Feasting at Home : Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Black Tahini and Sumac

October 17, 2013

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Black Tahini and Sumac

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini

After a little break I am excited to be back home in the kitchen again. Our recent road trip started with a stop off in Bend, a seven hour drive from home.  Tired and hungry we were pointed to a very loved Middle Eastern restaurant called Kababa, located in a small cozy cottage that had been converted into a restaurant. We ordered our fill of humus, baba ganoush, falafels, all excellent, but my favorite thing on the menu was their Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce. I thought about that dish for the remainder of the road trip. This recipe is a a little nod to them, for taking such good care of us.

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The dish we had at Kababa was cut into small bite sized pieces, steamed and then sauteed with the flavorful tahini sauce and sprinkled with parsley.  Simple and easy -and if pressed for time, a really good option. However, if you have a little more time, and want to try something a fun, roast the cauliflower whole in the oven. After several attempts, it came out perfectly golden and tender.  For the tahini sauce, I used black sesame seeds, instead of white, to give the cauliflower a slightly ghoulish effect, a little wink to Halloween.

For faster roasting, cut up the head of cauliflower into smaller pieces. Roasting the whole head is purely for drama and effect, which I happen to love this time of year.  Also, to save time, use store -bought sesame paste to make the tahini sauce. Asian markets offer black sesame paste if you want to try that route. Or if you want to experiment a bit more, make your own sesame paste by toasting sesame seeds, grinding them up finely in a food processor or blender, and adding oil, preferably sesame oil, and blending until very smooth.

First, start by carefully trimming the leaves off the cauliflower leaving the stem in tact. Cut a disk off the bottom of the stem, leveling it, to allow the cauliflower to stand up strait.

Place it in a parchment lined pan, and give a good drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt ( I used smoked salt) and fresh pepper.

Cover tightly with foil and place in a 425 F oven for 45-50 minutes. Uncover and continue roasting until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting make the tahini sauce.

If you want to try making your own sesame paste from scratch, remember to toast the seeds beforehand, otherwise the sesame paste will be bitter. Even black seeds need to be toasted, and these are most easily burned.

Toast seeds for 7-8 minutes in the oven along with the cauliflower.

Asian markets are the least expensive place to buy sesame seeds in bulk. It's also pretty easy to find sesame seeds that are already toasted, a really nice convenience. Asian markets also carry black sesame paste, even more convenient!

After the seeds are toasted, grind them dry in a food processor, or blender, scraping down sides and pulsing. Gradually add sesame oil or olive oil until it becomes a thick paste, again, scraping down sides. 
One cup of sesame seeds yields about a half a cup of sesame paste. 

Then take the sesame paste, and turn it into tahini sauce by adding fresh garlic, lemon, cumin and salt.

Then take the sesame paste, and turn it into tahini "sauce" by adding fresh garlic, lemon, cumin and salt.

Remember a regular white tahini sauce, is perfectly fine to use too.

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Sumac

1 head cauliflower
1-2 T olive oil
generous pinch salt
cracked pepper
sprinkle of sumac
1 T chopped Italian parsley
Tahini Sauce ( see below)

Tahini Sauce
1/2 C tahini paste ( black or white)
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1-2 T water as needed
2-3 cloves garlic- finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt or ( try smoked salt)

Homemade Sesame Paste:
1 Cup TOASTED sesame seeds ( black or white)
4-5 T sesame or olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 425F. Carefully remove leaves of cauliflower and using a pairing knife clean up the sides of the stem. Cut a slice off the bottom of stem - to level it- so cauliflower sits upright. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan or baking dish.
2. Drizzle with 1-2 T olive oil, a generous three finger pinch of kosher salt or smoked salt, and fresh cracked pepper.
3. Cover tightly with foil, sealing the edges well, and place in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until just tender. Uncover and let brown 15-20 minutes.
4.While cauliflower is roasting, make tahini sauce. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together using a fork. Set aside.
5. When cauliflower is dark golden and tender, pour tahini sauce over it, sprinkle with sumac and parsley.

To make your own home made sesame paste from scratch, toast 1 C sesame seeds first, 7-10 minutes in a 400F or 425 F oven, careful not to burn- especially the black ones. Toasting them removes some of the bitterness. Grind seeds dry in a blender, coffee grinder or food processor, scraping down sides, until very fine. Add 2 T oil, and then add 1 T at a time until it's the consistency that you want. I usually will add 4-5 T of oil ( both sesame and olive oil) . One cup of sesame seeds yields a little over half a cup of sesame paste.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2-4 servings


  1. This is so impressive and different! I can tell it is delicious too! Pinning :)

  2. This is the most epic looking cauliflower dish. Sounds delicious too!

  3. Woaaa, that's one goodlooking cauliflower right there. Impressive flavors and the tahini sounds so delicious in the dish.

  4. Whoaaa, this looks AWESOME! And those photos are jaw-dropping gooooorgeous!!