Mediterranean Flair– Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives and Lemon-Parsley Gremolata
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.– James Beard
Spring is in the air, a season for new growth and rejuvenation. Everywhere we see, nature is awakening from its long winter rest. With flowers blooming, and landscape covered with green blanket, there is a sense of new life welcoming the ever inspiring spring, signifying a fresh start. And what better way to celebrate this beautiful time than to cook up something delicious with fresh ingredients and clean flavors just like the season itself.
Growing up I was always intrigued by cauliflower, a vegetable that came in a beautiful green leafy package. Peel off the leaves, and a white head of tiny trees clustered together greeted me. It was like removing gift wrap to find a lovely present inside. And who doesn’t like presents? I guess, that is why I have always loved this vegetable–a beautifully packaged gift from Mother Nature.
My love for roasted cauliflower began a few years ago. One night not wanting to cook it on the stove top like I usually did, I tossed it with all the flavorings and put it in the oven to roast. Leaving the oven to do the work, I anxiously waited for my experiment to materialize, not knowing what the result would be. A few minutes later to my delight, I found the cauliflower roasted to perfection–golden and caramelized. And the flavor was deep and nutty. I was thrilled. Since then it’s become my favorite.
Ever since, I have added roasted cauliflower to pilafs, pastas, soups. and salads. Roasting brings out the flavors of this pale and bland vegetable to its fullest. It’s nutty flavor has far more depth than the steamed one. And it holds its texture as well. Flavor it as you fancy: simply with salt and pepper, Asian style with chilli flakes and sesame oil, or Indian style with garam masala and ginger. Choices are many and they are all delicious.
My choice for this recipe has Mediterranean flair with its clean and simple ingredients to complement the freshness of spring. Fresh parsley, lemon, garlic, Kalamata olives, and of course the nutritious cauliflower. All the ingredients are tied together with good olive oil. I used the Greek kalamata olive oil bursting with rich flavor. Add sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts or leave it as is. It is a delicious and healthy plate of clean flavors –perfect to celebrate the spring’s arrival.
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 large cloves garlic, minced
8 Kalamata olives, cut in quarters
Mint for garnish
Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Transfer it to a sheet pan in a single layer not crowding the florets. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and still holding its shape. Roasting time will vary depending on the size of cauliflower florets.
While the cauliflower is roasting, combine parsley, zest of lemon, garlic, salt and pepper to make gremolata. Set aside.
When cauliflower is done, add the parsley mixture (gremolata) and Kalamata olives. Combine gently taking care not to break the florets. Adjust seasonings.
Serve on a platter, drizzle the remaining olive oil and garnish with fresh mint.