Roasting, renewed

I remember a time when roasted vegetables seemed revolutionary to me. Vegetable, fat, hot hot heat -> delicious, easy, slightly caramelized edges. What a trick, to have something so amazing from so little effort. At this point, kale chips were all the rage across food blogs, so I think maybe other people shared my wonder at the power of roasting.

These days, as an audience, we’re a little bit more picky. Roasted produce is great for weeknight dinners, but we’ve shaken the magic off of them. The illusion has been revealed. But that bugs me, because there’s still so much potential there, for a dish that’s easy and cheap, but tastes complicated and expensive, which is the holy grail of self-catered weddings as far as I’m concerned.

Roasted cauliflower with garlic, olives, and harissa cream.

So when I was at a favorite restaurant the other day, and had a fried cauliflower dish that was so good that we waited in an hour and a half line two days just so we could have it again, I realized it might be something worth replicating. An easy sauce and a few unique additions might renew the power of roasting, for something you can use to impress, with minimum effort. Welcome to the new world of vegetables.

Roasted cauliflower with garlic, olives, and harissa cream.

Roasted cauliflower with olives, garlic, and harissa cream

A quick internet search revealed that someone else (at Food52, of course) was already on it. The recipe below is pretty similar, although with a few tweaks and notes on simplifying/cooking for a crowd. And a note on the garlic: Don’t over-roast it. I normally love it when they get those brown crispy bits, but there’s so much going on in this recipe that it actually ends up being a little too much.

Timing: 10 minutes of prep, 20-30 for roasting, and another 15-20 for peeling garlic and plating.

Storage: To speed up the preparation, you can make the harissa cream in advance, as well as roasting the garlic and peeling it. The garlic should last a few days, and harissa cream should last at least a week in the fridge (it was in mine for at least two weeks before we used it up, but ymmv). You can also roast the cauliflower and olives to almost complete a day or two ahead of time, and then finish them up with a short roast day-of.


For the roasted vegetables:

1 head cauliflower, cored and leaves discarded, cut up into 1 or 2-inch florets
13 olives
13 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil or melted refined coconut oil
salt and pepper
several dollops of harissa cream from recipe below (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower, olives, and garlic (if you haven’t already roasted it) in the oil, with a few pinches of salt and pepper [get actual amounts?] on a baking pan. If you are roasting the garlic now, remove it after 10-15 minutes, when it’s soft. Roast the rest for a total of 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft and browned on the edges.

While the cauliflower is roasting, let the garlic cool, then remove them from their peels. When you remove the cauliflower and olives from the oven, toss the garlic back in with them.


For the harissa cream:

2 tablespoons harissa paste (either store-bought, or from the recipe here)
½ cup crème fraiche or European-style sour cream

Combine ingredients. Blend or mix until the harissa and crème fraiche are completely combined.


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