Cauliflower is one of those long-maligned – and unjustly so – vegetables. It stands with Brussels sprouts and beets and lima beans in the “yuck” category for most kids and oftentimes a lot of adults. And like the others in that category, cauliflower is making a comeback. If you’re looking for new ways to cook one of today’s trendy veggies, this smoky roasted cauliflower recipe is for you.
Not unlike Brussels sprouts, cauliflower’s reputation as a “dislike” probably stems from well-intentioned home cooks boiling the crap out of the poor cruciferous veggie. Is anything good when it’s boiled to death? Definitely not vegetables! The best part about most veggies is the crisp, freshness they can have, even when cooked. But over-boiling takes not only the bite out of veggies, it also drains a good portion of the vitamins and minerals.
One solution to the cooking catastrophe that is over-boiling veggies is to roast them. I roast just about every veggie I can: asparagus, tomatoes, escarole, broccoli – and definitely cauliflower. Roasting develops flavors, whether its meat or veggies (or both!) that you’re cooking. When you add strong flavors, like we do in this smoky roasted cauliflower recipe, it infuses the flavors into the veggies and at the same time, brings the flavors together. It’s quite simply the best way to prepare most vegetables, if you ask me.
Paprika is generally a rich red powder made from sweet red peppers. Some paprika mixes use other peppers with a spicier kick, so you always want to taste-test paprika before adding it to a dish to know if you need a lot of a little. Your general store-bought paprika is generally pretty mild and neither sweet nor all that spicy.
But the key to this recipe is the smoked paprika. Not regular paprika – smoked. This is important because while most paprika are made from sun dried or artificially dried peppers, smoked paprika is made by drying the peppers over firewood. Just like meat that is smoked, the peppers get that savory smoky flavor. So, when you use smoked paprika, that earthy rich flavor gets transported to your dish. If you’re looking for a really special smoked paprika, head to a specialty spice shop where you’ll find plenty of options, many of which will be from Hungary and Spain, the two capitals of paprika production. Your head will spin with the possibilities – and your mouth will water.
The fact is, cauliflower is actually pretty mildly flavored so it can really handle the strong smoky paprika flavors, and also a hearty dash of garlic. If you’re in a pinch, yes, you can use powdered dried garlic, but I always prefer fresh. Get yourself a garlic press to make it easier to prepare, or smash with the broadside of a large knife.
This smoky roasted cauliflower is a great side dish for beef or fish – something you won’t normally hear me say. I usually think of beef and fish at opposite ends of the flavor spectrum: beef is strong while fish is delicate. Chicken and pork are somewhere in the middle and quite flexible. But because paprika is often paired with both beef and fish, this smoky roasted cauliflower goes well with both, especially if your protein is prepared simply.
So grab a head and start chopping. In less than a half hour, you’ll have a crisp, healthy, flavorful side dish, ready to go.
(Make this next: Roasted Cauliflower Cashew Hummus)
- 1 large cauliflower head, cut into florets
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- In a bowl place the cauliflower florets, smoked paprika, salt and olive oil. Mix to combine.
- Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with minced garlic and gently toss.
- Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until tender and browned.
- Serve immediately.