Cauliflower power.

Lately, cauliflower has been pretty mainstream and enjoying some well deserved time in the limelight. Gone are the days of boring cauliflower; boiled to mush covered in cheese (?) sauce or a super cruciferous contribution to your raw veggies and dip. Cauliflower has a unique yet somewhat meaty texture which I think has been playing a role in its stardom. Cauliflower tacos? Yes please. Cauliflower Buffalo Wings? Heck yes. And let us not forget the cauliflower pizza crust trend (which I have yet to try, but I’m sure is delish). Cauliflower belongs to the same family as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale called brassica.

One of my fave little joints here in Victoria has THE BEST French fries and the spice mix they coat them in is to die for. That very spice mix was inspiration for my flavouring for the cauliflower today. The term for the spice mix is Hawaij; a traditional spice mix from Israel traditionally used in curries, soups and even coffee. Traditionally Hawaij is made from cumin, black pepper, cardamom and turmeric but offers space for modification. My variation of this spice mix includes cumin, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, garlic powder and paprika. Typically I would have included turmeric without a doubt, but for the first time I had only fresh turmeric and no dried turmeric in my spice cabinet. If you love it, add it (maybe 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon). If not, then don’t. The flavour is amazing without it. This dish would be a great accompaniment to your weekend BBQ or as a side dish, added in to an energy bowl or on it’s own. Topped with some fresh herbs, the flavours are diverse, intense and unique.

I believe cooking with spices is beneficial in so many ways – endless flavour possibilities; spices are proven disease fighters; flavouring with spices will lead you to step away from store-bought sauces, dips and flavourings, which often can contain sneaky undesirable ingredients; and, last but not least, spices really are inexpensive especially when you can purchase them in bulk. In many cultures around the world where spices play a major role in cooking, spice markets or bazaars exist, which are culinary adventures of their own. Moral of the story is to make friends with spices!

I’ve served this dish alongside a dairy-free almond tzatziki-like dip to quell some of the warmth from the black pepper in particular (if you are sensitive to black pepper, you may want to reduce the amount in the spice mix). However, the recipe isn’t quite to where I’d like it to be… so, take note, this dip will likely make a re-appearance on the blog. But for the purpose of today’s post and to have a yummy dip to go along with these florets, I’ll include the recipe as it’s pretty tasty for the first attempt but, like many things when it comes to cooking, has room for improvement. Feel free to omit or replace with a dip of your own preference.

Spiced Cauli Florets with Almond Tzatziki

Serves up to 4 as a side

1/2 large head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Fresh herbs for garnish (parsley, dill, basil or mint would work)

Almond Tzatziki:
1 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/3 English cucumber, grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Preheat oven to convection roast 350ºF if the option is available. If not, select regular roast at 425ºF. Chop cauliflower head in half and return one half to refrigerator for later use. Put the flat side of the cauliflower against the cutting board for stability. Using a sharp knife remove the stem, stalks and leaves. Cut the cauliflower apart by running your knife between the stem and the florets. Use the tip of your knife to cut the florets into smaller pieces. Size here really just depends on preference.

2. Rinse cauliflower to ensure all dirt and debris are removed from the nooks and crannies of the florets. Allow most of the water to drain off or pat with a clean tea towel or paper towel.

3. Transfer cauliflower to a mixing bowl and add melted coconut oil. Use your hands to toss and coat thoroughly.

4. In a small bowl, combine all measured out spices and mix together. Sprinkle over top cauliflower and again toss to thoroughly coat.

5. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, tossing half way through. You can check the level of cooking here by sampling a piece. It will likely still be pretty crunchy and need to go back in for a few more minutes.

6. While your cauliflower is roasting, prepare your almond tzatziki (*optional). First, soak the almonds in boiling water for about 5 minutes (or for up to an hour in room temperature if you’re planning ahead).

7. While the almonds are soaking, grate the cucumber. Removing the seeds is recommended but not necessary.

8. Drain and rinse the almonds before transferring to high speed blender or food processor. Add garlic, water, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil. Blend on high until mostly smooth or until ideal texture is achieved, adding more water as needed to allow for easier blending. Use a spatula to scrape dip into a small bowl and top with grated cucumber.

9. Once cooked, remove cauliflower from the oven and immediately transfer to serving plate. Top with fresh herbs, coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Serve alongside almond tzatziki or other dip of choice.