If you’ve been reading My New Roots for a while, you’ll be familiar with my obsession with Middle Eastern cuisine. Ingredients like tahini, lemon, pomegranate, sumac, za’atar, cardamom, thyme, and sesame have big, bold flavours, and act as strong backbones for plant-based recipes, so I enjoy them on a regular basis and rely on them heavily in my recipe development. And if I am out and about in the world, I seek out restaurants serving this style of food, knowing that they’ll have a solid selection of vegetarian options with satisfying flavours.
Speaking of which, whenever I am back home in Toronto, I love going to a restaurant called Fat Pasha. It’s an Israeli place that serves the most decadent, delicious, over-the-top versions of all my favourites: falafel, hummus, fattoush, pickles, salatim, shakshuka…but the menu show-stopper is their whole roasted cauliflower. Brought to the table like a holiday roast, a giant knife sticking out of the top, ready to be carved, I love the ceremony of the entire thing, and the myriad of flavours and textures that it delivers. Slathered in tahini sauce, topped with glistening pomegranate jewels and golden toasted pine nuts, it is savoury, salty, sweet, herby, spicy, crunchy, creamy, nutty, BAM. Stunningly beautiful and deliciously satisfying.
At Fat Pasha, they also serve the whole roasted cauliflower with an incredibly spicy, tasty concoction called skhug. Skhug is a Yemeni hot sauce made from chilies, spices and fresh herbs, mainly cilantro. It ranges from wicked hot to warmly herbaceous, with cumin, coriander, cloves, and black pepper providing added depth and complexity. I friggin’ love this stuff (*pours skhug over entire life*). It’s delicious with hummus and pita, but also yummy folded into a grain salad, stirred into soups and stews, and drizzled over roast veggies, and to whisked into dressings and sauces.
Skhug comes in two varieties, red (skhug adom) and green (skhug yarok). Both are delicious, but I chose green for my version since it tends to me more common, and I was trying to get into the festive spirit and looking for a contrast to the pommies, which were so assertively red. Use the kinds of chilies you can get your hands on, and add them to suit your taste. I (embarrassingly) only used one green Thai chili for my sauce, but I also wanted to enjoy the other flavours coming through (and also because I am a wuss). It was still very spicy, but not so much so that I couldn’t generously dollop it on my cauliflower.
Trying to recreate the whole roasted cauliflower dish at home is all too easy and the results are extraordinary. First, the cauliflower is doused in a spice-infused coconut oil before being roasted to golden perfection (this on its own is waaaay delish). But taking it to the next level is easy with a simple tahini sauce and the skhug, followed by a generous topping of toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. This thing becomes unreasonably beautiful, just a warning, and if you’re looking for something truly special to serve at a holiday meal this year – whether you’re vegetarian or not – this recipe will impress the pants off anyone.
1 large head cauliflower
1 ½ Tbsp. coconut oil
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground paprika
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. fine grain sea salt
¼ cup / 30g pine nuts
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed
2 bunches cilantro (about 3 cups chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 green chilies, minced (add more to taste)
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
Pinch ground cloves
a couple grinds black pepper
¼ – ½ tsp. fine grain sea salt, to taste
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp. water, or more as needed
Simple Tahini Sauce:
¼ cup / 60ml tahini
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. honey or other liquid sweetener
4-6 Tbsp. water, as needed
1. Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
2. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, melt coconut oil and add spices and salt. Stir to combine and remove from heat.
3. Remove any outer leaves from the cauliflower and wash it well. Pat dry with a clean towel, then pour the coconut oil and spice mixture over the top and rub it in to all the nooks and crannies, making sure to coat the bottom as well. Place on a baking sheet and in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes. If it is getting too much colour before it is cooked, place a piece of foil over the top to prevent it from burning. The cauliflower is finished when it is tender.
4. While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauces. Start by washing the cilantro well and spinning it dry. In a food processor or blender, add all the skhug ingredients and blend on high to make a smooth sauce, or pulse to make a chunkier one. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. (Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to one week.)
5. To make the tahini sauce, combine all ingredients together in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. (Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to one week.)
6. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring often, until they are slightly golden. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside.
7. When the cauliflower is cooked through, remove it from the oven and place on a serving plate. Top with the various sauces, and sprinkle with the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately and enjoy.
This will be my last post before 2017, so I want to wish all of you out there a warm, happy, healthy holiday and an abundant new year! Thank you for all for your love and support with all of my projects this year: the My New Roots app, Naturally Nourished, the Gourmet Print Shop and the blog too. You will never know how much you all mean to me! For real.
In health and happiness,
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Exciting announcement! The Gourmet Print Shop is officially open! My vision of creating affordable and beautiful art for your walls is now a reality. After so many of you have requested high-res images of my food photography to print, I’ve answered the call with larger-than-life photo files that you can download and print yourself. It’s a fast, easy, and inexpensive solution to fill that blank space above the sofa, add some colour to the desk at your office, and keep you inspired in the kitchen. Did I mention it makes the most perfect holiday or hostess gift? Obviously. Check out the Gourmet Print Shop today and get printing!