We are at the tail end of the National Week Without Meat, a great moment to throw in a dish that has acquired iconic status in animal-free circles in a relatively short time. You could call it a new, vegan classic: the whole roasted cauliflower.
The idea of roasting a whole cauliflower until it’s crispy on the outside and buttery soft on the inside and slightly smoky seems to have originated in Tel Aviv. In his book TLV – voted Golden Cookbook last year – Jigal Krant describes how a local chef, Eyal Shani, in 2007 baby cauliflower (‘melting into itself‘) on the map of his restaurant and how that preparation was picked up by, among others, The New York Times, after which roasted cauliflowers became a worldwide hype.
I have tried several preparation methods for this dish, including Krant’s. He blanches the cabbage first, packs it in a tray made of a wad of baking paper and roasts it in an oven at 250 degrees for half an hour. Chronically looking for shortcuts I also put one raw in the oven once, but for longer and at a slightly lower temperature. I can already hear the author of TLV sputtering as I write this, but at my table we didn’t think the difference was very big. At most, someone remarked, the taste of the unblanched cauliflower was slightly more cauliflower – which is actually quite logical because during blanching a few flavor molecules disappear in the water.
We’re making my version today. So the lazy one, with hummus and a sweet and sour salsa of currants, pine nuts and capers. I picked up the idea for that flavor combination at a restaurant near me, De Groene Parel. From Tel Aviv via New York to The Hague: the roasted cauliflower.
Roasted cauliflower with hummus and caper-currant salsa
2 small cauliflowers (about 600 – 700 g each); olive oil.
For the hummus:
250 g cooked chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked); 1 garlic clove, peeled; 100 g tahini; a pinch of ground cumin; juice of 1 – 1.5 lemon.
For the salsa:
60 g of currants; 60 g pine nuts; 100 ml of olive oil; 1 garlic clove, finely chopped; 1 tsp fennel seed; 60 g capers (from the pickle).
Heat preheat the oven to 200 degrees. If necessary, cut off the top part of the cauliflower leaf. The intention is that the cabbage is largely exposed, but that some green remains. Grease your hands with olive oil and rub the coals with it. Sprinkle them with some salt, place them on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 1 – 1.5 hours, until they are nicely browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside.
Doe for the hummus put the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, cumin, a good pinch of salt and the juice of 1 lemon in the food processor. Add 4 tablespoons of water (or the chickpea cooking liquid) and mash. If you like super smooth hummus, run the machine for at least 10 minutes. Taste to see if you need more lemon juice or salt.
Leave for the salsa, soak the currants in a bowl of hot water for 10 – 15 minutes. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown. Heat the olive oil, garlic and fennel seeds in a small saucepan over low heat. Do not let the garlic color, just cook gradually. Add the drained currants and capers and the pine nuts and heat through for a minute, stirring. Serve the roasted cauliflowers with the hummus and salsa.