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The Crisper Whisperer: Chili-Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro Dressing

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

As spry young college graduates in the early dot-com era, we used to joke that the dozens of small companies springing up on a daily basis might have been named with a random word generator. Let the machine choose one from Column A: Technology Words and maybe one from Column B: Relationship Words or Column C: Nerd Words, and you'd be filing for IPO within months. Since it's bad form to speak ill of the dead, I'll offer only my own beloved former employer by way of example, born Cyber Dialogue, and currently (still!) doing business as Fulcrum Analytics. See what I mean?

(Then, of course, somebody went and made one of those machines, but that's another story entirely.)

Usually I like to tell myself how much I've grown and changed in the years since then. I could be mistaken for a real adult these days. But then, here's me, having a little too much fun working for websites, and contemplating the use of a random word generator to decide which of my favorite roasted cauliflower recipes to share with you.

It's really not my fault, though. It's just that cauliflower, with its curly-headed mid-winter optimism and nearly endless ability to make friends with other foods, shares a lot of the blank-slate qualities of those nascent companies. Starting with nothing but a good head, a pantry-sized space and a little fire, you can produce a vast array of IPO-worthy side dishes in less than half an hour. (That's even faster than most of those companies got started, although not as much faster as you might think.) Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg's The Flavor Bible is an invaluable resource for this sort of culinary experimentation. If only there had been a companion book for dot-commers.

In the end I chose this recipe for two reasons. First, I thought you might have some leftover cilantro from your Super Bowl guacamole. And second, because it makes use of quite a few of cauliflower's flavor affinities in one shot: dried red chile peppers, coriander, and cumin (all in the chili powder), cilantro, lime, and white wine vinegar in the dressing, along with salt and olive oil.

What are your favorite flavors for roasted cauliflower?

Chili-Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro Dressing

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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