Rich spices, salty yogurt, and a shower of garnishes dress up our favorite midwinter cruciferous vegetable.
While I am a huge fan of cruciferous vegetables, at this time of year, they start to feel a bit tired. The trick to breaking out of the old olive oil and salt routine? Treat cauliflower like the main event by adding sauces, relishes, and colorful, crunchy garnishes. These additions don’t have to be complicated to work their magic. Here I take inspiration from a Middle Eastern approach—rich spices, tangy yogurt, and fresh herbs—for a bolder weeknight cauliflower I’ll happily eat until asparagus hits the market in spring.
When making vegetables a main dish, it helps to give them the royal treatment from the start. I begin by tossing florets in a fragrant mix of paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, and cinnamon, along with a healthy dose of olive oil. Then I roast them until crispy on the outside and tender within. While roasting a whole cauliflower is a bit more cinematic, cutting the cauliflower into florets creates more surface area for spices to cling to, as well as more crispy edges. It’s a worthwhile trade-off in my book.
All those spices call for something creamy and cooling. For the simplest sauce, I mix Greek yogurt with a glug of olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt. Since this mixture is fairly thick and doesn’t drizzle particularly well, I like to serve the cauliflower on top of the sauce, rather than the other way around. This way you get the right cauliflower-to-yogurt ratio in every bite, plus it makes for a very trendy presentation.
When it comes to garnishing a vegetable dish, I’m a firm believer that more is more. Add as much color and texture as you can. Pickled onions are generally the perfect condiment, providing a punchy sweet-and-sour element that also adds a gorgeous pop of pink if you use red ones. Tender fresh herbs add color and life to a dish—sweet, aromatic mint really sings here, but cilantro or parsley would be nice too. For crunch, I like to add toasted pine nuts, but pistachios, almonds, or walnuts work well as a lower-cost option. Serve some warm flatbreads or rice on the side to make it a meal.
This cauliflower recipe relies heavily on Middle Eastern influence, but the same principles of adding color, texture, and freshness can be applied to any number of flavor combinations. Try different spice blends, or swap in veggies like carrots, beets, or broccoli. After a roasty trip in the oven and a generous shower of toppings, you’ll be craving them anew.