What Could Be More Scrumptious Than Whole Roasted Baby Cauliflower? Combine Them with Spiced Chickpeas and Beetroot Tahini, and You’ll Have A Middle Eastern Inspired Salad That Won’t Disappoint.
What Is Baby Cauliflower?
Baby cauliflower is simply a mini me version of a regular cauliflower. They come in a variety of colours including white, green, orange and purple and its size is about 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The small heads stem from a single trunk and is enveloped in leaves. The entire baby cauliflower can be eaten.
Baby cauliflower tastes similar to its mature variety with that sweet nutty flavour but lacking the sometimes bitter nuances that you can get from the larger heads of cauliflower. It is just as crumbly and firm when raw and both types of cauliflower roasted is soft and sweet.
Why We Should All Thank Eyal Shani
I’m sure you know who this eccentric celebrity chef is but if you don’t, Eyal Shani is an Israeli self-taught chef noted for creating the Miznon restaurant chain. He is also known to be the pioneer of roasting whole heads of cauliflower resulting in the culinary world dubbing him the “King of Cauliflower” when his recipe in 2016 went viral.
Shani understood that the larger the cauliflower, the more difficult it was to get it consistently roasted the way he needed to and therefore prefers to select the smaller cauliflowers.
According to Food and Wine, his demand for baby cauliflowers appear to have altered the economics of the vegetable in Israel, where Shani has designated cauliflower farmers in the Negev region growing the perfect specimens just for him. His restaurants plow through up to 15,000 orders monthly. Meanwhile, back in New York, his team is hard at work finding the supply needed for the 6,000 to 8,000 cauliflower devoured each month at his Chelsea Market location.
So naturally when I saw baby cauliflowers in the market, I knew I had to roast them and make Shani proud!
Do I Have to Use Fresh Chickpeas for Salads?
Using fresh ingredients is of course always the preference, especially in salads. In saying that however, some of the pre-prepared vacuumed packed and canned versions aren’t so bad these days. Especially if it’s an ingredient that perhaps you are not so familiar with or use very rarely.
And to be honest, sometimes we just can’t be bothered or simply don’t have the time.
Chickpeas for me, happens to be one of those ingredients. The canned variety will of course never be as good as a freshly cooked batch but it isn’t so bad! I bet most people who eat chickpeas buy them in a can. I just don’t really have the time to soak them overnight. The cooking part is easy but just means I have to be a bit more prepared in terms of time. Canned chickpeas on the other hand is a 10 second job. I know, I’m advocating a canned legume but we do it sometimes.
But if you do have the time, do try the fresh chickpeas. They really taste so much better and are creamier and chunkier. Soak them overnight, drain them and cook in a pot of salted water. Just on simmer will do until they are cooked through.
Why I Love Roasted Baby Cauliflower Spiced Chickpeas Beetroot Tahini
The first thing I love about this salad is the fact that I found baby cauliflower. In fact, when I saw them, I bought them without a clue what I was going to do with them. I just knew I had to roast them and eat them whole as cauliflower roasted is simply divine. Eyal Shani and his wild mop of grey hair instantly popped into my head when I saw them and I did have an internal chuckle at my own expense.
After I popped them into my basket, I again wandered aimlessly around the supermarket for inspiration. I decided that I wanted a Middle Eastern theme and I thought I’d add a good whack of spice to the recipe.
And for some colour, I thought beetroot tahini would make the perfect base and by then I could envisage how the salad would be presented and how the combination of flavours would work.
I was eager to get home and get into test kitchen mode. I’m always so worried a recipe doesn’t work out when I have found a hero ingredient I’m so excited about. Luckily it turned out beautifully both in presentation and in taste.
How To Make Roasted Baby Cauliflower Spiced Chickpeas Beetroot Tahini
How To Cook The Baby Cauliflower
The first thing you want to do with the baby cauliflower is to ensure it cooks evenly all the way around. The best way to do this is to boil them. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and then immerse the baby cauliflower into the water head first. Boil for a good 8 minutes and then remove them from the water and set aside to cool.
Once the cooked baby cauliflower reaches room temperature, baste it thoroughly with olive oil and season with some salt. On a baking tray, place in the oven at 200 C or 400 F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Once that is done, remove and set aside to cool.
