Roasted cauliflower is tender and creamy. As they brown, the florets caramelize, gaining a perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavors. I thought roasted cauliflower was heaven until at an Indian restaurant I had Manchurian Cauliflower. Spicy and roasted in a tomato sauce, it was even more irresistible than cauliflower roasted with olive oil and herbs. “If only I could eat this at home,” I thought.
Talking with the restaurant’s chef, Suvir Saran, I learned that he grew up in India. His family’s chef taught him to cook traditional Indian dishes. When he came to America, he continued to make classics like saag paneer and tandoori chicken. But he also added creative variations like yogurt-marinated tandoori lamb chops tender enough to cut with your fork. Manchurian Cauliflower was another of his creations.
Once Suvir explained how to make it, I knew this dish needed a health-oriented makeover to keep it irresistible without deep-frying the cauliflower before roasting it. Also, I did not wish to use ketchup as the sauce’s main ingredient.
Suvir agreed that first roasting the cauliflower with a seasoning rub, and then baking it in the sauce would be fine. I figured out that actual tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, vinegar and a pinch of cloves would have the same tang and heat as ketchup, while adding far less sugar.
For best results, trim as much stem as possible from the florets, and then cut them into roughly 1-inch pieces. Massage them with the seasoning rub until the cauliflower looks beige, a minute or more. Finally, the sauce pools and sticks to the pan, so line it with foil for easier clean up.
Roasted Cauliflower with Spiced Tomato Sauce
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper preferably white
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil divided
- 7-8 cups medium cauliflower florets from a 2¼ - 2½ lb. cauliflower head
- Cooking spray
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
- 1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce, no salt added
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tsp. raw sugar
- 2 tsp. white distilled vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/8 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In large mixing bowl, combine cumin, coriander, cardamom, ground pepper and 1 tablespoon oil. Add cauliflower and with your hands, toss and rub to coat florets, 1 minute.
Line 11-inch x 15-inch jelly roll pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray. Arrange seasoned cauliflower in one layer on pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir, then bake 10 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, vinegar, cloves, cayenne and salt and mix to combine. Cook until sauce bubbles vigorously around edges of pot.
Spoon tomato sauce over cauliflower on pan and mix with spatula until florets are well coated, 1 minute. Roast cauliflower 10 minutes. Stir, and bake until florets are tender, about 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
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Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
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Photograph by Heather Victoria Photography