SERVES 8 to 10 (VEG): Deeply roasting spiced cauliflower gives it a crisp texture and bold flavor that works perfectly with fragrant basmati.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS For a fragrant, warm-spiced rice redolent with North African flavors, we started with aromatic basmati. We paired it with sweet, earthy roasted cauliflower, tossed with a generous amount of black pepper for heat and cumin for a deep, warm flavor. Roasting at a high temperature for a short time caramelized and crisped the florets without rendering them limp and mushy. We added the rice to a flavorful mixture of sautéed onion, garlic, and spices, simmered it until tender, then finished the dish with a burst of sweet pomegranate seeds and a mix of fresh herbs. Long-grain white, jasmine, or Texmati rice can be substituted for the basmati. Serve with a cooling yogurt sauce (see here), if desired; ideally, you should make the sauce before starting the rice to allow the flavors in the sauce to meld.
- 1 head cauliflower (2 pounds), cored and cut into ¾-inch florets
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 onion, chopped coarse
- 1½ cups basmati rice, rinsed
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2¼ cups water
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Toss cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon cumin. Arrange cauliflower in single layer in rimmed baking sheet and roast until just tender, 10 to 15 minutes; set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add rice, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and remaining ¼ teaspoon cumin and cook, stirring frequently, until grain edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in water and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes.
- Off heat, lay clean dish towel underneath lid and let pilaf sit for 10 minutes. Add roasted cauliflower to pilaf and fluff gently with fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and mint. Serve.