Recipe: Tandoori-spiced cauliflower

In my current living situation, the biggest source of annoyance/conflict/friction for me and my fellow residents (or at least some of the more vocal ones) is the kitchen. Who left unwashed pots out for days? Who clogged the sink with food? Who is taking up more than their fair share of freezer space? (I probably am…) We’ve actually gotten past these issues for the most part by now, but one major complaint remains: the oven/stove combination unit keeps breaking! It will work for a few days, and then quit. I’m pretty sure it’s a simple electrical problem like a fuse needing to be reset, but since none of us actually know how to fix it, we have to wait for somebody to notice it’s broken, report it to maintenance, and then wait for them to fix it (they’re actually really great about fixing things quickly, but it’s still a hassle)…provided it’s a weekday, of course.

The prep: nice and simple.
The prep: nice and simple.

So when I came back from my run on Saturday morning to find that this appliance was broken again, I was pretty frustrated. Not only would this prevent me from replenishing my dwindling granola supply, but I’d already bought a head of cauliflower so that I could finally try that craze I’d been seeing all over the foodie parts of the Internet for months: roasting the whole thing. I was so excited to finally try it, and here I was, with no oven until Monday at the earliest.

One side getting done...
One side getting done…

Then I realized this definitely fell under the heading of “first world problems” and I could just pan-fry the damn thing instead. I scrapped the recipe I was planning to follow (which I still think sounds delicious) except for the idea of using tandoori spices (because I have and love a tandoori spice mix in the cupboard), and found new inspiration from this James Beard recipe.

...okay, maybe a bit overdone. (Use more oil!)
…okay, maybe a bit overdone. (Use more oil!)

I deviated from the recipe as written by using cooking spray instead of oil, which is probably why my cauliflower got a bit charred..but I kind of like it that way. It would probably be a bit tastier with some garlic thrown in there as well; I was feeling lazy, so I didn’t use any. I’ve never cooked cauliflower before, but this was a good argument for trying it more often (and with Indian spices in particular!). All in all, I think it ended up being just about as simple a process and probably almost as tasty as my original plan.

A bit charred, but still tasty!
A bit charred, but still tasty!

Tandoori-Spiced Cauliflower

Yield: 3-4 side servings (depends on size of cauliflower)

Adapted from: James Beard Foundation and My New Roots.

1 head of cauliflower
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 Tbsp tandoori spice blend
1/4 tsp red chile flakes (optional)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick steaks. Drizzle a little lemon juice on each piece, then rub with tandoori spices to get an even, thin coat.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add as much cauliflower as will fit in a single layer, and lightly season with salt and pepper if desired. Cook the cauliflower steaks (without turning) until caramelized, about 6-8 minutes. Then flip and cook until browned on the bottom and tender, another 6-8 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with any remaining cauliflower.

Serving suggestion: I had this as a side/appetizer to coconut-braised lentils and kale, but it would also go nicely with eggs or chicken and rice.

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