za’atar roasted cauliflower

za'atar roasted cauliflower

This is what happens when you get an edited manuscript, while working on another book and planning a wedding all the while your wrist is in a brace for five weeks. You fall behind on work because typing with one hand takes more time. Crazy concept, right?

Writing, in and of itself, is an amazing, thrilling, scary, exhilirating process. Just not with one hand. Typing with one hand is just frustrating. You think of something great to say while you’re finishing sentence, and by the time you get to the end of that sentence, you can’t remember what you were thinking of. It’s a lot of spurts and stops, like going somewhere in a taxi in New York; suddenly the cabbie slams on the breaks and you’re hurled towards the windshield. And before you’ve had time to collect your breath (and your poor discombobulated internal organs), the cabbie is hits the gas pedal and you’re thrown in the way back. Writing with one hand is a bit like that – spastic and not particularly efficient.

ready for roasting

Also, it makes for crappy cooking, or rather no cooking at all. Even now, that my wrist is not in much pain, cooking with a brace is a bit restricting. In wearing a brace, my wrist is limited in its mobility. That’s sort of the point – let the ganglion cyst disappear and heal while I don’t have an opportunity to flail my hand. And for those of you who know me, I talk with my hands a lot. This limitation also means that every time there’s a heavy pot to tip over or wash, I make sad eyes and pathetic whimpers at Andrew, and he comes over and does it for me. Did I mention he is dreamy and amazing? Also, he’s gotten rather good at making Midnight Pasta.

chutney spiced yogurt

So naturally, I’ve been trying to think of things I can cook using just one hand. You’d be surprised how resourceful you can get when faced with this situation.

The original recipe comes from Melissa Clark’s amazing book, “Cook This Now”. If you still haven’t gotten this book, get it immediately. It’s really that good. I got a little lazy with the original recipe. Having only one hand, I had to make things ridiculously easy. Fine, if you must know, I got lazy months ago with this recipe, but the results of that laziness have come in very handy (terrible pun!) given that I’ve half of my usual dexterity. With za’atar, you just throw in one spice and toss with oil and salt to coat. There’s already a blend of herbs and sesame seeds in there, so rather than having to open several spice bottles and toasting the seeds, you just need to open one.

Here’s how you do this whole thing with pretty much one hand. Use you’re “bad” hand to hold down the head of the cauliflower while you chop the florets off. Then scoop the florets, with your good hand, into a bowl, toss with a bit of za’atar, olive oil, and salt, and spread out in an even layer on a shallow baking dish. And while your cauliflower cooks in the oven, spoon a few dollops of lime pickle, or homemade mango chutney from a dear friend, into some yogurt (again, one hand needed), stir, and wait for the cauliflower.

za'atar roasted cauliflower

When cauliflower is done, you just pull it out (again, just one hand is needed for this) and set it on a cooling rack. Dip your florets into the yogurt and eat. All with one hand.

And when your fiancé comes home from work and asks about the promised cauliflower, don’t tell him you accidentally ate it all. Tell him, instead, that you are injured and in pain, and he might just have to make the Midnight Pasta again. He’ll never know the truth. Just be sure to hide the dirty baking tray.

Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower
Adapted, liberally, from Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark

I hear a lot from people how they don’t like cauliflower. Then I ask them how they prepare it and they tell me they either boil or steam it. No wonder – I wouldn’t like cauliflower either if I had to eat it like that. Something amazing happens to cauliflower when it’s being roasted, and if you are a cauli skeptic, just try roasting it this way once – if you still hate it, I totally understand. But something tells me, you just might love it.

1 head (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) cauliflower
2 tablespoons za’atar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup whole or reduced fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mango chutney, lime pickle or a mix of the two (available at your Indian grocer)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Pomegranate arils, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 426 degrees F; position the rack in the middle. Cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets. Free free to cut up the stems as well. In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, za’atar, olive oil, and salt. Transfer to a half-sheet baking pan (13×18-inches) and roast for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is browned and is fork-tender. Stir the cauliflower midway through the roasting process.
2. In a small bowl stir together the yogurt, chutney and/or pickle, and cilantro. Sprinkle with the pomegranate arils, if using. Serve with the roasted cauliflower, on the side.

