Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel – A Virtual Potluck with Monica Bhide


22 Jun Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel – A Virtual Potluck with Monica Bhide

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Okay, I’m trying really hard to keep it real. See the aqua cast iron pan? It’s older than I am and has permanent baked on stains. Remember that. It’s important.

Why? Because this is my contribution to Monica Bhide’s Virtual Potluck Party and I’m trying really hard not to let my head get too big. I think this is the first of its kind and I know the guest list is impressive.

As a fun way to promote Modern Spice, Monica invited a couple dozen food bloggers to a virtual potluck. We’re all making dishes from her book, posting on our respective blogs, and then “gathering” at Monica’s to share the results.

After I accepted the invitation Monica told me dessert was being covered by Dorie Greenspan — yes, THAT Dorie Greenspan, the five-time James Beard winner who is the Julia Child of baking. I began to breathe quickly.

And later, when Monica oh-so-casually mentioned that Julie Powell is also taking part — the blogger who landed the Julie & Julia book deal that became a best seller and then got made into a movie starring Meryl Streep — well, I practically hyperventilated.

What would I wear? How would I shoot the dish? What if I screwed up? I ran around the kitchen flapping my arms and trying to dispel the bad mojo of my previous podcast. I was just about to hurl myself into what my mother calls a full-bore-lateral-panic when I saw my aqua blue cast iron skillet sitting on my crappy grease-splattered stove. Both humble items have cooked hundreds of meals. They’re seasoned veterans. Those stains are battle scars, culinary badges of honour, if you will.

So, I put the Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel in my hand-me-down aqua blue cast iron pan and popped the dish into my bottom-of-the-line gas stove. The dish came out perfectly. And the aqua enamel provided a subtle contrast to the golden brown of the roasted cauliflower. I then went outside, took some shots, and proceeded to eat the entire dish all by myself.

No wonder Monica says of all the recipes in the book, this is the favourite of her and the kids.

When you’re done here, stop by Monica’s to see what the final meal looks like and sneak a peek at her guest list. I’m not sure if everyone has arrived yet, but I’m going to be one of those annoying guests who shows up early while you’re still half dressed and haven’t had time to set the table. Just keepin’ it real.


Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel
Printable Recipe
Recipes courtesy of Monica Bhide, from her book Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

I owe a lot—it taught me how to cook well and how to take chances with ingredients and cooking methods. This dish is a perfect example. I had made cauliflower every which way—I blanched it, sautéed it, boiled it, mashed it, deep fried it, and have even eaten it raw. But until eGullet, I never knew I could roast it! This recipe really brings out the richness of the cauliflower and is matched perfectly with the robustness of the spices. I use my fennel rub along with a few other spices. If you have sea salt, it works really well with this recipe. The cauliflower tends to shrink when roasted so one head of cauliflower is about right for 2 servings.

Serves 2
Prep/Cook time: 40 minutes

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 1⁄4 to 1 1⁄2 pounds)
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons Fennel-Chile Dry Rub (see below)
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt to start

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the cauliflower into 1-inch florets and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and toss with your hands to coat each floret.
2. In a small bowl combine the dry rub, coriander, and salt. Add the spice mixture to the cauliflower. Once again, no tool is better than your hands. Get in there and make sure all the florets are well coated.
3. Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and spread out evenly in a single layer. Don’t worry if it is a little crowded. If you really cannot fit it on one sheet, use two.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes. Stir and bake for another 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is well browned and cooked through. Serve hot.

Fennel-Chile Dry Rub

This is a wonderful rub for meats and fish. While I prefer it as a dry rub, you can add lemon juice or a neutral oil like grapeseed to make it wet if you like. Use the rub on your choice of meat, allow it to marinate for a few minutes, and then grill, roast, or sauté. As with any spice, if you are going to store this for a long time, please ensure it is still flavorful before using. Use your nose—if you can smell the spices, it is still good to go; if not, toss it and make a fresh batch. This rub lasts up to two months in a sealed container.

