A recipe for a honey-roasted cauliflower dish with crispy sage, pine nuts that would be a wonderful addition to any holiday meal.
Mine was a childhood of frozen vegetables.
While salads, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh garden green beans, and plenty of cut-from-the-head broccoli (always with cheese sauce) were available during summer months, the staple winter dinner vegetable for my Midwestern upbringing was a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Orange carrot cubes sat amongst the peas, anemic rubbery green beans, and the insipid lima beans with their wrinkly outer layer like a lizard shedding its skin right there on my dinner plate. If you were lucky, your helping was heavy on the carrot cubes. Their characteristic sweetness helped to mask the other flavors of tasteless vegetable matter which were unmarred by butter or salt in my home.
The most exciting winter vegetables could be found during the holiday season, that too-short time marked between Thanksgiving and Christmas family celebrations wherein side dishes suddenly sprang to life with color and flavor. There were casserole dishes overflowing with green beans and cream, crisped onions nearly covering all that lay beneath. Brightly-colored winter squash were sliced and drizzled with maple syrup and large pats of butter before heading to the oven. Marshmallows puffed and crisped atop sweet potatoes into candy-like perfection. Carrots could be found peeled and glazed in honey, sprinkled with bright green parsley to garnish, not a cube in sight. The smells of roasted goodness would waft through the house, spices and honey and maple melding together with the warm scent of browning turkey or a salty holiday ham.
Still, cauliflower was generally relegated to the vegetable tray. The lonely, bulbous pieces sitting in the most ignored section. Once the carrot sticks and celery were gone, I would reluctantly dip a piece into the creamy white dip in the center of the tray and put it to my lips. I remember the cardboard-like way it filled my mouth and required extra chewing to get it down. No, cauliflower is not one of the holiday vegetables I remember fondly.
It is really too bad that cauliflower gets a bad rap in my memory. The versatile vegetable is able to be masqueraded like mashed potatoes, steamed and smothered with sauce, pickled with peppers, curried alongside garbanzo beans, battered and fried, crisped as pizza crust, smoothed into soups, or roasted to a caramelized candy creation.
My children, however, are not growing up in my childhood home, and they have never tasted the mixed vegetables of my upbringing. Instead, their meals are colored with daily bursts of mom coaxing them each into vegetable love until they proclaim the best parts of the meal to be what is often relegated to the side of the plate. Their memories of cauliflower will undoubtedly be far more colorful than my own.
This particular cauliflower dish gets the glazed carrot treatment, first coated in honey and a bit of olive oil (garlic and salt for good measure), garnished with fresh sage and pine nuts, and then roasted through. The key to the caramelized coat is tossing first for even coverage and then a long roast close to the heat source before stirring to finish them up. The sage crisps, the nuts roast, the cauliflower cooks and caramelizes all resulting in layers of contrasting flavor and texture.
1/4 cup whole sage leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons honey, warmed slightly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cauliflower florets, sage leaves, and the pine nuts in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a small container, whisk together the olive oil and the honey. Stir in the minced garlic and the salt. Pour the mixed dressing over the cauliflower and toss to coat the florets, pine nuts, and the safe leaves evenly.
Spread the cauliflower mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet in a single, even layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring once about 20 minutes in.
Remove the pan from the oven and serve immediately.
Makes 6-8 servings.
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