Although roasted vegetables take a while to cook, they are unbelievably easy to prepare. You can dress them up with fancy sauces or marinades, but in their simplest form, all you need is a vegetable, a pan, and a bit of oil and/or butter.
Recently, I came across Michael Ruhlman's roasted cauliflower recipe. Don’t stop reading here if you now want to navigate away from this page as quickly as your fingers will take you. Whether you have never eaten cauliflower or have tasted it and hated the stuff – give me (and cauliflower) a chance. This super easy recipe will change your mind about a rather plain looking vegetable with a bad reputation.
If you aren’t convinced by my entreaties, keep in mind that Michael Ruhlman (in addition to being a great writer, cookbook author and very interesting person) has been a judge on “Iron Chef America” and “The Next Iron Chef.” Now, are you with me (and Michael)?
Cauliflower is cheap too. For a huge head that will easily feed 4 as a main dish and 6-8 as a side, my local groceries now charge $2.50 - 3.99 for “regular” and $5 for organic varieties.
This recipe takes 1 ½ hours to cook, but takes almost no preparation and you don’t have to tend it, except for occasionally pouring the butter in the pan back over the cauliflower.
When it’s done, the roasted cauliflower looks spectacular and smells divine. (Pardon my overuse of superlatives.) It is soft but not mushy, and you can easily cut off pieces for individual portions. I served the cauliflower with salad, good bread, and a small piece of chicken. For vegetarians, it is a wonderful centerpiece (literally) of a meal, with a salad or soup and a side dish or two. I thought the leftovers were great too; I mixed them with cold beets and potatoes as a salad, with just a bit of salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.
Michael Ruhlman’s recipe with my annotations and explanations.
Servings - 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side. Total cost – less than $5 for the whole cauliflower/$1.25 per serving
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces/80 grams) of butter at room temperature (easily spreadable)
- Oven proof pan – The pan cannot have a plastic or wooden handle, as you will put it directly into the oven. I used one that just barely fit the cauliflower. It was a mistake. Use one that allows you to tip it over and get a spoon around the side to baste the cauliflower.
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Measuring spoons (or a soup spoon - exactness not required)
- Small bowl
- Butter or dinner knife (doesn’t need to be sharp) for spreading butter
- Spoon, preferably with a long handle or a brush (for drizzling butter)
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
- Cut the stem off the cauliflower as close to the base as possible and remove any leaves. Measure the tablespoon of oil into the small bowl. Rub the oil all over the cauliflower. You can do it with a brush, but it’s easier with your fingers – and much more fun. Didn’t you like finger-painting in kindergarden? As long as you wash your hands afterwards, you’ll enjoy “manhandling” your food. Next thing you know, you’ll be kneading bread!
- Put the cauliflower in the oven-proof pan.
- Slide the pan into the oven and roast the cauliflower for 45 minutes.
- Remove it from the oven and smear the soft butter over the surface. (In deference to Michael, I left the direction as “smear”. But to me, it’s “schmear” as they used to say in the NY delis.) Sprinkle with a four-finger (good-sized) pinch of salt.
- Roast the cauliflower for another 30 to 45 minutes, basting it several times with the butter, which will have browned. It’s done when you can insert a (small) sharp knife into it and feel no resistance. It should be completely tender.
Cost – In this case, a chart hardly seems necessary. Hopefully you have salt and oil in your pantry. Other than the cauliflower, the only other item you need is a few tabelspoons/ounces of butter, which sells for $3-5 a pound (16 ounces) in my neighborhood.
In re-reading this post, I realized that I should have told you that I asked Michael Ruhlman if I could use his recipe and got his permission to do so before I posted it.