Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Interesting Vegetables: Part One

There's a pan-Asian restaurant in my neighborhood that offers a dish called "Interesting Vegetables." I find the title both amusing and something of a misnomer. I mean, these aren't the sort of vegetables one would find at a cocktail benefit for The Dia Center. They haven't written for the Harvard Lampoon or spent their summers volunteering for the Peace Corps or anything. What they are is a collection of largely unidentifiable brown and green things in an oily sauce. Color me uninterested. I think we can do better.

Anyone who's South Beaching it has heard of or seen a recipe for "Cauliflower Popcorn." I'm amused by this one as well. Sure, the little white florets may resemble popcorn, but don't let any of us carb-deprived lunatics delude you into thinking this dish is in anyway akin to actual popcorn. Its delicious to be sure, but my local movie theater wasn't peddling hot, buttery tubs of it last time I checked. I'm not sure why we can't just call the dish what it is ... roasted cauliflower. I may be on a diet, but I haven't lost my powers of mentation. I know the difference between a snack food and a vegetable ... or do I?

Roasted Cauliflower Florets:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (choice of color is up to you)
  • 1 or 2 tbsps. of extra-virgin olive oil
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • a couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash Steak Grilling Blend
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. (I know, its hot, but turn up the AC, this is worth it.)

Remove the leaves and core from the head of cauliflower. Remove the remaining stalks and trim the vegetable such that you are left with small florets approximately the size of popped popcorn kernals. There will be a lot of them, but they will cook down in the oven.

Place the trimmed florets into a large bowl, add the olive oil, salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash and stir to combine.

Spread the seasoned cauliflower on a large, rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, turning the florets every 15 minutes or so, until they are nicely browned and well caramelized. The darker they are, the sweeter they will be. Serve immediately.

Notes: If your oven runs high, you may need to turn the heat down to 425 degrees after the first half hour. Keep your eye on them and adjust accordingly. There are several recipes for this all over the internet and in some of the South Beach cook books - this is my version. I like the grilling blend for seasoning and I've reduced the oil. Feel free to experiment with whatever seasonings you like here. Curry would be a nice option, or something spicy if that's your pref. Live it up!

Roasted cauliflower is best served right out of the oven. It will wilt slightly if left to cool, so get 'em while they're hot and crisp!

Warning, one bite of this and you'll be hooked. It doesn't taste like popcorn but it sure eats like it. I could easily down a whole bowl of this myself, so make several heads if you're cooking for a crowd. Kidding aside this is my new favorite snack ... but I still won't call it popcorn.

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