Meatless Monday: Roasted Cauliflower Meets Tahini
For years, I was a devotee of the cold salads in the glass case at the Lebanese Taverna market in Arlington, Va. When I swing through town in early December, I’ll be sure to get my fix of Middle Eastern mezze treats, among them the arnabeet – fried cauliflower with tahini sauce.
In the meantime, I can sponge up the juices from “Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond,” a new cookbook by chef Sara Jenkins (daughter of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins) and her collaborator Mindy Fox.
Here, Jenkins suggests roasting (rather than frying) the florets, resulting in a lower-fat dish with arguably more intense flavors (the cauliflower’s natural sugars like to come out and play in the oven). While the cauli roasts, you can make the tahini sauce, which takes all of five minutes with a blender or food processor. When those sweet florets meet the creamy-pungent-kinda piquant qualities (some might say it qualifies as umami, that hard-to-describe savory taste) of the tahini, something alchemical happens. You'll probably dance in your seat. This dish may just change your life.
For those interested, one cup of boiled cauliflower is a nutrient dynamo, delivering respectable amounts of protein (2.2 grams) and fiber (3.3 grams), and satisfying more than 90 percent of your daily Vitamin C requirement.
If you want to partner the cauliflower with something to make a complete meal, I’d consider fine-grained bulgur wheat, soaked in equal parts lemon juice and water, for about 45 minutes. Couscous and a short-grained rice tie are equally delicious cauli companions.
Roasted Cauliflower With Tahini Sauce
From “Olives & Oranges” by Sara Jenkins & Mindy Fox (KOD recipe notes in italics)
1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I omitted the extra tablespoons)
1 ½ teaspoons medium-coarse sea salt, or more to taste (In retrospect, I might have reduced salt to 1 ¼ teaspoons)
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon tahini paste
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment (I forgot the parchment and the cauliflower didn’t stick.)
In a mixing bowl, toss cauliflower with oil, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt (this is where I might reduce salt to 1 teaspoon) and pepper until well coated. Spread in a single layer on baking sheet and roast, stirring and turning once or twice, until cauliflower is tender and crispy brown in spots, about 45 minutes.
While cauliflower is roasting, puree tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a blender until well combined. (I added the parsley as well, resulting in a pretty light green puree.)
Remove cauliflower from oven and immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Pour tahini over the cauliflower and toss to combine.
Serve warm or let stand at room temperature.
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