I Tried Blake Lively’s Favorite Roasted Cauliflower and It Really Is Extra Special
As someone who loves throwing dinner parties as much as she loves her vegetarian friends, I’m always looking for a plant-based dinner that’s both satisfying and impressive looking. This whole-roasted cauliflower recipe via Blake Lively and Top Chef season 3 winner Hung Huynh appeared to be everything I’ve been looking for: main-worthy, vegetarian, and seriously beautiful.
Since I like to do a trial run of any main dishes I plan on serving guests, I grabbed all the necessary ingredients to give this recipe a shot.
How to Make Hung Huynh and Blake Lively’s Roasted Cauliflower
The vinaigrette in this recipe requires pre-soaked golden raisins. Especially if you don’t have a high-powered blender, I’d recommend soaking your raisins in water overnight so they’re nice and soft when you’re ready to prepare the dressing.
To start, preheat your oven to 400° and bring a very large pot of water to a boil. You want your cauliflower heads to be completely submerged, so keep that in mind. Meanwhile, clean 2 heads of cauliflower, removing the bottom of the stem and any loose leaves. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and blanch for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fork-tender. I blanched my cauliflower heads one at a time because they couldn’t fit in the pot together.
Transfer your blanched cauliflower heads to a baking pan and drizzle generously with olive oil. I did a little over a tablespoon per head. Next, you’ll be seasoning them with truffle salt and a spice rub. (I don’t recommend adding the truffle salt at this point, but more on that below.) I’m not sure what was supposed to be in the spice rub, so I mixed up one of my own that included brown sugar, ground coriander, chili powder, and paprika. I added about 2 teaspoons of this mix to each cauliflower. I liked it, but next time I’d leave the brown sugar out, since the vinaigrette and the pomegranate added plenty of sweetness. Roast your cauliflower until lightly golden. Mine took about 50 minutes to get a nice color, at which point it was fall-off-the-stem tender.
While the cauliflower is roasting, assemble your dressing. To a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of pre-soaked golden raisins, 1 cup of canola or grapeseed oil, 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, a pinch of paprika, and a pinch of black pepper. Blend until completely smooth, then taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
To serve, top your roasted cauliflower heads with a generous drizzle of dressing, and a sprinkling of shaved parmesan, pomegranate seeds, and toasted pine nuts.
My Honest Review of Hung Huynh and Blake Lively’s Roasted Cauliflower
I’m happy to report that this recipe really did check all my boxes. The contrasting sweet and savory flavors struck a perfect balance, and the variety of textures kept every bite interesting. The dressing has a really unique sweet dried-fruit flavor thanks to the golden raisins — in fact, if you’re not a raisin fan you might want to skip this one because they are the most prominent flavor in the vinaigrette. The cauliflower was incredibly tender, all the way down to the stem, which you could easily cut with the side of a fork. I love cauliflower this way, but if you prefer it with a little more bite I’d recommend roasting it for less time, checking the tenderness with a fork after 30 minutes in the oven. I think a side of crusty bread and a good green salad would make this a complete meal for guests. (Or for a hungrier crowd, a side like French lentils or farro salad would also work well.)
Unfortunately the truffle flavor didn’t come through at all in the final dish. After a quick Google I found that high heat virtually kills truffle flavor, so if you’re using truffle salt, wait until the cauliflower has finished roasting to add it. This recipe requires some pretty pricey ingredients (truffle salt, Parmesan, pomegranates, pine nuts) so you really want to use them all to their fullest potential. A sprinkling of truffle salt on the final dish definitely made it feel extra special, but if you’re not a fan of truffle flavor or don’t feel like shelling out for the fancy salt, this dish is still delicious without it.
5 Tips for Making Hung Huynh and Blake Lively’s Roasted Cauliflower
- Blanch the cauliflower in salted water. To better season the cauliflower, prepare the boiling water just as you would for pasta: nice and salty. This will help season the interior of the cauliflower.
- Hold off on the truffle salt after baking. Yes, I did just include this above, but it’s very important so I’m adding it here too.
- Use colorful cauliflower, if you can find it. This dish is pretty no matter what, but if you’ve got access to purple or green cauliflower, get them! Their color provides a beautiful contrast to the golden sauce.
- Take advantage of the extra dressing. Two cauliflower heads only require about 1/2 cup of the dressing, leaving you with just under 2 cups leftover. This vinaigrette is a bit too thick and sweet to dress delicate greens, but it would be perfect paired with roasted veggies in the same family as cauliflower, like cabbage, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts.
- Make it vegan. If you’ve got vegan friends like me, you may want to vegan-ify this recipe. Good news: it’s easy! Just replace the shaved Parmesan with a few shakes of nutritional yeast.