roasted cauliflower with walnut pesto
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this may be the best thing I’ve had made this year; and that’s coming from someone who turned up her nose at cauliflower for the first 28 years of her life. Yeah—it’s good. I can’t claim responsibility for the idea though. Aaron and I had brunch at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Roman’s, and innocently ordered a cauliflower panzanella. It was lovely, with big chunky croutons, endive, roasted cauliflower and little smears of walnut pesto. One bite of the cauliflower paired with the walnut pesto and we were blown away. As far as I was concerned, the croutons and endive were lovely, but it was all about the caramelized and crispy cauliflower and that lick-the-plate-worthy walnut pesto. So you know what I did when I got home, right? I set about recreating that magic at home.
First off, roasted cauliflower, like most roasted vegetables, is so easy and the results are phenomenal. After a half hour or so in the oven, the little florets come out golden and crispy, with a caramelized flavor that is so far from anything I would have ever associated with cauliflower as a kid. Honestly, it kind of tastes like candy—rich, nutty and caramely.
But let’s get to the hero of the dish, the walnut pesto. Before we left the restaurant, I made sure to ask what was in the pesto, which seemed to go through different flavor phases—sweet, salty, nutty. We got word from the chef that it was simply walnuts, honey, pecorino cheese, and olive oil. Simple stuff that, when paired together, are a match made in heaven. I played with the proportions a little when I got home and landed on something that was pretty darn close to the original. My pesto turned out a little chunkier, so I ended up tossing little bits of the pesto in with the cauliflower, which I actually really like because it means you get little surprises.
Roasted cauliflower with walnut pesto
serves 4 | makes about 1 cup of pesto
for the roasted cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower, sliced into 1/4-inch thick florets
for the walnut pesto:
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt, optional
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°
On a baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with enough oil to cover the florets, about 1 Tablespoon. Spread in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes, flipping half way through. The cauliflower should be golden, some of the bits with be very brown and crispy—it’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Simply toss the walnuts, cheese, and 1 Tablespoon honey in the food processor. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until the ingredients come together and create an oily paste. Taste it, you may need to add the additional teaspoon of honey and/or a pinch of salt, depending on your taste.
To serve, crumble the pesto over the cauliflower, then gently toss it. Enjoy