Romesco roasted whole cauliflower is a festive and delicious holiday table centrepiece. A vegan and gluten-free entree with make-ahead options
Check out this festive little stunner! Maybe it’s a little too early to be bringing out the holiday colour palette in my recipes here, but also maybe some of you are seriously keen planners? If you’re looking ahead to the holidays and thinking about what you’re going to make for your vegan and gluten-free niece that’s also allergic to tree nuts, or you’re just looking for some general vegetable inspiration, I’ve got a whole page dedicated to all of my best festive recipes from both my blog and book. You can check it out HERE. What’s a dish that you look forward to the most when celebrating all the end-of-year festivities?
I’ve ate a few whole roasted cauliflower dishes at restaurants before, and I know that they’ve been on the scene for a while, but most of the ones I’ve tried have been kinda meh. Most notably: they were all basically raw in the middle and virtually impossible to cut and serve without clanging a knife loudly on the plate and disrupting the vibe of the entire restaurant. I’ve also found them to lack seasoning throughout the cauliflower down to the core. I really wanted to make my own little flavour bomb version (or perhaps a Flavourtown version?!) that was well seasoned throughout, tender in the center, had a light crust on the exterior, and was served with a creamy sauce and a bunch of textural garnishes. How hard could it be?
Making this romesco roasted whole cauliflower is a bit of a process! I took a pretty orange cauliflower (which helped emphasize the deep red romesco a bit more–we eat with our eyes first!), steamed it to ensure even tenderness, slathered it in the romesco (probably my favourite sauce of all time), and then roasted it until it got a wee little crust on the outside. Then, we cover the whole thing in a pretty green flecked tahini sauce with lots of lemon juice.
This combination is SO flavourful! This dish hinges on the romesco and tahini sauces, which can both be made quickly in the food processor up to 5 days in advance. Then, all you have to do on the day of the big meal is steam and roast your cauliflower, set up your serving platter, and get your garnishes out. It’s beautiful, simple, just the right amount of festive, and also incredibly delicious.
Keeping it light and brief today. I’ve got a little more holiday cooking inspiration over on the Etsy blog this week as well. You can check it out here :)
Romesco Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Herbed Tahini Cream
- ½ cup toasted sunflower seeds
- 2 roasted red peppers
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons sherry OR apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- small handful flat parsley leaves
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- scant ½ cup virgin olive oil
HERBED TAHINI CREAM:
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ½ cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed
- ½ cup tahini (I like Soom brand)
- ⅓ cup ice water, plus extra
- 1 medium-large head of cauliflower, 2 lbs, leaves removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Make the sunflower romesco: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sunflower seeds, roasted red peppers, garlic, paprika, cayenne, vinegar, tomato paste, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until all ingredients are finely chopped and lightly pasty. Scrape the bowl down. With the motor on low, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube until sauce is creamy. Check for seasoning and set aside.
- Rinse the food processor. Make the herbed tahini cream. In the food processor combine the lemon juice, garlic, maple syrup, salt, parsley, green onions, and rosemary. Pulse the mixture until herbs are finely chopped. Add the tahini and pulse to combine. It will get pasty. With the motor running, drizzle in the ice water until you have a smooth, fluid, slightly aerated sauce. Check for seasoning and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Make the whole roasted cauliflower: using a paring knife, cut into the core of the cauliflower on an angle to expose the “branches” and crevices of the cauliflower. Flip the cauliflower right side up and place in a steamer basket. In a large pot, bring a couple inches of water to a boil. Once boiling, carefully drop the steamer basket in and close a lid on tight. Steam the cauliflower for 10 minutes. The exterior should yield to a poke from a paring knife.
- Carefully extract the cauliflower from the pot and dry off the surface thoroughly. Flip the cauliflower over and spoon some of the romesco into the crevices. Shake and tap the cauliflower to work it in.
- Line an oven-proof skillet or baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cauliflower inside, right side up. Brush the exterior with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Transfer to the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, take the cauliflower out and brush it liberally with romesco. Place the cauliflower back in the oven for another 35-40 minutes, or until browned, dry on the exterior & yielding when poked with a knife.
- Serve whole roasted cauliflower hot on a platter with more romesco, herbed tahini cream, and garnishes of choice.
- You can make the romesco and tahini cream up to 5 days in advance. Keep them in the fridge!
- I dropped a few lemon slices and smashed garlic cloves into the steaming water for my cauliflower for a little extra flavour infusion. This is an optional additional step.
- You can broil the cauliflower on high at the end for a couple minutes for some extra browning if you like! Just keep an eye on it while it’s under.