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When Veggies Play Dress-up: Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon-Herb Dressing

My boyfriend once told me that he’d break up with me if I ever became a vegetarian. This was not a carnivorous admission of a meat-free phobia, nor was it a revealing statement that opened the windows into the mind of a strange diet-tyrant.

It was actually an indicator of my embarrassingly exuberant love of processed and cured meats. Apparently if I ever found it within myself to forgo sausage and bacon and prosciutto, it would mean that some core tenet of my being had changed.

He was, for the most part, joking, but he had hit upon a very true chord. I will eat and enjoy any vegetables. But I believe in the statement, “Bacon makes everything better,” in the same fervent way I once believed Santa Clause needed those cookies if he was going to finish his long Christmas Eve journey: there’s no rationale behind it, but it is undeniably, unequivocally true.

On occasion, however, something comes along that shakes those adamant certainties, even if just for a second. Just like the Christmas morning where Rudolph’s ink-stamped autograph looked suspiciously like the paw print of my pet beagle, this roasted cauliflower dish briefly forced the idea that maybe I don’t need any alligator sausage in my life. (This was very brief, of course). When roasted in slices, rather than florets, cauliflower gains a strange meaty quality. It becomes substantial and hearty, rather than delicate. And with a tangy lemon-herb mixture poured on top, it’s absolutely delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower and Herb Sauce
From The Meaning of Pie
Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower
2 tbs olive oil
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup mixed fresh herbs (I used what was already in my fridge: basil, oregano, and sage)
1 ½ tbs lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°. Rinse the cauliflower head and cut the stem section to remove the leaves and much of the stem; you want to get the green stem as short as possible while leaving the florets entirely intact.

Place the head of cauliflower in a pie dish and rub the 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the surface. Sprinkle the salt on top. Place the dish in the oven to roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check at 1 hour, and if the head is browning too much, cover it with tin foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

While the cauliflower is roasting, finely chop the herbs. If you’re into saving on the dish washing, add the lemon juice and herbs to the measuring cup that is holding your olive oil. Use a whisk to fully combine the dressing.

Let the finished cauliflower sit for a few minutes, then pour the lemon-herb dressing over it. Cut the head into wedges, like a pie, and serve immediately.

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