Simple vegetable side dishes rarely knock my socks off. I love vegetables, but the passionate exclamations are usually reserved for things topped with melted cheese. This, however, is one of those really great finds that is simple, healthful, beautiful, easy, uses fresh herbs, and tastes lovely. And, there is really nothing to it.
Ever since I prepared it the first time I’ve had a Willie Nelson song playing in my head,
“Miracles appear in the strangest of places…fancy meeting you here.
The last time I saw you was just out of Houston…sit down, let me buy you a beer.”
The song is Yesterday’s Wine. It is not that relevant, but I remember seeing a photo posted on Twitter by a Texas food notable named Robb Walsh. He was, I presume, the one taking the photo of a friend of his who was about to dive into a giant whole, roasted head of cauliflower at a restaurant. And, poof, my brain says, “miracles appear in the strangest of places.” Not that roasted cauliflower exactly is a miracle. But, within a mere second, Yesterday’s Wine was stuck in my head. And, that is not a bad thing, as I’m terribly fond of Willie Nelson…running shoes, farmer’s, pot, and all. But now this roasted cauliflower dish will forevermore be associated with Yesterday’s Wine. Funny, as a kid this was one of the songs I’d ask my parents to skip in favor of the more rowdy ones like Whiskey River. Although, now I get the “aging with time, like yesterday’s wine” line on a personal level. And all of a sudden, I can’t and don’t want to get the song out of my head.
So, I roasted a head of cauliflower, and while I was waiting for it to come out of the oven I whipped up a little fresh herb and lemon dressing, which I simply poured on top of the cauliflower when it was beautifully browned and roasted. The tanginess of the lemon dressing on the hot cauliflower was unexpectedly wonderful, and the fresh herbs were a lovely counterpoint to the earthy, deeply roasted, cauliflower. It is a really nice, unique presentation for cauliflower.
The inspiration for the dressing is a 2006 Gourmet recipe which actually has capers and parsley in it. I went solely for fresh herbs since my garden is suddenly teeming with them. Grab a handful of parsley, a little oregano, some sage and a little thyme. I ran across it on Epicurious, which is one of my very favorite cooking apps for my iPad.
1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅟₂ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, oregano, sage, and thyme (a small handful, and primarily parsley), chopped fine
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the cauliflower head and cut out the stem section, but only enough to remove the greens and leaves. The remaining stems keep the florets intact, so don’t trim too deeply.
Place the head of cauliflower in a pie dish, or other baking dish and rub the 2 tablespoons of oil onto the surface of the head. Sprinkle the head with kosher salt, and place it in the oven to roast. Roast for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the tip of a knife is easily inserted into the head. Check at 1 hour and if the head is browning too much, place a piece of tin foil over it for the remaining time.
Meanwhile, thoroughly chop and mix the fresh herbs. Place them in a small bowl (or lidded jar) and add the lemon juice. Add the oil and whisk (or shake) the dressing until it has emulsified.
When you remove the cauliflower from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes, especially if you are serving out of the baking dish. I used this wonderful pie plate made by my friend Julie at Work in Clay. I wouldn’t consider NOT serving it straight from this particular dish. But, if need be, carefully transfer the cauliflower to a serving dish and pour the lemon and herb dressing over it. Cut the cauliflower into wedges (like slices of pie) to serve.
And since I’m name dropping, you should know that Robb Walsh just published a new cookbook called Texas Eats. I received my copy last week. It is awesome. It even has a method for making Franklin BBQ’s brisket which I haven’t tasted yet, but for which people will apparently spend an hour in line. Tacos, German Pretzels, Fried Catfish…all of the great Texas dishes from all of the well known spots. It is a tour of the best (at least my kind of best). Also in Texas Food news, the Foodways Texas Symposium is this weekend in Austin!! I’ll be there and I hope you will be, too.