Roasted cauliflower flavored with cumin and served with a feta cream cheese dip.
Before we moved to Brooklyn (so way before we headed up to Beacon), Matt and I lived in one of the most cross-cultural neighborhoods in New York City, Astoria, Queens. It was like the real-life version of one of those 90s comedies. You know, the ones where the cab driver is sitting next to a lawyer who’s sitting next to a dominatrix and they’re all eating souvlaki prepared by a Sikh cook and served by a Russian waitress. It was like that.
It’s still one of the best places in the city to find ingredients from all over the world, especially Mexico, India and Greece. If the area is known for one type of food in particular, it’s Greek. Our weekends often involved a stop at Titan Foods where we would spend most of our rent money on olives and Feta cheese. If you’re ever in the area, check it out. It’s like the Disney-land of Feta up in there, not even kidding.
In this case we’re using feta as the sauce (more of a dip, really), for some incredibly delicious cumin-dusted roasted cauliflower.
Can I just pause for a moment to say how much I love cauliflower. It’s so tasty, versatile and extremely healthy. Like all cruciferous vegetables, Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. While we often do our best to nullify all that good stuff by baking it in a cheesy mornay sauce (I’m referring to the classic British dish with the imaginative name, ‘Cauliflower Cheese’), this time we used my other favorite method, roasting.
Yes, cauliflower comes in different colors now and, no, it’s not a gimmick. Purple cauliflower gets its beautiful color from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine. Orange cauliflower was first discovered in Canada in 1970, though it took years of crossbreeding before it was widely available. The color comes from a genetic mutation that allows the plant to hold more beta carotene. It also contains about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower.
Sheep’s-milk fetas (the classic) tend to be sharpest; goat’s- and cow’s-milk versions are milder. The three most common varieties you’re likely to find in most cheese shops are:
Often the saltiest, with a firm but creamy texture. Great for slicing and drizzling with olive oil.
Mild and creamy. Less briny than most. It’s my favorite for this recipe because it’s not very salty and whips up into the smooth as silk dip.
Briny, tangy, and sharp. Finer in texture, it’s my favorite crumbled in salads or in Spanakopita.
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables to roast. It becomes tender inside but crispy at the edges. While olive oil, salt and pepper is all you really need, I like to sprinkle on a little spice, in this case earthy cumin. It pairs beautifully with the whipped feta.
If feta isn’t your thing or you can’t find it, you could make the same dip using fresh goats cheese. You could also add your favorite soft herbs too, like chives, mint, tarragon or basil.
- 1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 ounces feta, crumbled (preferably French)
- 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (salt may not be needed depending on the saltines of the feta)
- 2-3 tablespoons cream (optional)
- Thinly slices scallions or chives and roughly chopped parsley (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425ºF
- Place cauliflower on a sheet tray and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle on cumin, salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated with oil and seasoning. Spread out in an even layer and roast in the middle rack of the oven, turning once, until tender and brown, about 20-25 minutes
- Place the feta, grated garlic and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times. Add the cream (if using), olive oil and lemon juice and process until smooth and silky.
- To serve, transfer the cauliflower to a serving plate and scatter over scallions and parsley, if using. Dollop over the whipped feta or place it in a small bowl, for dipping.