no need for cheese. i promise. November 7, 2011

“Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education” – Mark Twain

In the hierarchy of misunderstood vegetables, cauliflower is close to the top. For most folks, they’ve been traumatized by Brussels sprouts and beets. Some may have flashbacks to some asparagus in the can – a moment of silence, please. After that, broccoli and cauliflower usually get a spirited mention. They’re the vegetables that kept you at the table after dinner was over because you refused to eat them plain. For many, let’s face it, cauliflower is often just disguised in a cloak of cheese sauce because it’s the only way it got consumed. I know that’s how it was at my house. Not because of me so much but because of my dad. He wasn’t so much a vegetable eater save for sliced tomatoes and a Wedge salad that was more wedge than salad.

For those who have have never met a cauliflower recipe they liked. For those that want to like it but can’t get past the memories of goopy orange sauce. For those that fret about trying to feed it to their friends & family, read on. This recipe is incredible. So unique. There will be no need for cheese. I promise.

This is a recipe for folks who don’t like cauliflower. It’s also for those folks who love it. It’s proof that with some roasting, a knob of butter, and a little finesse…any vegetable can be a star. I had this dish at a great Mexican place near my house – yes you read that right. They do great things with vegetables and side dishes (creamed corn with lardo, roasted broccoli which I swooned over, etc.) and the description of this cauliflower dish was so weird, I had to try it. I could have eaten a platter of this stuff & skipped the rest of my meal.

It’s tough to get your mind around the combination of olives and dates but the sweet/salty thing works. Cauliflower is really a faintly cabbage-y vehicle for however you want to guss it up. The Castelvetrano olives are important here because they aren’t super salty and oily. They’re briny but retain a crisp bite & clean taste. If you can’t find them, I would substitute another brined green olive – something with a firm skin and texture. This is easy enough to be an every day recipe yet unusual enough to be a show-stopper at your holiday dinners.

Roasted Cauliflower with Medjool Dates, Olives and Rosemary – serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

  • 1 medium (4-5″ in diameter) head of cauliflower, tough stems/leaves removed & cut into florets
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 10 Medjool dates, pits removed & roughly chopped
  • 12-15 Castelvetrano olives – pitted and roughly chopped. I found these on the olive bar at Whole Foods.
  • 3 sprigs fresh Rosemary – leaves removed from the stems then roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and more fresh ground black pepper, to taste

– Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large roasting pan or baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and the fresh ground black pepper. Once the oven comes up to temperature, roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes (depending on your oven) until tender with some caramelized brown spots. You’re not looking for char – just nice touches of golden brown.

– About 2 minutes before you’re going to pull the cauliflower from the oven, heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Allow to start to bubble and brown ever so slightly. Throw in the chopped rosemary, dates and olives and saute until heated through – you don’t want the rosemary to get black, though. Pull the cauliflower from the oven. You can either drizzle the butter/date/olive mixture over the cauliflower in the roasting pan and toss….or you can put the cauliflower in the butter mixture if your saute pan is big enough. Either will work. Taste a tiny floret & season with salt and pepper accordingly. Serve immediately.


My Little Expat Kitchen Nov 7, 2011 09:11 am

I love cauliflower (I know, I’m weird) and I usually eat it with just olive oil and lemon.
This dish though is transforming it into something quite interesting; olives and dates and rosemary! I’m definitely trying this.

Barbara | Creative Culinary Nov 7, 2011 09:11 am

This is the most unique recipe I think I’ve ever seen with cauliflower; not the roasting but the combining it with dates and olives part. I’ll bet the saltiness of the olives combined with the sweetness of the dates does elevate the lowly cauliflower.

Had to chuckle…you hit on every single one of my childhood vegetable nightmares. All things I love today. Overcooking was so wrong. :)

Isabelle @ Crumb Nov 7, 2011 09:11 am

This sounds oddly delicious. :) I know cauliflower and dates play well together, but the idea of adding olives and rosemary is definitely new to me… still, I can just picture how deliciously salty-sweet-savoury this turns out to be.
(Also, I am jealous of your taco place… wish I had something like that close to home!)

