Roast Cauliflower with Dates in Lemon-Tahini Sauce

Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (1 of 14)

A peach was once a bitter almond; a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” ~ Mark Twain.

Cauliflower, which literally means “cabbage flower”, is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, often overshadowed by it green cousin broccoli. The cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Though it tastes rather bland on its own, this white cabbage flower is extremely nutritious and can be considered as a superfood.

First, this white cabbage contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumour growth. Moreover, sulforaphane has been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function. Cauliflower also contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check (too much inflammation is linked to cancer and other diseases).

Due to our busy lifestyles, most of us lack the vital nutrients in our bodies needed to keep it performing at an optimal level. This is where incorporating cauliflower into your diet comes in handy. One serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.

Cauliflower really doesn’t have much flavour on its own. However, this white superfood absorbs flavours and spices extremely well. It really doesn’t take too much effort to transform plain old cauliflower into something quite scrumptious.

I find that dressing cauliflower with a tahini-lemon garlicky sauce complements the white flower harmoniously while roasting it adds a certain ‘crunch’ to it and gives it a nice golden colour. Throwing in some dates adds a pleasant sweetness to the dish while pine nuts offer an extra dimension to jazz up the simplicity of this healthy side dish.

Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (11 of 14)

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 4 as a side)

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (about 1 ½ lb.)
  • 4 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, roasted

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius.

2) Toss cauliflower with 2 teaspoon of olive oil, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Throw in the dates and layer both evenly on a roasting tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (8 of 14)

Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (5 of 14)

3) Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic in olive oil for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add tahini, lemon juice, 5 tablespoon of water, and salt. Simmer over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (6 of 14)

4) Transfer cauliflower florets into a mixing bowl. Whisk the sauce and pour over the cauliflower and toss till the florets are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with the roasted pine nuts and chopped parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roast Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce (14 of 14)

Eggplant with Buttermilk Greek Yoghurt Dressing and Pomegranate

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (6 of 18)

After a month of silence, I am finally back with the postings. Past month has been hectic. Got caught up with a multitude of tasks, then travelled to London and Sicily for a much needed and long-awaited break. Finally back and over my jet lag. Fell in love with Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London. In fact, I kept going to his pastry shop in Notting Hill almost every morning since it was just around the corner from where I was staying (hence I unavoidably stacked on the pounds but it was definitely worth every calorie). Bill Granger’s Granger and Co. was just around the corner too. How can one resist Bill’s breakfast, especially his signature ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter that brought him to fame (the scrambled eggs as well of course) in Sydney?

Now that I am back, the first dish I felt naturally compelled to make is an Ottolenghi inspired creation: the baked aubergines with a buttermilk greek yoghurt sauce from his book Plenty. Given the sloppy texture, I know aubergines may not be everyone’s favourite vegetable, but I personally love aubergines. There are so many ways you can dress them up with and they absorb flavours like a sponge. They are the perfect staple vegetable for several middle eastern dishes.

As for the dressing, the yoghurt sauce has the ability to round up so many flavours and textures like no other component does. The addition of buttermilk adds some acidity which works wonders with the slightly greasy nature of the aubergines and the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The original recipe calls for Za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, sesame seeds and herbs. I value efficiency so I simply just sprinkled sumac on top of the buttermilk dressing to add some contrast in colours and flavour. Finish off with some chopped fresh mint (again, original recipe calls for lemon thyme leaves but these are not so easy to find in Hong Kong).

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (2 of 2)

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 as a side dish):

  • 2 large long eggplants
  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac (or combination of dried thyme, oregano, and pepper)
  • 1/2 pomegranate
  • 3-4 tablespoon of pine nuts, roasted
  • Some fresh mint leaves, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt (Maldon sea salt is ideal)
  • Black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon of greek yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoon of buttermilk (alternative is to add 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes and let it stand)
  • 3/4 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon of garlic past (about 1 small garlic clove)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cumin powder

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a roasting tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil.

2) Cut eggplants diagonally into rounds, almost an inch thick. Use a small sharp knife to make a criss-cross hash pattern on one side of the eggplant so that the flavours can absorb more readily.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (18 of 18)

3) Spray with olive oil cooking spray (or brush with olive oil). Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper, sea salt and dried thyme.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (17 of 18)Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (16 of 18)4) Shove into the oven for ~20 minutes until flesh goes soft and turns into a nicely brown colour (NB: can check by inserting a skewer). Take out of the oven and let it cool completely.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (15 of 18)

5) Whilst eggplants are roasting you can start preparing the buttermilk sauce. Whisk together the buttermilk, yoghurt, cumin, olive oil, garlic paste, and salt. Feel free to adjust for taste according to your own liking (sometimes I like to add a squirt of lemon juice). Keep sauce chilled.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (11 of 18)6) Roast the pine nuts by heating up a pan on medium heat and pan-frying for 2-3 minutes.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (12 of 18)7) Cut pomegranate in half and remove the seeds with your fingers. Make sure that all the attached white skin or membrane has been removed apart from the seeds.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (1 of 18)

8) To serve, lay out the cooled aubergine rounds onto a dish and spoon plenty of the buttermilk dressing on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac, and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, roasted pine nuts and some freshly diced mint leaves. Finish with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (3 of 18)