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Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Lemon
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In the Levant, cauliflower often is deep fried and paired with tahini. We ditched the deep-fryer and opted for high-heat roasting. But first we coat the cauliflower with a little cornstarch mixed with oil, tomato paste and tahini. The starch helps the florets develop crisp, nicely browned exteriors. A little hot sauce in the coating adds some piquancy; we preferred brands that aren't too vinegary, such as Cholula and Tapatío. Cilantro and lemon, added just before serving, brighten up the colors and flavors.
Don't forget to line the baking sheet with foil, then coat it liberally with cooking spray. This helps prevent sticking and scorching. Also, don't stir the cauliflower as it roasts; undisturbed cooking allows the florets to crisp well and brown deeply.
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
tablespoons tomato paste
tablespoons tahini, plus more to serve
tablespoon hot sauce (see note)
2 - 2½
pound head cauliflower, trimmed, cored and cut into 1½- to 2-inch florets
cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges to serve
01Heat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray.
02In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, tomato paste, tahini, hot sauce, cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the cauliflower and toss with your hands, rubbing the mixture into the florets. Transfer the cauliflower to the prepared baking sheet and turn the florets cut side down as much as possible. Roast without stirring until tender and lightly charred, 25 to 30 minutes.
03Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cilantro and lemon zest. When the cauliflower is done, transfer to a platter, then sprinkle with the cilantro-zest mixture. Serve with lemon wedges and additional tahini for drizzling.
We thoroughly enjoyed this, and it was super simple! I significantly cut the salt since I was sharing with my 13 month old son, and it was still great and didn't seem like it needed additional salt. My cauliflower was deceptively small, so I had extra sauce. I had some firm tofu, so I threw that in the extra sauce, and was surprised at well it turned out. I used Texas Pete, since that's what I had on hand, and it worked out great for me.
What wouldn't you preheat the pan before placing the cauliflower on it? It seems like it would crisp and char better.
Tahini question. Recipe says to add tahini and reserve some for drizzling.
Did you mean to drizzle a tahini “sauce or dressing”, or do you mean to drizzle unflavored plain tahini on top?
Hi. I have all your cookbooks, and I am trying to find this recipe. Can you let me know where to look? Thanks :)
Hi Stephanie -
This recipe appeared in our TV cookbook, The Milk Street Cookbook: The Definitive Guide to the New Home Cooking, Including Every Recipe from Every Episode of the TV Show, 2017-2020. It's the one with the yellow cover with a photo of the TV cast on the front.
The Milk Street Team
I just made it (and we ate most of it already at lunch)! Really delicious. My cauliflower might have been a bit smaller than the 2-2 1/2 lb suggested in the recipe, and I think that might have been one of the causes of the finished cauliflower being a little soft at the end of 25 min. I also had to open the oven door twice because the rimmed cookie sheet made a sudden sound (a bend) and I needed to make sure all was ok. I think the sizzle I could hear before the opening of the door might not have returned...but I will try it again soon to see. I love the cilantro and lemon zest on the top and I will use lemon juice next time also. The flavors are so good. I did wonder if we had put the oil on the cauliflower to begin (alone) and then added the rest, might it not become so soft? Any ideas, other than cooking it on a lower heat for less time? Or is that the best solution? I also cut my florets a little smaller, I realize, than the recipe suggested. Looking forward to making this again! Ideas from others re getting the end product to be crispier? Convection baking? Ok! Thanks! We love it!
I'm about to make this for dinner for the 7th time... I'm a fan.