Roasted Mediterranean Cauliflower (Inspired by True Food Kitchen)
If you’re new to plant-based eating and looking for a restaurant that has great options, True Food Kitchen is a great choice if you’re lucky enough to have one close by. Their concept is simple: “A health-driven, seasonal restaurant merging nutrient-rich ingredients with a flavor-forward menu that rotates regularly to let guests experience great-tasting ingredients at the peak of their freshness”.
It was established partly by Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer and leader of Integrative Medicine, a field which attempts to improve health naturally with a focus on “body, mind, and spirit.” The food at True Food Kitchen is based on a “set of simple and exhaustively researched principles known as the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. This diet—not so much a “diet” in the ever-trendy weight loss variety—encourages simple changes in eating habits to avoid and counteract chronic inflammation: a root cause of heart disease, many cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and more. It is a way of selecting and preparing foods based on science that can help people achieve and maintain optimum health over their lifetime”.
I’ve been to True Food Kitchen on many occasions, and have tried just about every plant-based item on their menu. It took about five or six visits before I finally ordered the harissa tahini charred cauliflower appetizer. Wow, had I been missing out! This dish was a perfect combination of creamy, nutty, spicy, and crunchy, and was sprinkled with just enough herbs to bring out the freshness from the garden.
After a recent visit there, my wife and I were craving more, so she searched for and found a great mock-up recipe. One of the best things about this dish is that it’s pretty simple to prepare. I’d recommend making double or triple the recipe because trust me, you’ll be wanting more!!
If you’re not familiar with harissa, it’s a popular spice in North Africa which contains a blend of hot chile peppers (which are often smoked), garlic, and other spices like cumin, coriander, caraway. I love sprinkling it on just about every savory dish, and use it frequently to top hummus and avocado toast. Tahini is a nutty paste or sauce made from toasted ground sesame seeds. For this recipe, you’ll want to find a brand with a more sauce-like consistency. I recently learned that Trader Joe’s brand is excellent and used this in my hummus recipe.
Original recipe from Her Modern Kitchen
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets (you can also buy this pre-chopped and already washed to save time)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, can reduce to 1 tablespoon or eliminate if avoiding oil. However, cauliflower can tend to dry out while roasting and may not brown quite as well)
- ⅓ cup tahini (sesame paste, can usually be found in ethnic food aisle or near other nut butters)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed and separated (if you don’t have a garlic press, just dice into small pieces)
- juice of half a lemon (more to taste)
- 1-2 tablespoon harissa powder (not paste), depending on spice preference (this spice can be difficult to locate, but is usually available at Whole Foods or other specialty grocers. I’ve also found it at Williams Sonoma. If not available locally, try ordering online)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable broth, plus 2-3 tablespoons as needed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 dates, diced (I omitted these as they add a bit too much sweetness and I don’t love the texture in this dish)
- 2 tablespoons mint, roughly chopped (I omitted this as I feel it detracts from the warm, spicy flavors)
- 2 tablespoons dill
- ¼ cup toasted pistachios
- Preheat oven to 450* and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside
- In a medium sized bowl, toss together the cauliflower florets, 1 clove of garlic and the olive oil
- Spread the cauliflower evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes
- While the cauliflower roasts make the tahini-harissa dressing
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining garlic, tahini, lemon juice, harissa, vegetable broth, and salt. If the dressing is a bit thick and does not easily drizzle off the whisk, add more vegetable broth 1 tablespoon at a time.
- When the cauliflower is lightly browned and tender, remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes then transfer to a medium size bowl.
- Toss the cauliflower with half of the tahini-harissa dressing then lightly fold in the dates and pistachios.
- Top with chopped mint and dill and serve immediately.
- Remaining tahini-harissa dressing can be stored up for a week in the refrigerator.