Salt and stone: roasted purple cauliflower

Preserve the color of purple cauliflower and its beautiful presentation and everyone will be gathering around the plate for a taste.

I gasped when I saw the giant head of purple cauliflower peeking out of my McIlrath Farms weekly veggie box. My kids rolled their eyes at my obvious delight, but I was enamored regardless of their teasing.

What was I going to do with such a beautiful vegetable? My mind immediately started spinning with ideas. I knew for sure I had to preserve that gorgeous purple color. (I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes, too; my enthusiasm for vegetables can be a bit much, but that’s OK).

I flipped through a couple of my favorite cookbooks looking for inspiration when I stumbled across Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for whole roasted cauliflower in his cookbook “Simple.” The process of boiling the cauliflower before basting it in butter and roasting in a hot oven seemed simple enough and would preserve that gorgeous purple hue.

I couldn’t decide between a creamy dressing or a spicy, herby chimichurri-type dip, so I decided to combine the two for a green goddess style dipping sauce. I make lots of variations of this dip and use it as a salad dressing, drizzled over roasted veggies, spread on sourdough bread or even as a condiment on a sandwich. I try to keep a version of this easy recipe in my fridge just about every week. Often it depends on what we plan to eat for dinner or what I have on hand, but fresh herbs and a little lemon juice go a long way toward brightening up just about any recipe.

When I finally presented my beautiful roasted cauliflower to my family, they eyed the plate a bit suspiciously. How do we even eat this, the tween ventured to ask. I explained that it was kind of like pull-apart bread — they could just break off florets, dip it in the sauce and eat it. They determined it most certainly did not taste like pull-apart bread, but it was good, nonetheless. They gobbled up the cauliflower pretty quickly and I gave myself a pat on the back for tricking them into eating an entire head of cauliflower as a “snack.”

All joking aside, this is a lovely recipe to serve as an appetizer. With its beautiful presentation, everyone will be gathering around the plate for a taste. Another easy option is to slice the cauliflower like you would a steak after roasting it. Follow the recipe as it’s called for and instead of serving it whole, slice it into 1 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Place the cauliflower “steaks” on each individual plate and drizzle with the green goddess sauce.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Goddess Dipping Sauce

1 head large purple or white cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise

1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

Juice of half a lemon

1 bunch rough chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons fresh chives

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a small baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Wash the cauliflower, preserving the green leaves, and pat dry with a paper towel. Submerge the cauliflower head-down in the boiling water for 6 minutes. Remove the cauliflower, draining in a colander head-down for at least 10 minutes.

Place cauliflower on baking sheet, head-up. In the microwave melt butter for 10 seconds. Combine it with the olive oil and liberally brush the cauliflower with the mixture, making sure to coat it evenly over the entire vegetable. Liberally salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower is crispy and brown and very tender.

While the cauliflower roasts, pulse the herbs, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a food processor until the sauce is smooth and bright green. Taste and adjust flavors as necessary, adding a bit more lemon juice for brightness and to thin the sauce or a touch of salt and pepper to bump up the flavor.

Note: For a non-dairy option, swap the sour cream and mayonnaise for tahini (sesame paste).

To serve, place cauliflower on a tray, cut into “steaks” and serve with the green goddess sauce drizzled over the cauliflower. Or for a fun appetizer, simply break off florets and dip in the sauce.

Andrea McCoy’s Salt and Stone column and recipes appear twice a month in Explore.

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