Serves 2.


  • Beth (OMG! Yummy)

    Oh I am so sorry to hear of your one-handed challenge – I am supposed to have shoulder surgery but am living in denial because I can’t stand the idea of the restricted recovery.

    But I love this recipe – I would serve it in a pinch without the yogurt — I know my family would love it. I was just thinking the other day that I had not used za-atar in a while and we just love the spice blend, even my kids.

    Great riff on an already great recipe.

  • Jess

    Poor you. Writing with *two* hands is hard enough! Hope you’ll be brace-free soon. (Cauliflower, za’atar, yes and yes.)

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    I don’t know how you’re handling all of this! Sounds like you’re under a lot of pressure. :-( Make sure you take care of yourself.

    Now, as for this dish… I’m in love. There’s nothing better than simple roasted cauliflower. And the za’atar goes just fabulously with it!

  • kickpleat

    That would be so difficult. I felt sorry for myself when I grabbed a just-from-the-oven pan by the handle and burnt my hand. I was one-handed (& in pain) the whole night. I whined, for sure. But I’m a sucker for roasted cauliflower and this looks delicious. Must get some zaatar!!

  • Margarita

    I wish I had a wedding to plan and a book that I’m writing too… but since I have neither, I’m just going to wish for this cauliflower. I have a cauliflower obsession these days and glad to add this on to my list.

  • Radish

    Bessy – za’atar is a blend of middle eastern herbs – and it’s absolutely delicious. This wikipedia entry explains it much better than I ever could. You could order it online, or if there’s a middle eastern store near you, they are bound to stock it. You can use it in soups, stews, or wherever imagination takes you.

  • theresa

    This recipe sounds so good! I am a cook in a private cafe. I think i will try this for a side dish! Thanks

  • Radish

    Theresa – that’s excellent!! Let me know what you think and what your customers think.

  • Deena

    Sorry about your hand! That sucks.
    But this is a great recipe, thanks for sharing. I love za’atar and just used up my jar – but when I replace it I will try this. Never thought of serving yogurt or chutney with roasted cauliflower, sounds great!

  • Erin

    Roasted cauliflower is definitely the way to go as far as cauliflower goes. I have been obsessed with it recently! I’ll have to try it this way sometime!

  • Nadia

    What a brave cook you are… I wouldn’t endeavor anything like that if I had one hand – I’d just put my hubby to work. :))
    Never used Za’atar – now I will. I’ll try to apply this recipe to broccoli. Just an hour ago I was thinking how to make my other half love broccoli, and now I have a fabulous idea. Thank you!

  • kelsey

    your description of the writing process is spot on. the madness, the exhilaration. a bad hand, i can imagine, would only compound the emotions. and… yay za’atar and melissa clark!

  • Patricia

    Made this the other night as a side dish with lamb kabobs and it disappeared fast. Even the veggie-sceptics loved it. Someone said they might try it without the yogurt dip: DON’T! The greek yogurt-mango chutney combo was so good, people were dipping everything on hand into it. My son even spooned it onto his lamb. I’m on to bring an appetizer tonight and I’m going to roast the cauliflower, lightly steam some green beans and add cherry tomatos and cucumber slices, all arranged around a big bowl of this dip. I predict it will be the best veggie platter anyone’s ever had.

  • Irina

    Ah! Thank you for the tip! I love roasting cauliflower and I have a bag of Israeli za’atar laying around, but it never occured to me to combine them (usually, I mix the cauliflower in paprika, tumeric, chili powder, lemon juice and olive oil).
    Great idea for the dipping sauce, too!

  • molly

    i trust all is well in the hand department, now, but oh goodness, i could not miss shouting out ‘yes, please!’ over this roast cauli.

  • Radish

    molly – hi, the hand is great now, thanks. and that cauli is really good i agree!

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