I was all set to blog about a different recipe today — brisket for the New Year! However, my garden cauliflower is showing off in such a way it can’t be ignored. Well, I would love to ignore the purple cauliflower — it looks pathetic, wimpy and covered with aphids…but the cheddar cauliflower is GLORIOUS — that’s me singing glorious over my keyboard. Be thankful this is a written format.
Cauliflower is a standard at our house, a vegetable liked by all. Isn’t it GLORIOUS when that happens? (Me thinks I’m on a permanent buzz from holiday libations and treats.) We mash cauliflower and bake it in a gratin, simply roast it and even jazz it up a bit.
This whole roasted cauliflower is our new favorite and it is good. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and when it’s in the oven the scent draws everyone into the kitchen. It’s almost as if you can smell each of the ingredients as it bakes — the lemon, the anchovy, the garlic and the incredible scent of za’atar. As I type up the recipe my third go around is in the oven, the scent alone is making me antsy to finish up and grab a fork.
Why roast the cauliflower whole other than for presentation? I love the way the inside still has some crunch and freshness but still has the sweetness of fully cooked cauliflower. I also love that you eat the entire head rather that just the florets, it makes it stretch farther at the dinner table.
I’ve investigated many ways to roast the head whole and this method works the best for us. It does take some time in the oven but gets a nice crispy shell with a moist center. It’s easy-peasy to put together. It’s delicious, tangy, salty and so beautiful.
Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Garlic, Anchovy and Za’atar
1 small whole head cauliflower, washed, dried and leaves removed
1 Meyer lemon
2 cloves garlic
1-2 filets anchovy (1/2 tsp packed) use the paste
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon za’atar, plus more for garnish
1/2 kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is my favorite)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle or two for later
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the bottom of the cauliflower so it can sit up straight on a sheet pan. Grate the zest of the lemon and reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice. Grate the garlic and mince the anchovy. Add the lemon zest and juice, garlic, anchovy, red pepper, za’atar, salt, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl and whisk together — basically everything but the Parmesan.
Pour half of this mixture over the cauliflower and coat the top of the head as well as you can using a spoon or brush. Bake for 25 minutes, and then add the rest of the mixture over the top, coating the top again. Bake 25 minutes more. Next, add the Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (this helps the cheese get golden and delicious) and bake 30 minutes more. Yes, this is 80 minutes of baking time, don’t let that scare you — I promise it all works out.
Serve on a cake plate and slice like a cake, too. Drizzle with a tad more evoo, a pinch of za’atar and sea salt. Enjoy!
Here’s to a safe and happy start to the new year!