This dish was inspired by one we saw on Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s plant-based restaurant’s menu. ABCV opened in early 2017 and represents part of a larger shift away from animal-protein focused plates that have dominated fine-dining. Vongerichten is a giant in the industry, a master of French cuisine who has embraced Asian flavours and combined them in a truly unique cuisine. This small restaurant features a mostly vegan menu, that highlight his desire for local and sustainable foods. While everything on the menu sounded delicious, this cauliflower dish jumped out right away. His recipe is not available, so I tried to reverse engineer it from the description and what I know of his style.
I have to admit, it turned out great! All of the elements play so well together – from the nuttiness of the roasted cauliflower being echoed by roasted pistachios, to the tanginess of za’atar supporting the ginger in the tahini sauce. It is visually striking and pleasantly straightforward to make.
This is truly a centrepiece dish. Serve it on a platter then pour the sauce over top, carving out servings as needed.
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- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 whole cauliflower, leaves removed, stem trimmed even with the bottom
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon za’atar
- 2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons torn mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
- 4 tablespoons tahini
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Place the cauliflower in a large cast iron pan or baking dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle it with the 4 tablespoons of oil. It seems like a lot, but it is necessary for proper cooking. Most of it with be left in the pan once the cooking is done. Place the pan in the oven.
- Cooking time will vary with the size of the cauliflower, but should be between 40 minutes to 1 hour. After 10 minutes, carefully remove the pan from the oven. Tilt the pan to one side allowing the oil to pool. With a spoon, baste the cauliflower all over with the oil. Return it to the oven for another 10 minutes. Repeat the basting procedure, and then do it again 10 minutes later.
- After 30 minutes, check for doneness. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully lift the cauliflower, exposing the stem. Pierce it with the tip of a paring knife. If it passes through the stem pretty easily, the cauliflower is done. If it still feels quite firm, then it needs more time. If it feels almost done, proceed to the next step, if it doesn’t, baste it with the oil and return it to the oven for another 10 minutes and check it again.
- Combine the olive oil and the za’atar. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and baste is well with the oil in the pan. Drizzle the za’atar mix evenly over the cauliflower and return it to the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes more. Lower the oven temperature if the cauliflower is browning too much.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer it to a serving plate. Top it with half of the pistachios, mint and cilantro.
- Whisk all of the ingredients together until well combined. It should be pourable, but thick. If it needs a bit more water, add a little a teaspoon at a time until the consistency is right. This can be blended to produce a smooth sauce if you would prefer it.
- At serving time, warm the tahini sauce until warm, but do not let it boil.
- Pour the sauce over the cauliflower, coating it completely.
- Sprinkle with the remaining pistachios, mint and cilantro.