Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata

This delightful and simple recipe is a result of getting inspired during a recent trip to the local farmer’s market.

I immediately spotted the snow-white heads of cauliflower glistening in the sunlight. There were no signs of browning on the compact little florets. The thick green leaves embraced the bottom third of the head. Everything about these cauliflower heads told me they were extremely fresh. How could I resist? I knew exactly what I going to prepare for lunch.

Cauliflower has recently taken on a sort of cult status within the plant-eating community. Suddenly, there are blogs filled with the latest ideas on how to use this cruciferous vegetable to make a sauce…or crumbled raw to resemble rice. Cauliflower is steamed, sautéed, grilled, pureed and roasted whole. This is very exciting – especially for a vegetable that spent a great deal of time being overcooked into a mushy texture.

But I’ve always like cauliflower – especially roasted with just a hint of curry…a preparation especially welcoming to a zesty gremolata made in the traditional manner and using only three highly fragrant ingredients: flat leaf parsley, garlic and lemon zest.

You can prepare this entire recipe in under on hour if you have everything on hand. I think it is excellent served alone with just a crisp green salad. And for me – well, that’s a perfect lunch!

Yield: makes about 4 servings

  • 1 large head cauliflower

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons mild curry powder

  • sea salt to season

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • about one full cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley

  • 2 small garlic cloves

  • grated zest of one lemon

  • Preheat your oven to 210°C (410°F) with circulating fan (add about 10 degrees with no fan).
  • Begin by separating your cauliflower into individual florets. Don’t discard the thick stem – there is a lot of flavor in them. Place the stem and all the florets in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add the white wine vinegar and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and place on a dry towel.
  • Slice the florets into thick pieces. Remove the bottom part of the stem – about 2-cm (one inch) should be enough. Slice the stem into rounds about the same thickness as the florets. Place all the cauliflower in a large bowl.
  • Add the curry powder, sea salt and enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the cauliflower pieces. Place all the cauliflower onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure you have a single layer – otherwise work in batches.
  • Place the cauliflower in the preheated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. The cauliflower is done when it is golden and easily pierced with a knife.
  • Prepare the gremolata while the cauliflower is cooking. Chop the parsley and grate the garlic. Either place in a mortar or continue chopping by hand until finely chopped. If you are using a mortar, begin pounding until the mixture is finely pounded and looks a bit like a rough pesto. Add the chopped zest and continue working the mixture until it is well combined.
  • Serve the hot cauliflower with a few dabs of the gremolata.

Jack’s Fresh Tip

Soaking the cauliflower in vinegar will do a couple of things for you. It will help remove any nasty little pests hiding within the head, it will keep the color white by preventing oxidation and it will keep the structure of the cauliflower rigid – an important factor in preventing mushiness. Use any white vinegar. I typically use a white wine vinegar, but apple vinegar and even rice vinegar will work just as well.

Make sure you use flat leaf parsley in the gremolata mixture. The curly parsley tastes fine, but the texture is much different.

I like to use a mortar and pestle to make my gremolata. I think this makes a very nice rustic version that enhances the flavor. Using a knife to chop the parsley and garlic is totally acceptable – even appreciated. Using a small blender or food processor creates a harsh – almost bitter flavor.

I like to grate my garlic cloves before chopping or pounding them. I think this gives you a good head start. I would recommend staying away from using a garlic press because this will create a very harsh garlic flavor – one that will stay with you for a while.

Make sure to wash the lemon well in hot water – even if your lemon is organic. Stores tend to place a wax coating on lemons to prevent moisture loss. I prefer to avoid eating this wax.

If your gremolata appears too moist, just spread it out on a platter and allow it to dry naturally for about one hour. You can make gremolata a few hours in advance, but it is best to use it the same day instead of storing the mixture in the refrigerator.

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