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Food

Whole roasted cauliflower is the lazy cook’s best friend

Roasted cauliflower
A long roast in a high-heat oven renders a whole head of cauliflower lightly charred, tender and supremely flavorful.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times )

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So, we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go into detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

Lesson 25: Whole roasted cauliflower
Trends come and go but one I’m happily still riding, regardless of its fashionability, is whole roasted cauliflower.

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There’s something very satisfying about palming a whole head onto a baking sheet and tossing it into the oven to care for itself, liberating myself from the finicky breaking up of florets that sends those little bits all over my counter. It’s the perfect lazy person’s dish, but there are still a couple of tricks you’ll want to deploy to get it just right.

It’s a little extra effort but it’s worth giving your cauliflower a light steam bath first. Bring a shallow pool of water to a boil in a saucepan, then steam the cauliflower in it for 10 minutes. It’s going to need more than an hour in the oven at a high temperature to blacken the outside — a necessary move to ramp up its flavor — and steaming keeps the inside moist and tender.

All that untended oven time leaves plenty of spare minutes to make a simple Middle Eastern-based sauce called tarator to go with it. I whisk together equal parts tahini and lemon juice, then go rogue by seasoning it with umami juggernauts soy sauce, ground cumin and grated garlic. A pinch of chile flakes and lots of lemon zest add potency and zing.

Once the cauliflower comes out of the oven, I drench the whole head in the sauce, which melds with the charred edges of the crucifer for an intense, flavorful shell that contrasts against the creamy white stalks underneath. A sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and chopped parsley dresses it up, which, even for lazy cooks, is worth the effort.

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Charred Lemon and Spicy Tahini Sauce

Time 1 hour 30 minutes, largely unattended
Yields Serves 2 to 4


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