We have reached the point in winter, or spring, or whatever it is, when even I am tired of making, eating, and talking about soup. I’ve been meaning to make a batch of vegetable and pearl barley soup for the past week, and I even forced myself to chop up everything the other night before bed, thinking it would inspire me to get on it the next morning, but, eh. Eh. I’d rather do what I did twice last week: throw a cauliflower in the oven, eat the whole pan, and call it a meal.
Roasted cauliflower! Old news! You know how to roast cauliflower. I know how to roast cauliflower. But here I am, talking up roasted cauliflower, because this particular version has become – just as Bon Appétit said it would – my new go-to. The recipe comes from the “BA Arsenal” section of the February 2013 issue, and it’s hardly even a recipe (which is, more and more, my favorite kind of recipe). You’ll probably have it memorized after the first read-through. And I’ll bet you have everything in the house already – except maybe the cauliflower, and that’s easy enough to remedy.
When I roast cauliflower, I usually just, you know, roast it: sliced cauliflower, olive oil, salt, boom. But Allie Lewis Clapp, food editor of Bon Appétit, apparently swears by the combination of cauliflower and onion, the former caramelized and the latter “just-this-side-of-burnt.” (Color = flavor! Assuming, of course, that you don’t go too far and actually burn the onions, which I did once; see photo below.) To the cauliflower and onion, she suggests that you add a few sprigs of thyme and a few whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic, all of it slicked with some olive oil. Then you chuck it in a hot, hot oven, and after barely half an hour, the cauliflower winds up velvety, meaty, even rich, and the onions relax and soften into sweetness, and the garlic is tender enough to spread on toast, and a dark, savory, somewhat bewitching smell has filled your kitchen – or your entire house, if you’re me and your house is small and the exhaust fan doesn’t really work, even though it roars like the engine of a semi scaling a mountain pass. Then you grate some Parmesan over the whole pan, slide it back into the oven, and pull it out when the cheese has melted and crisped into crisp, lacy, frico-like webs and shards.
At this point, you could divide it between a couple of bowls, put a fried egg on top of each, and call it lunch. You could also divide it between four plates and call it a side dish. You could toss it with pasta, probably, though I haven’t tried it, and serve it with more Parmesan. Or you could just eat it, period, which is what I’ve been doing. If you have any leftovers, they’re good at any temperature – even cold, eaten straight from a Mason jar while sitting in your car outside the pottery studio after class.
One word of caution: don’t slice the onions too thinly here, or they’ll be more likely to burn. I’d aim for ½-inch-thick slices, if I were you.
Preheat the oven to 425°F, and line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment.
Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, and slice it top-down into roughly 1/3-inch slices. Some of the slices will crumble, and that’s fine. Scoop all of the cauliflower into a large bowl, and add the onion, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Arrange the mixture in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is mostly tender, golden brown, and caramelized at the edges, 25-30 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, and grate a generous amount of Parmesan over the vegetables. (The original recipe calls for ½ cup, but I didn’t measure mine; I just eyeballed it.) Return the pan to the oven, and continue to roast for another 5 or 10 minutes. You’re basically cooking it to eye: you want the cauliflower to be nicely caramelized, but you don’t want the onions to burn.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Yield: 2 to 4 servings