Cauliflower seems like one of the least exciting vegetables possible. It’s white, it has little pieces that get everywhere, and its most redeeming quality is that it is excellent when completely smothered in cheese (unless, of course, you don’t eat cheese. In which case its most redeeming quality is that you get to avoid eating it due to veganism or lactose intolerance or both).
This cauliflower with sage salt and lemon (and no cheese) is not only a complete reversal of everything I thought was possible in a plain white vegetable, but is delicious and easy. The recipe would probably also work with lightly-flavoured vegetables that aren’t cauliflower, and you can use any leftover sage salt to flavour other dishes.
The Best Cauliflower Ever
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tsp olive oil
4 tsp fresh sage leaves
1/3 tbsp coarse salt
pinch of kosher salt or table salt
2 tbsp vegan margarine or unsalted butter
1 lemon, with zest
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan until “rippling.” Add the sage and cook until it starts to get crispy (for about 2 minutes). If you cannot use fresh sage, dried sage leaves are a passable replacement: heat the oil, add the sage, cook for about 20 seconds, and do everything else the same as with fresh sage. Remove from heat, lift the sage out using a fork, and let it drain on paper towels. Transfer the oil to a bowl big enough to hold the cauliflower. When the sage has cooled, crumble it with your fingers, put it in a small bowl, add the coarse salt, and set it aside.
3. Add the cauliflower to the bowl with oil in it, add the kosher salt, and toss until coated. Spread out on a baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, until browned.
4. Melt the margarine or butter in a small pan over medium heat, stirring often. If you are using butter, when it stops foaming, watch it carefully — it will be done when it starts to brown and smell a little toasty. Remove from the heat, add the juice from your zested lemon, and stir.
5. Move the cauliflower to a bowl, serving dish, or clean plate. Add the melted margarine, lemon zest, and half of the sage and salt. Toss. Season with remaining sage and salt to taste.
Adapted from the New York Times.