Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots with Fennel and Coriander

I have been buying more spices from the bulk section of the specialty market, instead of jars at the supermarket, so I can try new ones out in small amounts without committing to a whole jar that will simply go stale anyway. (In fact, those supermarket jars are probably already "stale" before they're even open - by comparison anyway to fresh herbs and spices.) I love the flexibility afforded by having so many ingredients on hand. I feel like I am ready to try any recipe when the urge or craving strikes, because I don't need a special trip to the store. Many more ingredients have become staples in my kitchen over the past 3-4 years: coconut milk, fresh ginger, and parsley are things I almost always have around now but that used to represent items purchased for a specific recipe.

But as for the burgeoning collection of tiny plastic baggies of small-quantity bulk spices that literally bound from my cupboard each time I open it is starting to insult my original intention. The purpose of buying them in small quantities is to use them while fresh, so essentially, I'm thwarting my own attempts to experiment more with a broader range of flavors by allowing such a collection to accumulate.

For real inspiration in the spices department, I recommend to anyone to pick-up a copy of The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices, by Tony Hill, owner of World Spice Merchants at the Pike Place Market. It is part reference book, part cookbook, part food memoir and it's great to leaf-through at random, or to scour cover-to-cover. A couple weeks after my most recent adventure thumbing my copy, I was emboldened to simply stare in the spice cabinet and think, "What would be interesting??" This is what I came up with:

1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
4 small or 2 large whole carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/2" thick slices
1/2 small shallot, minced
~2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground or crushed
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground or crushed
salt to taste
1/4 fresh parsley leaves, chopped and reserved

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix vegetables and oil in a 9" square baking dish, or deep dish pie plate until vegetables are well coated with oil. I ended up adding more oil part-way through roasting. Add seasonings and toss well. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice part-way through, until carrots are tender and cauliflower is browned at edges. Shallots will be frizzled and crispy. Toss with parsley just before serving.

Update 3/5:
I don't know if I should feel like a complete hack, or a prescient genius, but yesterday (after I thought of and posted the above!!) I came across this article in the Seattle Times by a favored writer/blogger Monica Bidhe (often printed in NPR's Kitchen Window). Because I am completely honest and honorable, I will give myself credit for my culinary acumen, because I really was not inspired by her article when I made my recipe above, but for any of you skeptics or beginners out there, have confidence that you will love this combination.


  1. I love cauliflower! Where do you get your spices?