We were back from our vacation last Sunday. From New Jersey we had driven to Pennsylvania, and then to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, before getting back. And all this in 3 days. The days were totally thrilling and were adventure-filled like no other. But I must write a detailed one for it was all such a surreal experience. So that would be the story for another post, some other day…soon, I promise! Coming back home in the morning, and sitting on the porch with a cup of sanity and a few crackers is a lovely thing! After all the herculean drive, the fun and the amusement, it feels wonderful to let your body loosen up. To have my overstimulated brain cells and those stiff muscles in the arms and legs relax…the much needed, let-go-the-stress time! Was totally worn out, but even if I want to, I do not get sleep during the day. I keep turning and rolling on the bed and end up with nothing!
Each of the 3 vacation days, saw an extensive 7 to 9 hours drive for us. Had it not been for the little cool-off driving breaks in between, tall size coffees and the ridiculous set of songs we chose to play in the car, we probably wouldn’t have made the rides half as smooth and entertaining. Yes, we found some weird pieces of compositions online and decided to give them all ears to. And what followed was uncontrollable bouts of hysterical laughs! Sometimes all it takes is a few unconventional things in life to set it right.
And while we drove homewards, it was for the first time ever that we saw the George Washington Bridge section on the outskirts of New York City area unexpectedly deserted and without the heavy traffic jam it otherwise manifests. It indisputably remains the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridges, and one of the most expensive toll bridges there is. The E-ZPass transponder installed in our car is depleted of $15 each time we cross the bridge, one way. It is like paying a heavy tax to get struck with the worst traffic congestion!
One weekend, as we were getting back from a friend’s in Connecticut and were passing the Washington bridge past 1am, our GPS-lady had shouted a 40 even minutes traffic delay on the fastest route. We don’t mind traffic on other days. But when we’ve been driving and driving hard since 3 consecutive days, an unending standstill traffic right near your home is the last thing on our minds. And this time, my wrist watch read 3:30 am as we headed through the bridge to the other end towards New Jersey. We didn’t expect much though, but prayed for a “shorter delay”. However, for the very first time, our car was rolling through and rolling non-stop. There were only a couple cars and no more motor-souls crossing the bridge! And that was so incredible we thought.
When I got home, I felt lazy for good. After continual alertness on our road trip, it was almost like letting my armor down at home. I was so tired, wasn’t particularly keen on cooking and definitely didn’t want to eat out. Was in no mood of pizzas, burgers, pastas or Chinese. We were craving for something more comfortingly flavorful, aromatic and soothingly spicy. At the same time, nothing that was gastronomically elaborate.
When I was in middle school and growing up in India less than 2 decades back, I had accompanied my parents to one of their close friend’s garden feast and celebration in city downtown. Out of all regular north Indian party foods that were laid out on the table for us, one item had particularly caught my interest. It was this rich reddish brown spicy cauliflower head that was whole roasted and served. I’d never seen such a thing before. I loved how it looked and had tasted. Upon my urging, Ma had made me the same cauliflower. She tells me it’s a fairly simple item to do and that while it was cooking, this dish didn’t need someone standing next to it stirring or turning the whole time! Well, and that was precisely what would rescue me this day.
I mixed up the spices, brushed them on a clean cauliflower head and baked it. And that’s it! We had a great deliciousness at hand for supper. I carved out a portion of the cauliflower and soaked myself in the aroma, spice and flavors. Mr. Man and I ate it with some homemade bread and butter. It tasted heaven. And then with my gut contended, I crashed out straight to catch rest for the next several hours!! Next morning was a Labor day Monday, and I was still into my extended weekend happiness…so we got us gladly finishing and licking off every crumb of the leftover roasted cauliflower there was!
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 clean and dry small to medium Cauliflower head
- 1 heaped tbsp thick and creamy plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 tsp red chilly powder or paprika (or add to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (or add to taste)
- 1 tsp garlic powder (or paste)
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder (or paste)
- 1 tsp onion powder (or paste)
- 1/4 tsp Garam Masala (mixed and ground Indian spices)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander (dhania powder)
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel (saunf powder)
- Salt to taste
- Ghee or clarified butter to brush on the cauliflower
**If using garlic, ginger or onion paste, squeeze out and discard the watery part. Use only the dense puree with minimal or no liquid in it.
***Double or triple the amount of spices and yogurt recommended, if using a large cauliflower head. The baking time would also be a little prolonged.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease a baking dish and keep ready. If you like, use an aluminium foil to line the baking dish for easy clean up – and grease the foil.
- Pull back all extra leaves on the cauliflower head to get rid of them. Clean the head under running water and using an absorbing kitchen paper-towel, pat dry completely.
- Place the cauliflower head down on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, carefully make a “v-cut” to remove the central stem in the middle, taking care to not cut too deep or separate out the florets.
- Turn the cauliflower head up. It should now be able to stand on the baking dish upright. Brush the cauliflower with ghee and sprinkle salt generously all over. Rub the ghee and salt on both sides of the cauliflower. This coating ensures that the veggie is evenly salted and that the spices stick well on to it.
- In a bowl and using a spoon, mix the ground spices with the yogurt.
- Brush and coat the cauliflower head all over with the spices mixture.
- Place the baking dish with the cauliflower, on the lowest or middle rack inside the pre-heated oven.
- Roast and bake at 375°F for 1.5 hours or until the cauliflower is roasted into a rich brown color head and is done. Try pricking into the cauliflower with a knife or food skewer. The tough central core should be tender and soft. The skewer and knife must come out clean and easy.
- Take out the cauliflower head from the oven. Let it stand for 5 minutes to cool down just a bit. Carve and serve with your favorite bread, rice and gravy or side it with anything you love! This one will add a great spicy goodness to your meal.
- You could also use store bought ready-to-use spice mixes like a “Tikka Masala” or “Tandoori Masala” or any other spice-mix flavors that you prefer. However, I prefer my own spice mixtures for this dish, since fresh spice mixes bring out that fresh tantalizing aromas and taste. If using the ready made spice mixture, add about 3 tsp of the Tikka/Tandoori masala in thick Greek yogurt, ground onion, garlic and ginger. If you like more heat, add some ground pepper and red chilli powder. Mix all. Then coat the cauliflower head all over before you put it in the oven to bake.
- You may use hung yogurt (or hung dahi) in place of the thick Greek yogurt
- You may use grated onion-ginger-garlic or onion-ginger-garlic paste for this recipe too. While using these, use a fine muslin cloth or tea infuser mesh to press and discard excess liquid from the onion, ginger and garlic. Then use the amounts prescribed in the recipe above.
- You can also use light olive oil in place of ghee to grease the cauliflower head, however, ghee punches in a lot more flavor (and is considered healthy by many too!).
- If you are using a large cauliflower head or if you’d like a thicker spicier coat, use double the amount of ingredients for making the spice coat-mix.