Friday, March 15, 2013

Whole Foods Friday: Roasted Chili-Cheese Cauliflower

I love finding an ingredient and then creating recipes just for that one ingredient. Sometimes that's something in the produce aisle or a new cut of meat or a new type of fish. This time it was the bulk spice section that hooked me. I found some cheese powder that most people would sprinkle onto popcorn.

But, hey, cheese goes with a lot more than popcorn, right?

I'm a big fan of all sorts of cheese, from fresh soft cheese to aged hard cheese and from blue cheese to yellow. I like high-end cheeses and I like mass-market cheeses.

So why use a cheese powder?

Well, sometimes I just want the flavor of cheese without the moisture, gooeyness or texture that cheese would bring to the table. Like when I'm sprinkling cheese powder on popcorn. Once you start working with cheese powder, you'll probably find a lot of uses for it.

This time, I used it on cauliflower. It seems pretty natural - I've made cauliflower soup with cheese, and I've served cauliflower with cheese sauce. But this time I had had different plans.

Roasted cauliflower is much different than boiled or steamed - it's like a whole different vegetable. It's sweeter,  it's caramelized, and it's toasty. The color is also more interesting that plain white cauliflower. It's great when it's prepared simply, with just a bit of oil and salt.

But I didn't want to stop there. First, the cheese powder. Then some spice.

This is a very simple recipe, and it doesn't need a lot of attention, but once it starts browning you do need to watch it so it doesn't burn. Caramelized cauliflower is great; blackened cauliflower isn't so great. To get the cauliflower cooked evenly, I suggest stirring it around a few times during cooking.

Roasted Chili-Cheese Cauliflower
Recipe © by Do not republish without permission.
1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Remove the core of the cauliflower and break it into florets. Cut the larger florets into smaller pieces so that all the pieces are about the same size.

Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Stir the cauliflower around to get it coated with the oil as best you can. If you used a really huge cauliflower, you can add a bit more oil.

Roast the cauliflower at 350 degrees, stirring it every 10 minutes or so. When you see it starting to brown, after about 20 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with the cheese powder and chili powder. Toss it around a bit to get it evenly coated.

Continue cooking until the cauliflower is cooked through and can be easily pierced with a fork, about another 10 minutes. It won't get mushy-tender like it can when you boil or steam it.

Keep in mind that the cooking time will vary depending on how large your florets are and how well-done you want your cauliflower. It could be done to your liking in 20 minutes, or you might like it better when it's seriously browned.

Serve hot. If you like, sprinkle with some additional cheese powder before serving.