Cauliflower has replaced kale as the new ‘it’ vegetable, apparently. With the popularity of the keto diet this vegetable that was usually either steamed and unseasoned or covered in cheese sauce. My mother, on the other hand, has been roasting cauliflower since probably the 80s, and it has long been my favourite way to eat it. It also happens to be one of the vegetables my daughter will (surprisingly) eat without complaint, and so we usually buy at least one head a week for dinners.
I was inspired by a recipe I found in Salma Hage‘s ‘The Mezze Cookbook‘ (she is by far my favourite Lebanese cookbook author) for this recipe – hers features a whole head of cauliflower roasted and placed on a ‘bed’ of tahini sauce then coated in a spicy paprika mixture. In this recipe I’ve changed the topping to a warm vinaigrette featuring shatta (a spicy chili sauce from the Levant), honey (or agave), garlic, and olive oil. To be fair, this recipe is still insanely delicious without the vinaigrette – a whole roasted head of cauliflower drizzled with tahini and sprinkled with a little Aleppo pepper and fresh parsley is a beautiful addition to your mezze, but I promise you that the vinaigrette will take this simple vegetable recipe to another level.
How to Roast Cauliflower:
We eat a roasted cauliflower fairly frequently as an easy, delicious side – served only with tahini for drizzling. You’ll want to place your cauliflower in a baking pan or a Dutch / French oven with a lid that will close over it. I use a Staub cast iron cooking vessel with a glass lid. Cut the bottom of the cauliflower off, leaving a little stub for it to sit on, and remove most of the bottom leaves. Fill your cooking vessel with a little water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and drizzle the cauliflower with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a 375°F oven (190°C), covered – for forty minutes.
After forty minutes, remove the lid, drizzle with a little more oil, add a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper if you’d like, and then place back in the oven at 425°F (220°C) for another forty minutes uncovered, until it’s golden brown all over and the top is beginning to char just a little. At this point, finish with a little bit of flaky sea salt and serve alongside tahini sauce (tahina) and it’s wonderful just like this.
The vinaigrette adds another dimension, a slightly spicy, slightly sweet finish – the shatta recipe is included below but if you don’t have the ingredients on hand then you can substitute with fresh chilis and Aleppo pepper instead.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahina and Shatta Vinaigrette
- 1 medium head cauliflower, bottom leaves removed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
- salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp shatta (see below recipe) or 1 small red or green chili, finely diced plus 1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar)
- 1½ Tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
Roasting the Cauliflower:
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Cut the bottom of the cauliflower off, leaving a little stub for it to sit on, and remove most of the bottom leaves.
- Place your cauliflower in a baking pan or a Dutch / French oven with a lid that will close over it. I use a Staub cast iron cooking vessel with a glass lid but you can use a baking pan and cover with foil.
- Fill your cooking vessel with a little water (just enough to cover the bottom) and drizzle the cauliflower with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for 40 minutes.
- After 40 minutes, remove the lid, drizzle with a little more oil, add a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper if you'd like, and then place back in the oven at 425°F (220°C) for another 40 minutes uncovered, until it's golden brown all over and the top is beginning to char just a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a saucepan add your olive oil and heat on medium. Once the oil is warm add your garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add your shatta and stir, then turn off the heat. Add the rice vinegar and honey / agave and stir to combine.
- On a large plate smear half of your tahini sauce. Place the cauliflower in the center, and drizzle with the warm vinaigrette. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground Aleppo pepper and fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
The Perfect Tahini Sauce
- Food processor or blender
- 6 whole cloves fresh garlic
- juice of two lemons ¼ cup (60ml)
- ½ cup good tahina
- ½ tsp honey can be replaced with agave to ensure it is vegan
- ¼ cup ice water (60ml)
- ¼ tsp salt to taste
- Juice your lemons and peel your garlic cloves. Add to the bowl of your food processor or blender.
- Blitz the lemon juice and garlic until it forms a thick liquid. Leave to sit for 15 minutes.
- Pour the lemon garlic liquid through a mesh strainer, into a small bowl. (Use this pureed garlic for another recipe!)
- Rinse the bowl of your food processor and then return the lemon juice to the bowl. Add tahini, honey, and salt.
- Blend until it forms a thick paste, then add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a pourable tahini / tahina sauce.
Shatta (Levantine Hot Sauce)
- Food Processor
- 8 fresh Serrano peppers (or 4 large jalapeño peppers)
- 2-3 fresh red chili peppers
- 8 cloves fresh garlic
- 6 dried Chinese chili peppers
- 1 Tbsp Aleppo pepper
- small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar (or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tsp sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- pinch of salt (to taste)
- If you prefer a less spicy sauce, remove the pith (white parts) and seeds from the peppers before placing in the food processor.
- Add all chilis, garlic, and coriander (cilantro) to your food processor and pulse until chunky.
- Add olive oil, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and blend until it reaches your desired consistency. Add more salt if desired, and serve.