner or thicker depending on taste with an eye to the insides of the oven, for an increase or decrease in time.
When it comes to the cauliflower, I cut the florets up, mix them in a bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil depending on how much cauliflower I have (I don’t measure; I just pour it over,) crush some sea salt over it, grind some pepper, mix it all up until everything is coated and throw it on the parchment-paper covered baking sheet (I use metal sheets for roasting) and throw it in the oven.
When it comes to roasting, special attention should be paid to the individual oven. In Germany, I had roasting down pat, but I’d occasionally have to open the door to let out the steam. Where I live now, I am still learning, as I have been having soggy, not crisp, cauliflower. There is a temperature — I use 400-450 — but it depends on the oven and one’s preferences. I prefer crispy, browned cauliflower and root vegetables, so I may even kick the oven up to 500 degrees if the moisture isn’t being wicked away property.
When more than one sheet of vegetables is roasting, more time may be needed and, above all, make sure your head is well away from the oven when you open it. Five-hundred degree steam is awfully painful.
1 head cauliflower
Olive oil, enough to lightly coat the florets
Preheat oven to 425 (range: 400-450) degrees Fahrenheit
1. Strip the cauliflower of its remaining green leaves and then cut up the cauliflower, into florets of desired size.
2. Put florets into a large mixing bowl. Pour olive oil over. Toss to coast. Put salt, pepper on the florets. Toss.
3. Put the florets, in a single layer, on a parchment-paper covered baking sheet.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until cauliflower is of desired crispness and is browned. Consider turning the cauliflower mid-way to prevent burning. Time will increase, as will steam, if more than one baking sheet is being roasted at a time.
5. Serve and don’t, like me, grab the metal with bare hands. That’s just dumb.