Maria Nov 7, 2011 09:11 am

What a great dish. Love the flavors!

Sofie Dittmann AKA German Foodie Nov 7, 2011 10:11 am

What’s wrong w/ cheese? :) I love that stuff WITH cheese, WITHOUT cheese…

Lynn Nov 7, 2011 12:11 pm

I had an email discussion about cauliflower with a friend just this morning. We both like it. I’ll email this link to her – it sounds yummy!

val Nov 7, 2011 01:11 pm

YES! Cauliflower with salty and sweet is divine. I make a similar, Sicilian-inspired dish with raisins, almonds, capers and flat-leaf parsley.

Rhonda Nov 7, 2011 01:11 pm

I still love a good cheese sauce over perfectly cooked cauliflower (not the strange orange stuff over cauliflower mush). I’m really intrigued by the combination of ingredients, I definitely want to try this.

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Nov 7, 2011 02:11 pm

I do truly enjoy cauliflower and believe it’s one of the most under used veggies. I would have never, ever dreamed up this combination, but I “get it.” That sweet-salty combination is a traditional favorite of Southerners and I can see how it would work so well here. Well done!

sippitysup Nov 7, 2011 03:11 pm

I usually cruise through here and take in the delicious sights and leave. But I have to comment on this! I am making this exact same thing RIGHT NOW (well close enough). I started it before I saw this and have been thinking of these flavors for months. I am adding a pine nut puree and stuffing it inside hand pies. But really it is like we are the same person. Freaky. GREG

DessertForTwo Nov 7, 2011 03:11 pm

I am a cauliflower lover, through and through. I think I’ve told you this before? I saute black mustard seeds in oil til they pop, add cumin seeds, turmeric and cauliflower. When they’re done, I stir in cilantro and lemon juice.
I love your spins on vegetable side dishes lately! Keep ’em coming :)

Kiran @ Nov 7, 2011 04:11 pm

I love cauliflower and I love this recipe too much, just because there’s no cheese :D

lo Nov 7, 2011 05:11 pm

As a cauliflower lover, I’m always excited to see recipes that showcase this under-rated vegetable. Roasting brings out so much delicious flavor… if it doesn’t win a non-lover over, I’m not sure what would!

Laura (the first mess) Nov 7, 2011 05:11 pm

Roasted caulfiflower is the bomb. So nutty and delish. Can’t wait to try this combination. With dinner tomorrow for sure :)

Stacy Brewer Nov 7, 2011 11:11 pm

Love it and can’t wait to try this! Girl after my own heart!

IndigoDaisies Nov 8, 2011 05:11 am

I love cauliflower – even the cheese variety with a good cheese sauce of course! But this recipe has got me thinking (and hungry) and definitely going to try something different with the cauliflower sitting in my fridge. Will let you know how I get on.

jess white @athriftyfoodie Nov 8, 2011 05:11 am

I love roasted cauliflower, but with dates? cannot WAIT to try this!!!

SMITH BITES Nov 8, 2011 07:11 am

so . . . can i make this recipe if i’m a lover of cauliflower??? and no, i don’t need it slathered in cheese . . . seriously Tami, this looks fabu!!

Cheryl Nov 8, 2011 10:11 am

This sound very good! I’m always looking for new recipes for vegetables. Thanks for sharing! :-)

TheFromagette Nov 8, 2011 11:11 am

Interesting flavor combo – can’t wait to taste it!!

barbara Nov 8, 2011 11:11 pm

Interesting combination Tami. I love caulifower and happily eat it steamed with a sprinkle of salt and squeeze of lemon.

Elizabeth Nov 9, 2011 02:11 pm

Sweet, salty–yes! I am a reformed cauliflower lover, and usually go for the whole mustard and dried fruit thing, but this looks sure to be my new standard. Thanks!

Sue/the view from great island Nov 9, 2011 06:11 pm

This recipe looks amazing, it’s right up my alley. I love cauliflower already, but this is a whole new direction for me. I usually go for the cheese!

