If you’re sick of sad, soggy cauliflower, this is the recipe for you. Richly flavored, perfectly tender, and just a little bit spicy, it’s a satisfying vegetarian entrée that tastes like it took way more work than it did. Tuck it into pitas with salty yogurt and cucumber salad to dress it up, or keep it simple with a sprinkle of crunchy salt and a squeeze of lemon.
- Mix all of the spices and 1 tablespoon of oil together in a small bowl to make a fragrant, bright red paste. Set aside while you prep the cauliflower.
- Trim off the dry end of the stem, along with any tough-looking leaves. Slice the cauliflower in half lengthwise, right through the root, and trim about an inch off each rounded side to make a flat surface. Save the trimmed florets for another use. You should have two hefty, intact slabs of cauliflower, each roughly two inches thick.
- Using the tip of your knife, lightly score the cut surfaces of the stems with a crosshatch pattern. This will help the spice rub permeate the thick, fibrous stem. Transfer the slabs to a baking sheet or other large, flat, rimmed surface. Smear the spice mixture evenly on the scored stems first, rubbing whatever’s left over on the florets. Let rest at room temperature while you preheat the pan.
- Grab a 12-inch stainless steel or cast-iron skillet and trace the bottom on a sheet of parchment or foil. Cut it out and set aside. Heat the empty skillet on medium-low for 3-5 minutes—it has to be thoroughly heated before the oil goes in.
- When the pan is hot, add the remainder of the oil and heat until shimmering; a few wisps of smoke are OK, too. Lay the cauliflower slabs cut-side down in the center of the hot skillet, then cover with the parchment or foil, place a smaller skillet or pot on top of that, and press down firmly for 30 seconds. Cook undisturbed for 8-10 minutes, leaving the top skillet in place. Carefully flip each piece over, replace the foil or parchment and the second skillet, and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, season with a sprinkle of flaky salt, and serve with lemon wedges.
A.A. Newton is a Philadelphia-based writer, photographer, and recipe developer.