Makes about 1/4 cup
Prep/Cook time: 5 minutes

  • 1⁄4 cup fennel seeds
  • 4 whole dried red chiles
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground peppercorns (use a medley of different colored peppercorns)

1. Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds. Toss until the seeds are fragrant. This takes just about 1 minute, so watch them carefully and keep tossing the seeds in the pan or they will burn.
2. Add the chiles and toss for another 5 seconds.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Grind to a coarse powder in a spice grinder. Add the peppercorns and mix well.
5. Store, covered, until needed.

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No Comments
  • Amy
    Posted at 09:30h, 22 June Reply


  • Julie
    Posted at 10:01h, 22 June Reply

    Wow, that looks fantastic – I love roasted cauliflower! I would have had the same reaction if invited to a dinner party with such a guest list. Love the dish!

  • danamccauley
    Posted at 11:49h, 22 June Reply

    Love, love, love! roasted cauliflower. This looks like a fantastic recipe.

    : )

  • Angelique from Bitchin' Lifestyle
    Posted at 15:46h, 22 June Reply

    Hey there!

    My grandmother makes cauliflower all the time… sometimes she fries it with an edd/flour/fennel batter and sometimes she roasts it like this. Nice recipe, reminds me of the good old days!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 16:13h, 22 June Reply

    Very funny story. And very good looking dish. The veggie dish at the potluck will not be sidelined again! I somehow doubt jellied salad was on this menu.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 16:13h, 22 June Reply

    Very funny story. And very good looking dish. The veggie dish at the potluck will not be sidelined again! I somehow doubt jellied salad was on this menu.

  • debbie koenig
    Posted at 17:10h, 22 June Reply

    Just gorgeous! Funny what you wrote about Dorie Greenspan–I had the same response when Monica told me Dorie and I were both bringing dessert.

  • Kelsey B.
    Posted at 17:25h, 22 June Reply

    Love it! I know, it is good the dishes were tried by multiple people. I brought the same dessert as Dorie – talk about a surprise! I love your blog!

  • dorie
    Posted at 18:27h, 22 June Reply

    The cauliflower looks great — sorry I wasn't there to polish it off with you. Actually, I would have loved to have been with all the cooks and Monica, but, like you, I'd have fretted over what to wear.

    Love your mother's expression: full-bore-lateral-panic. I've had the experience often, I just never knew the proper term for it:)

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 22:31h, 22 June Reply

    Thanks to all who participated. It was great fun.

    Amy, thanks. They really were tasty.

    Julie, glad I'm not the only one to have hit the panic button.

    Dana, it's a lovely recipe and I'm tempted to make it again with cumin seeds instead of fennel. Can you imagine it drizzled with homemade raita?

    Angelique, roasted cauliflower is fairly new to me. I don't remember my grandmother making anything but cookies. I know she cooked other things, but my memories are very selective.

    Cheryl A, jellied salad was NOT on the menu. But if anyone could make it sexy, Monica is the one to do that. She'd do something with pomegranates and guava and make it all the rage…

    Debbie, I'd have fainted if Monica assigned me dessert alongside Dorie.

    Kelsey, sharing a category with Dorie would intimidate me enough, but to do the same dessert? I dropped by your blog earlier and you did great.

    Dorie, my mother has many such expressions. And I'd have gladly shared my cauliflower with you.

  • Sweet Kitchen
    Posted at 23:01h, 22 June Reply

    I love roasted cauliflower but never thought to pair it with fennel, another favourite. I can't wait to try it!

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 10:50h, 23 June Reply

    Ah, to have missed this party… garr! Glad it was such a success. I can't wait to get home to my own kitchen and finally start cooking from Monica's book.

  • Miss T
    Posted at 13:46h, 23 June Reply

    That looks incredibly good, and I really love that wonderful old pan. It's fabulous.

  • sillygirl
    Posted at 18:00h, 23 June Reply

    I made this last night using broccoli (which I had) instead of cauliflower (which I did not) and it was great!!!!!

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