I'm one of those people who prefer the side dishes on Thanksgiving. Left to my own devices I would skip the turkey altogether.
(Hangs head in shame). I know, I know. I'm sure my family and guests would revolt so I make a turkey every year - a damn good turkey I should add (dry brine, herb butter, 2 kinds of dressing [not stuffing] and an herb-kissed turkey-based gravy - posts on this forthcoming!). But the few years I was a vegetarian (11 to be exact) I didn't even miss the turkey on Thanksgiving at all *gasp*. Plus, if we're going to be historically accurate, it is more likely that the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate lobster or venison than turkey but let's not quibble, OK?
I realize that the center-piece of most Thanksgiving tables is a turkey and I will give the bird its due at some point (see above). In fact I have taken a pledge to Respect the Bird. Join me and others who love Thanksgiving in an effort to savor the fall and give Thanksgiving its due before moving on to the craziness of the winter holiday season. You can follow them on twitter and on Facebook.
But right here, in this little post, I want to to focus on a side dish. This is a recipe you can use all year long - not just on one day of the year and, while it is my goal to #savethanksgiving, my ultimate goal is to get everyone cooking a little more (you know - the whole Everyone Into the Kitchen thing).
As the darker days of fall settle upon us, come dinner-time, I find myself preheating the oven and then digging around the refrigerator for something to roast. Combined with a little oil, some salt and maybe some herbs or spices, vegetables and meats are transformed by the proper application of dry heat. As an added bonus roasting doesn't usually involve a lot of advanced preparation, is simple to do and often results is pretty easy clean-up.
The beautiful, sturdy vegetables of fall lend themselves so well to roasting. One such vegetable is the often maligned cauliflower. People are used to eating cauliflower as an overcooked part of a steamed or boiled vegetable medley and I can see why it isn't appealing to many that way. But once you have eaten roasted cauliflower you'll never look at it the same way again.
Gone is the strange mealy, bumpy texture and lack of flavor. In its place you will find a subtly sweet, crunchy yet supple vegetable with a complex almost nutty taste. I have made simple roasted cauliflower for children who claim they "HATE it" and it's "yucky." But toss it with some oil and a little salt, pop it into a 425˚ oven and call it "popcorn cauliflower" and you've got a hit on your hands. Combine it with some spices, yogurt and herbs and it is transformed into a sophisticated holiday table worthy side dish or, dare I say, main dish for vegetarians.
Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Yogurt and Pomegranate
Serves 4 as a side-dish
Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets (yes the one in that picture is purple - I'm a sucker for interesting vegetables)
1-2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I recommend Greek-style)
pinch of salt
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves (or a combination of the two)
2-3 TBS pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
- Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil, cumin seeds, salt and pepper. I do this right on the baking sheet - no need to dirty a bowl!
- Spread the cauliflower mixture out on a baking sheet leaving room between the pieces for air to circulate and prevent the cauliflower from steaming.
- Roast, tossing the pan from time to time, for about 25 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be golden brown. In this case I used purple cauliflower and it is a little harder to see. Some pieces will be crunchier than others based on the size. This makes for a nice variation in texture in the dish.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Combine the yogurt with a pinch of salt and drizzle over the cauliflower. Top with chopped parsley or mint and pomegranate seeds.