Kimberley Nov 11, 2011 09:11 pm

I love cauliflower. And yeah, there was a split second of resistance to the idea of olives and dates with them. But once you mention sweet and salty, I’m totally sold. I can’t wait to try this!

MikeVFMK Nov 12, 2011 11:11 pm

Add me to the list of someone who never appreciated cauliflower unless it was in a soup. But this looks different so I’m willing to try it. Looks can be deceiving but this looks in-credible.

jami Nov 13, 2011 09:11 pm

I made this tonight and thought it was delicious! Castelvetrano olives are my husband’s favorites, so I wanted to try it as soon as I saw it. I actually HATE olives, and I thought they were delicious and mild in this! Thanks for a great idea.

[…] or just served overcooked. Well I was inspired by this post on another food blog I regularly read Roasted Cauliflower Medjool Dates Olives. I had never thought of roasting cauliflower before reading this post. Friends coming around on […]

nuvali restaurants Nov 22, 2011 10:11 pm

Just curious on how it cook. I love to eat cauliflower and for a change.


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Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) Nov 29, 2011 04:11 pm

I would have nothing to do with cauliflower until I tasted them roasted as an adult. Now I love them. My repertoire is very limited, though. Glad to have another recipe to try–thanks!

Lena Dec 6, 2011 09:12 am

I love cauliflower, but this sounds like I might be able to love it even more. I bookmarked this recipe, hope to try it out soon.

Jessica Dec 7, 2011 09:12 am

Wowzers! I knew this dish was special just from reading the recipe but tasting it really sent the message home. We tossed it with whole wheat pearl couscous, chickpeas and chopped arugula to make it a meal. So good.

debbie Jan 22, 2012 01:01 pm

i love cauliflower…what i generally do is get about 4-5 heads and quarter them. spray a large deep roasting pan, put in the cauliflower, pour can of chicken broth over it and then spray the tops of the cauliflower…roast it on around 450. when the tops are deep brown, turn it over and continue until it’s all carmelized…then mash it with some garlic. i save my 3lb cottage cheese containers and this will fill 2 of those. it freezes really well. i have yet to find something it doesn’t go great with. i never had cauliflower with cheese growing up. a vegetable like cauliflower was usually served with a meat dish in our house and my mother kept kosher.

Janice Mar 25, 2012 07:03 pm

Sounds yummie!

meredith@whynot Oct 29, 2012 01:10 pm

I’m In….. you had me at cauliflower….

Janet Oct 29, 2012 10:10 pm

OMG – I crave this dish from HT, so finally googled it hoping for a close approximation and found it and you – we’re neighbors! (ish).
Am enjoying exploring your site.
Thanks for being here!

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Elizabeth M. Mar 5, 2013 03:03 pm

Holy Taco! That’s code for eureka! I had this very dish at the aforementioned Mexican restaurant and loved it so much I just had to figure out how to make it. And, now…off to the kitchen”-)

[…] recipe from the website Running with Tweezers also included dates with this recipe. Dates aren’t my favourite thing, so I just decided to […]

[…] recipe from the website Running with Tweezers also included dates with this recipe. Dates aren’t my favourite thing, so I just decided to […]

Franziska May 17, 2013 07:05 am

What’s up, I would like to subscribe for this weblog to take most up-to-date updates, thus where can i do it please help out.

Nichole Jun 8, 2013 08:06 pm

I’ve been dying to make this since I came across the recipe a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy to report that I made it tonight for myself and my nine yr old. We both absolutely loved it. I’m going to try nitrate free bacon in it next time! Thanks for the incredible recipe!!

[…] recipe from the website Running with Tweezers also included dates with this recipe. Dates aren’t my favourite thing, so I just decided to […]

[…] through my saved recipes on Pinterest, I re-discovered this roasted cauliflower recipe from Running with Tweezers.  Dates?  Olives?  Rosemary?  Yes, yes, and yes.  With recipes like this, how could I miss […]

Gregory Nov 9, 2013 05:11 pm

I made this tonight. It was a big hit! I used slightly less fresh Rosemary. But I will make it again and will try more recipes from here.

Best wishes!

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