Cauliflower was, until very recently, the forgotten vegetable. Perhaps its pale exterior or its characteristic bumpy surface were deterrents for many people. The truth is that with bright colored veggies and fruits commanding all the attention, it is difficult to find a place in the sun when you look like a cauliflower.

Whatever the reason for its second tier status, cauliflower has always been one of my favorite vegetables. Truly at the top of my list. I ate it as a child with nothing more than a drizzle of good olive oil and some sea salt. Sometimes, when the occasion called for a more sophisticated approach, it used to make appearances drowned in bechamel sauce and cheese, rendering its beneficial nutritional properties null. I still enjoyed it, but I was a purist even then and the mushy casserole was not my cup of tea at all.

It is very likely that the strong odor that emanates from cooked cauliflower is the real culprit for its lack of popularity. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that has one clear advantage over say, a fiery pepper: its versatility. No pun intended, but cauliflower IS a white canvas, and not just for its mild flavor but also for its malleability. It can be made into rice or mashed. It can be pureed, roasted or battered and fried (in a pinch). Or it can always be disguised under a blanket of cheesy sauce to make it undetectable. I don’t recommend it, but it is cauliflower’s destiny more often than not.

Cauliflower has experienced a sort of Renaissance in the last couple of years. Suddenly, the internet (and many cookbooks) are requiring ample amounts of cauliflower. The previously maligned veggie has become the darling of vegans and vegetarians all over the world. There is cauliflower pizza, cauliflower tortillas and cauliflower “rice”. All in the name of paleo friendly recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these preparations, but there is a bit of hype mixed into all the recipes. It is inevitable.

In the meantime, as I have done for many years, I like to enjoy most foods as close as possible to their natural state. That’s not to say that, occasionally, I will mash, puree, grill or bake the stems off my vegetables, but for the most part I tend to simplify and shoot for fresh and balanced flavors. The recipe that follows is not complicated and it lets this veggie shine as only it can.

Cauliflower’s cousins are all veggies from the brassica family: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mustard greens, kale…Their characteristic smell comes from sulfur compounds that become volatile during the cooking process. They are precisely what makes this fantastic group of veggies so healthy for you. They are very low in calories with virtually no fat or carbs. It does provide some beneficial fiber and Vitamin C when consumed in its raw state.

Did you know that even cauliflower varieties now come in a rainbow of colors? There are many varieties with purple being the most exotic shade available. You can also find this veggie in orange and light green. Romanesco is a variety with a pagoda style top that is as striking as it is delicious. It sports the most sophisticated fractal pattern of its curd (edible top) in a lime green color. You can use any of these varieties for this recipe and the result will be just as delectable.

Ingredients

1 whole head cauliflower
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper

Dressing

2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white miso paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Chop cauliflower head into bite sized pieces, and place in a bowl. The stems are fully edible.

Coat the cauliflower with olive oil. Use your hands to make sure all pieces are covered with a thin layer of oil. Add spices to bowl and mix thoroughly until they are distributed evenly. Depending on how much cauliflower you are preparing, and if the head is large with lots of curd (edible portion), you may choose to add more spices.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and spread the cauliflower pieces evenly on top. Place in oven for 45 minutes, flipping and tossing the pieces in 15 minute intervals.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with a generous drizzle over the warm cauliflower.