Cooking with cauliflower has its options; to boil, puree, sauté, turn into rice, or grill? Although there are several ways to utilize this super vegetable, one of the heartiest and most delicious ways to cook it is to crank up the oven and roast away. Here’s how to roast cauliflower perfectly every time.
Buying Fresh Cauliflower
While I love using frozen florets of cauliflower to thicken smoothies and soups, using fresh cauliflower works best when roasting. The good news is that fresh cauliflower is readily available year round.
When purchasing cauliflower at the grocery store or farmers market, look for firm heads of cauliflower with crisp outer leaves. Small brown speckles on the florets and wilted outer leaves usually signify that the cauliflower is old. Once purchased, cauliflower will keep in the refrigerator for three to five days in the vegetable crisper.
If you’re on a tight food budget, you can choose to skip the organic cauliflower. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list, cauliflower ranks low on the list for pesticide contamination.
Shopping organic is great for so many reasons (protecting the environment, farmers’ health, reduced pesticide exposure, preventing disease, to name a few), don’t feel guilty about buying conventional cauliflower when organic isn’t available. (Save your pennies for organic strawberries – the number one pesticide ridden fruit according to the EWG.)
Although the typical creamy colored cauliflower is commonplace, this vegetable comes in other bright colors as well. Look for purple cauliflower, which gets its vivid color from the same anthocyanin antioxidants found in cabbage and red wine. And there’s orange cauliflower, which boasts more vitamin A and beta-carotene than its white counterpart.
Of course, all cauliflower (no matter the color) is a healthy choice. Cauliflower packs a nutritious punch and is rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium vitamins C, and phosphorus. Like other super healthy Brassica family members (kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli), cauliflower contains natural antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds and phytochemicals, known to reduce free radical damage, inflammation, and may even help to prevent certain diseases, such as cancer.
Roasted Cauliflower Cooking Prep
Before roasting the cauliflower, give it a good wash to remove any dirt, pesticides, or debris. I like to do this by first cutting the cauliflower into similar-sized florets and then placing in a colander in the sink to rinse every nook and cranny.
There are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure your cauliflower gets roasted to crispy, creamy perfection. First, grab a baking tray large enough for the cauliflower to sit in a single layer. Overcrowding the baking tray will result in mushy and not evenly cooked cauliflower.
Choosing a proper cooking fat ensures roasted cauliflower goodness. The two I recommend are avocado oil and grass-fed ghee, both of which can tolerate high-heat cooking. Unlike olive oil or coconut oil, avocado oil and ghee both have very high smoke points, of 450 degrees Fahrenheit and upward.
When fats hit their smoke-point, they also become damaged. These damaged compounds include lipid peroxides and aldehydes, both of which can contribute to inflammation and even cancer.
Using ghee and avocado oil in your high-heat cooking not only ensures a healthy cooking fat medium, but delivers tasty nutrition, too. Avocado oil has a buttery taste and is filled with the same healthy fats found in avocado. Ghee, or clarified butter, has a nutty flavor and is a rich source of short-chain and medium-chain triglycerides along with butyrate, a type of fatty acid associated with gut health. When drizzled over cauliflower, ghee and avocado oil make the roasted end product that much more delicious.
Pro Chef Tips
Serving and pairing your roasted cauliflower with dinner has endless possibilities. Amanda Hesser of the New York Times notes “Roasted cauliflower can be served warm or at room temperature” she says. To serve, “It can be part of an antipasto of roasted vegetables. Or an accompaniment to a roast chicken or lamb. And though they aren’t obvious choices, scallops and lobster, both naturally sweet themselves, are delicious with roasted cauliflower.”
Kate Taylor, the food blogger of Cookie and Kate, notes cauliflower can also be used to “add bulk and tasty roasted flavor to other veggie dishes, like lentil tacos and farro salad.”
Says Taylor, “It’s neutral enough that it doesn’t overwhelm other flavors, so it goes well with a variety of cuisines.” Whether you’re adding roasted cauliflower to another flavorful dish or just munching on it straight from the oven, (guilty) this roasted cauliflower recipe is sure to be one of your favorites.