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Chat Leftovers: Cauliflower Can Take the Heat

Did you know that just by asking a great question during the Food section's weekly Free Range chat, you can become the proud winner of a fab new cookbook? That's just one of the benefits of joining us every Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m., when we field queries, toss out information, bat around ideas and try to hit a home run. Come to think of it, our percentages may be better than the Nats'.

We also have pinch hitters. Today's guest, ready to discuss kids' lunches, will be Lisa Barnes of Petit Appetit.

Despite our best efforts, we can never manage to answer every question during the hour. Here's one we couldn't get to last week:

Cauliflower: I recently tried baking cauliflower and it was . . . not good. Should it be parboiled first or something? I used a low temp and tested it every 20 minutes or so until it was soft, but it took forever and was close to tasteless.

You had the right idea when you decided to put cauliflower in the oven. But you misfired on one detail: What you want is high heat, not low heat, so the cauliflower roasts to a soft consistency with a sweet, nutty flavor.

You can roast a head of cauliflower whole, and it looks very cool presented at the table that way, maybe surrounded by a garnish or by a ring of other roasted vegetables. I promise you, it's really delicious. Here's how to do it:

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Start with a medium cauliflower, about 2 1/2 pounds. Remove the leaves and the stem, but take care to keep the head intact so the individual florets don't detach. Flip over the head and carefully cut out some of the core. At this point the head will weigh about 1 1/2 pounds.

Place the cauliflower in an 8- or 9-inch cake or pie pan and rub it all over with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle the cauliflower with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Roast for about 75 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and has browned on the outside. (Check after 60 minutes. If the cauliflower looks like it might burn, reduce the heat to 425 degrees.)

That's all there is to it. When the cauliflower comes out, it's ready to be drizzled with whatever you choose. I like plain melted butter, melted brown butter or a mixture of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil.

Try it! You'll like it.

If anyone else out there has a great recipe for baked/roasted cauliflower, join today's chat and pitch in.

– Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  September 30, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes  | Tags: Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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Even better, toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil and season with salt and your favorite curry spice mix. Spread the florest out on an ungreased baking sheet and roast in a 450-degree oven (yes, that hot) until they are nicely caramelized (even blackened) around the edges. It couldn't be simpler:

Posted by: euclidarms | September 30, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Try roasting it with smoked paprika and a pinch of cumin in addition to olive oil, salt, and pepper. Chile powder is good, too.

Posted by: cmhagan | September 30, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Or olive oil, salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan. Works with broccoli, too.

Posted by: laura33 | September 30, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

My mom makes cheese-crusted cauliflower. Boil the head of cauliflower first for about 10 minutes. Then mix together mayo and mustard and spread it over the entire head. Top that with shredded sharp cheddar cheese (dont be shy with it) and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. It is delicious, although not exactly low-cal!

Posted by: amandauva | September 30, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I *just* roasted cauliflower yesterday according to Kim O'Donnel's instructions. It was delicious; I highly recommend it.

Posted by: AmaliaAusten | September 30, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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