Char-Roasted Lemony Cauliflower with Crispy Feta and Lots of Herbs

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I’ve always thought of cauliflower as an autumn vegetable, but in reality, it’s season is June through November! There are big, beautiful heads of cauliflower all over the farmers markets in Monterey now.

My favorite way to prepare cauliflower is to roast it at SUPER high heat until it’s tender on the inside, but charred and crisp on the outside. I toss it with oil and whatever spices I’m feeling that day, then finish it off with some crunchy nuts, or some salty cheese, and either serve it over greens, or toss it with enough herbs that they almost act like salad greens (like I did here).

I became obsessed with this method for cooking feta a while back, but somehow haven’t formally written it up until now. You simply dredge fresh feta in a flour, salt, and pepper mixture, then sear it in a skillet on each side until golden brown and crispy. I’ve served it as an accompaniment to roasted vegetables like I do here, grilled vegetables, in salads, with eggs for big brunches with friends, the list goes on. There’s no WRONG way to get crispy feta into your diet.

Char-Roasted Lemony Cauliflower with Crispy Feta and Lots of Herbs

Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 (8 ounce) block feta in brine, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped

Substitutions:

  • Cauliflower—> potatoes, romanesco, sweet potatoes. Broccoli is not a good sub here, it cooks much faster.
  • Olive oil—> whatever your favorite cooking oil is.
  • Garlic powder—> 1 fresh garlic clove, grated, stirred in with the lemon juice, and tossed onto the cauliflower after roasting
  • Dried thyme—> 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or rosemary leaves. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, rosemary, or dill.
  • Smoked paprika—> I LOVE smoked paprika. Get some. But in the meantime, you can use cumin or chili powder instead for some kick.
  • Feta—> you can use halloumi here, but don’t dredge it in flour. Just sear it as is!
  • Sesame seeds—> Everything But The Bagel Seasoning!!! Or poppy seeds. Or just omit!
  • Lemon juice—> 1 tablespoon white balsamic, champagne vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
  • Mint and cilantro—> any fresh, tender herb is wonderful here. Or arugula! Or just serve the cauliflower and feta and call it a day.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Cut the cauliflower and stem into 1/4-inch thick florets. Don’t toss the stem, it’s delicious too! Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika.
  • Spread cauliflower into an even layer and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring a couple times, until very tender and charred all over.
  • Meanwhile, slice 1 (8 ounce) block of feta into 1/4-inch thick slices. Pour 1/4 cup flour into a shallow bowl (or plate) and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a big pinch of black pepper. Dredge the feta through the flour, ensuring the flour sticks to it all over.
  • Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the feta in batches if necessary, for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden-brown all over. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt and 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl and toss with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 cup mint leaves, and 1/4 cup cilantro. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Scatter the crispy feta over top and serve immediately.

Notes

Want to make this a full meal? Drain and dry a can of chickpeas, and roast those along with the cauliflower. Add 2 cups of baby arugula to the herbs that get tossed in, and you’ll have a nice big bulky salad.
Author: Caroline Chambers

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