Hearty Head of Cauliflower

Hearty Head of Cauliflower

Originally published on Jewish Food Experience — February 14, 2016

Roasted whole cauliflower head is all the rage right now. Israeli chef Eyal Shani is famous for his whole roasted cauliflower, which is parboiled in salted water and then roasted. Here, I streamline the method by removing the parboiling step, instead roasting the whole cauliflower wrapped in foil so that it retains its nutrients and then removing the foil at the end. Served with hummus, sautéed onions and spicy, toasted breadcrumbs, the cauliflower becomes the centerpiece of a hearty vegetarian dish.


  • 1 (about 2 pounds) whole head of cauliflower
  • 5 tablespoons high-heat vegetable oil, such as avocado or safflower oil, divided
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste, divided
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • ¼ preserved lemon, thinly sliced
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon hot sauce (harissa or s’hug) plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional

Spice Mix

  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes


  1. Using a sharp knife, trim the cauliflower’s green leaves and cut the stem flat so it is flush with the bottom of the cauliflower head. Scrape off any brown spots, and if desired, rinse cauliflower by immersing, head down, in a bowl of cold water and salt or vinegar for 30 to 60 minutes. Pat dry, and with the palms of your hands, rub 1 tablespoon oil all over the head, including the base. Sprinkle and rub in 2 teaspoons salt all over the head.
  2. Wrap the entire head with aluminum foil and place bottom down on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on the lower shelf in a cold oven and set to 450 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes; then transfer to the top shelf for another 15 minutes. Unwrap the foil and continue to roast on the top shelf for another 15 to 20 minutes until tender and golden brown.
  3. While the cauliflower is roasting, halve the onions and slice into thin strips. Mix the spices in a small bowl. Heat a frying pan, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat, and add sliced onions and sauté until partially caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of spice mix, and stir. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté for few more minutes, then set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan. Add walnuts and sauté for 3 minutes, constantly shaking the pan and stirring. Add breadcrumbs, cilantro and ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste, and continue stirring until crumbs are golden. You may need to hold the pan and keep it hovering over the flame as you shake and stir to avoid burning the crumbs.
  5. To serve, place the roasted cauliflower head on the center of a round serving dish. Spoon hummus around the cauliflower, forming a ring, and then spoon the onions around the hummus. Arrange the preserved lemon over the hummus. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the cauliflower. Mix the hot sauce with the olive oil and drizzle around the onion.