Since we are on the topic of cauliflower, I thought I should share “my famous” Roasted Spiced Cauliflower recipe by Suvir Saran, from one of my favorite cookbooks “American Masala”. I am a big fan of Suvir Saran’s and this cookbook of his, more than anything else, defines my culinary point of view – Indian with an American twist. This cauliflower epitomizes the style of cooking featured in the book – roasting (aside from in the tandoor oven) is not a very “Indian” way of cooking, and neither is the use of olive oil. Most families in India do not generally own an oven (Indian desserts do not generally require an oven either), so this is a unique way of cooking gobi (cauliflower). The spices are obviously the “Indian” part of the dish.
I grew up intensely disliking the aloo-gobi (an Indian potatoes and cauliflower vegetable dish) my mother forced me to eat regularly and I spent most of my childhood moving the gobi around my plate and devising strategies to avoid the despicable vegetable. Mom should have roasted the damn thing. It makes it crispy and it makes the cauliflower incredibly edible. This past month, I have made this twice – once for a cookbook club gathering with a vegetarian theme and recently for a lunch we hosted. I probably make this too often – as much as my hubby likes it, sometimes he remarks, “This cauliflower again?”
There are several reasons this is a “go-to” dish for me – it practically cooks itself in the oven. I usually make extra spice mix, so I have it lying around and don’t have to grind it fresh (though that does have it’s benefits) each time. No slaving over the stove like you have to for most Indian recipes. And minimal clean-up since the stove does not get dirty (I let my husband scrub the baking dish). Plus, Ria will eat it and it is one way to get cauliflower, with all it’s health benefits, incorporated into her diet. This dish is always well-received, so much so, that Stacie and I have taught this at an Indian vegetarian cooking class at 18 Reasons.
The salting after the roasting is done, is genius. A cooking tip that I impart to anyone who will listen. My mother once forced me to salt the cauliflower before I baked it and we argued and argued and I got fed up, conceded and salted the cauliflower before roasting. We were left with cauliflower mush, tasty but wholly lacking the much-required crunch (and “burnage” which is almost critical to the success of this dish). The end result was no where near as good as the full potential of this amazing dish. She stood corrected, and I tried not to gloat (and fist pump). Lesson here: sometimes you have to listen to your kids, they may have more “wisdom” than you.
The carrot raita I have started serving with this aloo-gobi (it’s a match made in heaven), is a rather new addition to my repertoire. The recipe is from the NYTimes and I am in love with it. Interesting that I had to find my favorite raita recipe in an American newspaper, but the recipes featured in the New York Times often turn out rather good. Make the cauliflower, carrot raita, basmati rice and some fresh lime soda (spiked with vodka?) and you will have a lunch/dinner party super hit!
Roasted Spiced Cauliflower
adapted from American Masala by Suvir Saran
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for greasing dish
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 3 dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds/powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds/powder
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 head cauliflower cored and broken into medium florets
- 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Salt to taste
Sometimes I add 1 – 2 medium sized potatoes to make the dish more substantial and stretch the cauliflower. You can also add serrano chilies on top for extra spice. Add some extra spices in the coffee grinder if adding potatoes.
Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a baking dish (9 X 13) with olive oil. Grind all the spices (no salt) in a coffee grinder or small food processor until fine. Mix the spices with the olive oil. Add the cauliflower and onions and mix to coat in oil and spices. Transfer to a baking dish and roast till cauliflower is tender about 50 min to 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.
Carrot Raita – from NYTimes
- 1 cup plain yogurt (full fat is awesome!)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrot
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1 tablespoon each chopped mint, chives and cilantro (optional)
To make the raita, put the yogurt in a bowl. Heat the ghee or oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cumin, let them pop a bit — be careful — then stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, till barely golden. Carefully stir the hot contents of the skillet into the yogurt. Add the grated carrot, cayenne and salt, to taste. Let the raita sit at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Just before serving, stir in the mint, chives and cilantro.