Transform Grilled Cauliflower With High Heat and a Whole Lot of Spice

Grilling

Fire up your grill and get ready for some serious smoke.

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The high heat of the grill gives this cauliflower its crisp exterior, while an earthy spice rub delivers a ton of flavor. [Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

Growing up, I was disgusted by cauliflower. I'd insist on removing it from my plate before even considering the rest of my meal (which, by virtue of being literally anything else, was guaranteed to be at least 1,000 times more delicious). I know I didn't give the vegetable a fair shake, but then again, the only cauliflower I knew was bland, pale, faintly sulfurous, and nearly always either under- or over-cooked.

Later on, I was forced to face cauliflower head-on, as week after week, a different colored variety materialized in my weekly CSA box. I quickly learned that roasting it at a high temperature created an appealingly crisp exterior with a tender—but not mushy!—interior. The ingredient I'd actively avoided was transformed into a vegetable I openly loved and, yes, even sought out.

Since browning and crunch are what turned me on to cauliflower, I figured that the high heat of the grill would be the perfect way to amp things up. Unfortunately, those small florets are a bitch to keep from falling between the grates. Luckily, it's an obstacle that, with a little ingenuity, is easily overcome.

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Instead of butchering the cauliflower into small florets, I instead cut it vertically, keeping the stem intact, to create 3/4-inch slices that are easy to manage on the grill (and to subsequently plate). Prior to taking it to the flames, I like to brush each slice with olive oil and then season it with an earthy spice mixture that takes its cues from the Pakistani chicken keema recipe I put together last year—a mix of salt, turmeric, crushed red pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.

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The slices, in their vibrant yellow spice mix, go over the direct heat of a two-zone fire, cooking until they develop some crisp char on both sides. This happens relatively quickly—faster than it takes to cook the interior through—so you'll want to move the cauliflower over to the cool side of the grill and cover it. I continue cooking them until they're softened and tender, but still meaty; just over ten minutes. Once they're off the grill, just sprinkle on a little cilantro and serve.

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The final dish winds up with a great texture and complex flavor that's robustly earthy and pleasantly spicy. Now, if only I could go back in time and reintroduce myself to this version, I'd be able to save myself a whole lot of trouble.