Roasted Mediterranean Cauliflower
Yield: 4 servings (dressing recipe will make enough for a second batch of cauliflower or to accommodate optional extras)
Simply roasted cauliflower is elevated to something special thanks to a versatile sauce that might just become a new favorite. The base recipe is perfect as a side dish, and a few pantry staples will transform it into a filling entree.


For the Roasted Cauliflower:

• 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets (could use two heads if small; exact measurement isn’t critical here)
• 1½ to 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Tahini-Harissa Dressing:

• ⅓ cup (84 grams) tahini*
• 2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (you may start with 1½ T for less tang)
• 1-2 tablespoon harissa**, depending on spice preference and brand used
• 4 tablespoons water, plus 2-3 tablespoons as needed
• 2 Medjool dates, pitted and diced (may substitute 2-3 tablespoons raisins; golden are especially nice)
• ¼ cup toasted pistachios (may substitute chopped almonds, cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, or a mix of several)
Optional for serving: 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley, mint, and/or dill; arugula, spinach, or fresh greens of choice; 1 cup cooked lentils or garbanzo beans


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425℉, and lightly grease a large, rimmed baking sheet.

    Make the tahini-harissa dressing: In a small bowl, stir together the tahini, lemon juice, harissa, water, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. If the dressing is too thick and does not easily drizzle, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time. Note that the dressing will thicken as it sits. Taste and add a pinch or two of additional salt as needed to round out the flavor and/or more harissa to taste. Make-Ahead Tip: dressing can be prepared earlier in the day and stored, covered, on the counter. Flavor will improve over time.

    In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower and enough olive oil to lightly coat the florets. Spread the cauliflower evenly over the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and roast for approximately 20 minutes, or until the florets are just tender and lightly golden.
    Remove the cauliflower from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a large bowl. Toss the cauliflower with enough of the tahini-harissa dressing to coat, and then fold in the dates and pistachios. (Start with about ⅓ of the dressing, adding more to taste. You should have leftover dressing, which can be refrigerated for a week or so, for another batch. The dressing can also be enjoyed on other roasted vegetables like potatoes and carrots, salads, chickpeas, fish, chicken, etc.)
    Sprinkle with the fresh herbs (or stir them in). As an option, you may plate over greens of choice and/or stir in optional garbanzos or lentils, drizzling with additional dressing as needed to coat the additional ingredients. This dish may be enjoyed warm, cold, or room temperature.


Notes & Substitutions:

*Cashew butter might be my first choice as a substitute for tahini, but a number or things work well. The first time I made this, I didn’t have tahini, so I used a combination of cashew butter and sunflower seed butter with great results. I’ve since tried almond butter, too. Peanut butter would likely provide an overly prominent nutty flavor, but feel free to experiment with milder tasting nut butters if you don’t have tahini or have a sesame allergy. When substituting, I do find that mixing the nut and seed butters adds depth of flavor.
**Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa is most commonly found ready-made in jars, tubes and cans and is sold in the ethnic aisle of most large grocery stores.
I like to use 2 tablespoons in this recipe and find that it’s not too spicy. Taste after adding 1 tablespoon, however, and then add more to taste. If you can’t find harissa, I recommend another chile paste, like sambal oelek, plus a pinch or two of cumin and smoked paprika. A red curry paste would likely taste excellent in this sauce as well.


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