Spiced paste transforms whole roasted cauliflower

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for chili-garlic roasted whole cauliflower. (Milk Street via AP) PHOTO CREDIT: HONSX

Chili-garlic roasted whole cauliflower. PHOTO CREDIT: The Associated Press

We rarely appreciate cauliflower for what it is. We grill slabs of it and pretend it’s steak. We mash it like potatoes. We even mangle it into pizza crusts.

But cooks around the world, from Greece to Israel to China, have shown us how good it can be. That is, when we stop fussing so much with it.

Roasting it whole with a spice paste slathered all over creates a flavorful browned exterior, with crispy edges that offer textural contrast to the tender interior. And it couldn’t be easier.

For this recipe from the book, “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, we took flavor inspiration from gobi Manchurian, an Indo-Chinese dish of deep-fried and seasoned cauliflower. It is widely popular partly for its crisp-saucy quality, but also for its addictive savory-sweet spiciness.

A spiced paste made from a few big-flavor pantry ingredients adds plenty of complexity, including the Indian spice blend garam masala, Chinese chili-garlic sauce and — don’t judge — ketchup. The tomato in the ketchup concentrates in the oven for a savory umami boost, and its sugars encourage flavorful browning.

Sliced into wedges and sprinkled with sliced scallions for an allium bite, this cauliflower shows off all the things it can be — naturally sweet and savory, while at once meaty and light.

Chili-Garlic Roasted Whole CauliflowerStart to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes

(10 minutes active).

Servings: 4.

• 2-pound head cauliflower, trimmed

• ¼ cup neutral oil

• 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce

• 2 tablespoons ketchup

• 1 tablespoon garam masala

• Kosher salt and ground black pepper

• 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix the oil, chili-garlic sauce, ketchup, garam masala and 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper. Brush half the mixture onto the cauliflower, then roast until deeply browned and a skewer inserted into the center meets just a little resistance, 40-55 minutes. Brush on the remaining mixture and roast for another 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and sprinkle with scallions.

Christopher Kimball writes for The Associated Press.

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