When I was a kid there was a definite hit list of vegetables we absolutely hated. My brother and I had all sorts of tricks to avoid eating them. We would stuff our mouths full of peas, run to the bathroom and spit them out. We weren’t too big on brussels sprouts or cauliflower either. We would drop them in our napkins and again run to the bathroom to toss them out. In defense of these dreaded veggies, some of our vitriol came not from the veggies themselves but from the method of preparation. Peas were often from a can (uh-huh, how many of you remember canned peas, greenish-gray mush balls-bleah), cabbage and cauliflower were boiled-just the smell emanating from the kitchen would make us run and hide. Brussels sprouts were absolutely horrible, bitter, sulfurous, and barely edible.
These days the quality of today’s produce is so much better (I grew up in the City). We can go to our local farmer’s market and find just picked brussels sprouts and cauliflower, vine-ripened tomatoes or corn that was still on the stalk that morning. We have also discovered new ways to cook said vegetables that are INFINITELY better than boiling or steaming.
FOR EXAMPLE. I love roasted vegetables. Roasting brings out the sweetness in veggies like cauliflower or brussels sprouts, making them absolutely delicious. Perusing Meera Sodha’s Made in India I came across a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon. My first thought? Oh yeah, SO making that.
The recipe, like many in the book, calls for a mortar and pestle to grind the spices. I know what you are thinking, oh please, you don’t have a mortar and pestle do you? Well, way back when I graduated from pharmacy school I received a set of spatulas from Eli Lily (yes that Eli Lily, pharmaceutical gorilla) and a mortar and pestle. They have served me well…just not in my profession. The spatulas and the mortar and pestle were long ago re-purposed and added to my culinary gadget collection. The mortar and pestle proved to be the perfect tool for grinding spices and making the spice paste for this dish.
The cauliflower is blanched for a quick minute, seasoned with the spice oil which gives it a vibrant golden yellow hue. Pop it in the oven for a quick roast and yep, dunzo, dinner is ready. A bowl of warm cauliflower, crispy on the edges, creamy in the center seasoned with cumin and turmeric in just thirty minutes. I am thinking about adding cubed potatoes the next time I make this, a riff on Aloo Gobi.
Excuse me it’s time for me to run TO the dinner table.
- 1 large head of cauliflower (around 1 1/4 pounds)
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 5 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two oven trays with foil and bring a deep-sided pan of water to a boil.
- Wash the cauliflower, pull off the leaves from around the side, and discard. Break the cauliflower into small, fairly even-sized florets and set aside.
- Put the cauliflower into the saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain really well. Let it dry for around 5 minutes in its own steam; if it is waterlogged it won’t crisp up nicely in the oven.
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin along with the salt, then add the chili powder and turmeric, followed by the oil. Mix it all together really well.
- Lay the cauliflower out onto trays in one layer and drizzle the spicy oil over it. Make sure the cauliflower is well coated
- Put trays in the oven for around 30 minutes, shaking them every 10 minutes or so to ensure the florets roast and brown evenly. If they start to burn, loosely cover them with foil.
- Put the roasted cauliflower in a dish or bowl, and squeeze the lemon over the top before serving.
- Adapted From “Made in India” by Meera Sodha
Happy birthday Claire!