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Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnuts and Lemon

January 7, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower with Hazlenuts and Lemon
Approximate Roasting Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours

Meyer Lemon Tree

I know most of the country is caught in the clutches of snow and ice right now, but not here in LA. It’s the same temperature it always is, give or take a few degrees, day in and day out, “season” after “season.” Before any of you scraping ice off your windshield get too annoyed by my good luck, take note that there is a little bit of sarcasm in that sentence…sunshine is a wonderful, uplifting beautiful form of weather, but being a Gemini, I’m programmed to desire variety and living in LA often feels a lot like Groundhogs Day. Today, January 7th, feels the same as November 7th did and August 7th did, and May 7th did….what year is it again?

Despite my struggles with the weather here, there is one thing in LA I was smitten with right away, and after six years of griping about this city the husband will be happy to finally see me admit in writing to something positive.

Lemon trees. Do you have any idea how enchanting it is to have a lemon tree in your yard? When we first moved here we didn’t have a lemon tree and would sneak up the street to pluck lemons from an abundant tree that dangled ripe fruit directly over an alleyway. Then, two years ago I bought my husband a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for his birthday. For two years we harvested no fruit. At first, the lemons would start to grow but never really get ripe. We moved the pot to a new spot in the yard and a lemon started to grow. And grow. Until it was ripe and plump and just about perfect. Finally one morning I opened the door to pick the lemon and there it hung, yellow and juicy, with a huge bite taken out of it. The fact that a rat or possum or raccoon had gotten to it first would have been a little less annoying if the creature had just taken the whole lemon instead of mocking us by taking a big bite and leaving it on the tree. After that, the creature came back once more and finding no fruit, striped the entire tree from top to bottom. There was not a leaf or shred of green left on it.

Now, however, a year later, our little tree is prospering. I love seeing the bright yellow fruit hanging from its branches. I love the clean, sweet aroma when we cut into one of the lemons.  Wehave picked several and used them on salads and in drinks and in this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnuts and Lemon. The lemon brightens up the whole dish, which is surprisingly rich and decadent.

Cauliflower is not a vegetable that I have a deep affection for, but I have never disliked it either. It doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics that make it stand out from other vegetables  – not its bland color, not its mild flavor, and not its shape, which let’s face it, is a little awkward looking. It is, however, the perfect vegetable for roasting in the oven, as the texture softens but doesn’t get mushy and the flavor actually becomes interesting. Especially if you lavishly coat it in a mix of hazlenuts, lemon, parsley and olive oil. For the first 45 minutes or so in

Hazelnuts

the oven, nothing is going to happen. You are going to take a piece out of the oven and try it and think, “I don’t know what she’s taking about. This still just tastes like cauliflower.” But in the last half hour or so something magical happens. The hazelnut mixture becomes incredibly rich and flavorful. The cauliflower turns into a better version of itself. This dish is for people who want to eat more vegetables this year but don’t want to suffer while doing it.

If all goes according to plan and the gods decide to be kind, the husband and I will be moving with our little potted lemon tree into our

Backyard Lemon Tree

Backyard Lemon Tree at new house

new house, our first house, at the end of the month. No one is more surprised than me that I have committed to live in LA. It is proof that anyone can bloom where they are planted if they decide to. It helps, however, to have  a tall, lovely lemon tree already growing in your new backyard.

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