Do you ever go through periods when you think you've lost your cooking mojo? Over the summer and into fall, when I was helping my parents, I had little time or energy to cook. As things have slowly begun to return to at least my version of normal I've been spending more time in my kitchen.
For awhile everything felt foreign. Favorite dishes I'd made for years as staple meals eluded me. What did I use to cook for myself? How did I do it?
Gradually it's been coming back. One of my favorites over the years has been roasted cauliflower. I had my way of making it--quickly blanched, then mixed with garlic, olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese before going into the oven--and I enjoyed it and that was that. We all have those. But while at the market recently I decided to pick up a head of cauliflower and add some new flavors. And, I wondered, what would happen if I didn't blanch the florets first or even cover the roasting dish during most of the cooking? Would the cauliflower end up tough or burnt?
The answer was no, not at all. So, this roasted cauliflower now takes less steps. It's still combined with garlic (because it's my favorite flavor and I'm just not giving it up), but also with capers and golden raisins and a minced spring onion. I seasoned it with sea salt and marash pepper flakes--an earthy, fruity red pepper with a little heat, used primarily in Turkish cuisine. And it's tossed in extra virgin olive oil and panko crumbs. I left out grated parmesan cheese, but go ahead and add it if that appeals to you. The result was a cauliflower dish that was sweet and salty with a little heat and a little crunch from the panko. The cauliflower itself cooked through without any issues; in fact, it was tender with just a little bite. I ate it as a side dish for a couple of meals and then tossed it with whole wheat pasta that turned out to be a natural combination.
I also decided to roast the dish in a hand-thrown clay casserole dish. I mention this because if you have some clay pottery you'd like to cook with there are rules to this so the pot remains intact. My friend, cookbook author Paula Wolfert, is an expert in clay pot cooking and has these tips. For my purposes here, one of the key tips is not to preheat your oven before placing the dish into it. Instead, you'll let the dish slowly heat up along with the oven so it won't crack.
Garlicky Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Golden Raisins
1 head cauliflower
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 spring onion, diced
2 teaspoons marash pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup panko crumbs plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on the top
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ if you're using a conventional casserole dish. If you're using a hand-thrown glazed or unglazed dish don't turn on the oven until you place the filled dish into it.
2. Remove the core and leaves from the cauliflower (you can save these to cook separately and puree or add to vegetable stock). Peel and mince the garlic cloves.
3. If you're using dried, salted capers, place in a bowl and cover with water to soak for 15 minutes. Then rinse and drain. Also soak the golden raisins in a bowl of water for 15 minutes, then drain.
4. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the extra 2 tablespoons of panko crumbs. Pour into a casserole dish. Top with the extra panko crumbs and drizzle a little olive oil.
5. Place in the oven for about an hour or until golden brown on top.