Middle Eastern Inspired Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that really can lend itself to any flavors - a blank canvas of sorts, but that by no means translates to it being boring - although some people may claim it as such!  Let's be honest, pretty much ANYTHING is bland and boring if its not seasoned or cooked properly, so throw those opinions out the window.   In this preparation, there are some delicious flavor combinations that are Lebanese inspired - tahini, pomegranate, pistachio, and mint.   And the piping-hot roasting of the cauliflower lends a rich, nutty taste.  Roasted cauliflower like this could stand on its own, but also holds up to extremely bold flavors, such as the above!  A delicious combo, and SUPER simple to boot. Let's get to it!

Roasted Cauliflower, Lebanese-Style
Half head cauliflower, sliced, or separated into medium size florets
3 T olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Tahini dressing, see below
1/4 C pomegranate seeds (arils!)
2 T mint, chopped
1/4 c pistachios, roasted, salted, shelled
1 t nigella seeds

Tahini Dressing
1/4 c tahini
~1/4 cup warm water
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T white vinegar
1/2 t ground cumin
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 500F.  While the oven is heating, toss your cauliflower evenly in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Set aside until the oven comes to temp.  Once at 500F, place cauliflower in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until tender.

In the meantime, make the dressing! This dressing is SUPER delicious - it can be used for a multitude of things beyond this recipe - it's a great salad dressing, and a great vegetable dip!  The amount of water added determines the thin/thickness of the dressing, so adjust accordingly - and some tahini pastes are thicker than others as well.  For this recipe, the consistency needs to be on the thinner side so it can be drizzled over the cauliflower.     

Slowly drizzle the warm water into the tahini paste, while whisking (I used a fork), until fully incorporated.  Continue with the lemon juice and white vinegar.   Once the consistency is smooth and there are no tahini paste lumps remaining, add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Add salt to taste (tahini vary in taste, so the amount of salt added really depends on the brand - I used about 1/4 t).  I also toasted whole cumin seeds until fragrant, and ground in a mortar as opposed to using already ground cumin - but both work just as well!

Next comes assembly! (I told you this recipe was super easy, ESPECIALLY if you get the pomegranate seeds already out of the fruit itself.  Getting pomegranate seeds out of the whole fruit really isn't a pain in the butt, moreso messy and it'll stain your hands, clothes, and walls....not that I know from experience!

Lay the roasted cauliflower down on a plate and drizzle with tahini dressing, ensuring that a good amount gets on each slice/floret - but not so much that it's swimming in dressing.  Finish with the pomegranate, mint, pistachios, and nigella seeds, if you have them.  This dish is equally as delicious without the nigella seeds, but it definitely adds a little "je ne said quoi"!  Plate, scatter, get your fork, and devour!

This dish is just as delicious as it is beautiful! It definitely has a nice holiday color scheme to it with the mint, pomegranate and pomegranate seeds.  The flavor combination is pretty traditional in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it really works well with the cauliflower! The mint and pomegranate add a nice brightness and acidity to the dish, the pistachios add a nice crunch and nuttiness (that plays well with the nuttiness of the cauliflower), and the tahini sauce really just takes it to the next level! It's slightly "smoky" from the cumin.  All of these together result in an amazing, super satisfying dish, that could be eaten as a side, or an entree in and of itself! 


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