Monday, August 12, 2013

Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Cumin

People often describe cumin as an earthy, smoky spice.  It is typically used to add a warm flavor to all sorts of foods--think chilis, stews, etc.  Interestingly these flavor profiles are most often derived from the ground form of cumin, while the whole form of cumin lends a completely different, almost sweet smoky flavor.  This flavor really sings when it is gently roasted in oil and added to all sorts of vegetable dishes.  This cauliflower dish is a perfect example.

I may be slightly biased, but I really do think that we Indians do a pretty spectacular job when it comes to cooking cauliflower.  I think that a lot of Indian dishes can elevate what can be an otherwise fairly bland ingredient into something spectacular.  Somehow, a lot of warm, spicy flavors really bring out the delicious qualities of cauliflower in a way I've not often experienced when consuming cauliflower.

The key to making this delicious dish lies in toasting the cumin in hot oil.  The oil should be hot, but not smoking, when the cumin is added.  The cumin should toast until it just darkens a few hues and becomes aromatic.  People often make the mistake of toasting the cumin until it turns black which leads to bitter, pungent flavors, rather than warm, sweet flavors.  After that, toss in the cauliflower, add the tomatoes and the spices and in no time you'll have a lovely cauliflower dish.  Another important note is that the cauliflower florets should be left relatively large so that they do not become mushy and retain a bit of their bite.  This dish is delicious over rice or quinoa or served with flat bread as a main course.  Alternatively, it could be an intriguing and flavorful side dish to a hearty protein.  Enjoy!

Serves 2-4 depending on if serving as main or side

1 medium sized head of cauliflower, broken down into large florets
4 small plum tomatoes, chopped into 1" cubes
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 Tbsp neutral flavored oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder or cayenne
1 tsp ground or finely minced fresh serrano chilis
1 tsp ground or grated ginger
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large wok*.  When the oil shimmers, add the cumin seeds.  Allow to roast until a few hues darker and very aromatic.  Add the cauliflower and quickly stir to coat in all of the flavorful oil.  Cover to cook, uncovering to stir occasionally.

When the cauliflower is just slightly less opaque, add the tomatoes, turmeric, chili powder, serrano chilis, ginger, and salt.  Stir to combine well.  Cover to cook, uncovering to stir occasionally.  Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and created a thick sauce and the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork.  Adjust for salt, garnish with a flourish of cilantro, and serve.

* If you do not have a wok, and are making this in a sautee or sauce pan, increase oil to 2 Tbsp.

Note:  If desired, add one peeled and cubed russet potato to make the dish more substantial.  Add at the same time as the cauliflower with a tablespoon of water to prevent sticking.


  1. Yummmmmm!

    I could almost taste it reading your description!

    Love your passion; keep it up.

  2. Now I have a taste for cauliflower and I must say your photography is great.

  3. Sounds yummy. Your Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Cumin is so healthy and packed with wonderful flavors. I love cauliflowers and can't wait to try this.

  4. A word -or two- of caution. Cauliflower cooks the best, and retains its falvor and texture if done at medium heat or lower. Bon Appetit.


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