How To Make Spiced Chickpeas
Drain the can of chickpeas and pat dry. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt together. Add the chickpeas and coat thoroughly. If you don’t like it so spicy, halve the amount of cayenne and paprika.
Place the coated chickpeas onto a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 C or 400 F. I had both the baby cauliflower roasting the same time as the chickpeas so it’s fine having them in the oven at the same time.
Take out the sheet pan out at the 10-minute mark and give it a shake so they roast evenly.
Once the 20 minutes is up, remove and set aside to cool.
How To Prepare The Beetroot Tahini
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Remove the leaves and stem from the beetroot and place into the pot. Reduce to a simmer and place the lid on. Simmer for at least 30 minutes until they are tender. Remove from the pot, let it cool down a little and then with your fingers, remove the skin, which should slide off easily.
Add the beetroot, tahini, garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and pepper into a food processor. Blend until pureed. You should get a bright purple tahini dip with a really creamy texture.
How to Assemble the Salad
Roughly chop the pistachio kernels.
For this salad, you want to use a plate or platter that has a flat surface.
Smear half the plate with the beetroot tahini. Then place the roasted baby cauliflower on the side with no tahini. Add the roasted spiced chickpeas next to the cauliflower. The idea of this is that you want to be able to see a lot of the purple beetroot tahini. Placing the baby cauliflower on top of the tahini would only cover it all up and it’s such a waste from a presentation perspective.
Sprinkle the salad with chopped pistachio kernels all around the plate, including the spaces that have nothing on it. Don’t put too much on the beetroot tahini so you can continue to make those colours come through.
With ½ tsp of olive oil, make small droplets on the outer rim of the plate.
Serve immediately as the chickpeas will start to get soft on the beetroot tahini.
This salad is filled with bright colours, roasted nutty flavours and sizzling spices! Baby cauliflower is not an ingredient one would be able to serve on a regular basis so your guests will most definitely love trying them along with the tahini dip and spiced chickpeas!
More Special Occasion Salad Recipes:
Baby Cauliflower and Spiced Chickpeas with Beetroot Tahini
- Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Immerse baby cauliflower into the boiling head first and boil for 8 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside to cool.
- Once it has reached room temperature, baste with olive oil and season with salt. Place on a sheet pan and put in the oven at 200 C or 400 F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Drain the can of chickpeas and pat dry. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt together. Add the chickpeas and coat thoroughly.
- Place the coated chickpeas onto a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 C. Take out the sheet pan at the 10-minute mark and give it a shake so they roast evenly. After 20 minutes, remove and set aside to cool.
- Roughly chop pistachio kernels.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Remove the leaves and stem from the beetroot and place into the pot. Reduce to a simmer and place the lid on.Simmer for at least 30 minutes until they are tender. Remove from the pot, let it cool and with your fingers remove the skin, which should slide off easily.
- With a hand blender, puree the beetroot, tahini, garlic cloves, a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Using a big flat platter, smear half the plate with the beetroot tahini.
- Place the roasted baby cauliflower on the side with no tahini.
- Place the spiced chickpeas next to the baby cauliflower. The idea is you want to be able to see the vibrant purple of the beetroot.
- Sprinkle the salad with chopped pistachio kernels all around the plate, including the spaces that have nothing on it. Don’t put too much on the beetroot tahini so you can continue to make those colours come through.
- With ½ tsp of olive oil, make small droplets on the outer rim of the plate.
- Serve immediately as the chickpeas will start to get soft on the beetroot tahini.
- If you can’t find baby cauliflower, just use normal cauliflower. Cut the florets into larger sizes should you wish to create a similar effect. You won’t be able to replicate the florets enveloped in leaves unfortunately but that’s ok!
- The roasted chickpeas are spicy and it’s meant to give you a kick. Reduce the paprika and/or cayenne pepper to reduce the heat.
- You can use the vacuum packed pre-cooked and pre-peeled beetroot. As you’re making it into a puree, they are just as good a product to use. Great if you’re short on time.
- You can substitute pistachios with almond flakes, crushed macadamias or peanuts.