This Cauliflower Shawarma Reaches for Spring

These earliest days of spring are always the most frustrating, at least when it comes to dinner. Although the weather is getting milder and there’s that distinct earthy-sharp scent wafting through my Brooklyn farmers’ market, the stalls remain largely a barren field of potato-beige and onion skin-brown, with any leafy green bounty still many weeks away.

By this time of year, though, I’ve grown weary of my cold-weather roster of soups, stews and braises. March is when I start to cook brighter, tangier dishes, even if the winter ingredients I’m using haven’t changed at all. Parsnips, onions, carrots, cabbage and cauliflower are still on the menu, but their preparations are a little fresher.

And so it goes with this vegetarian take on shawarma, which walks the line between being cozy and effervescently springy.

Instead of the usual lamb, chicken or turkey, this shawarma variation consists of cauliflower and onions, roasted until caramelized and tender. A sprinkling of coriander, cumin and paprika — the same spices used to marinate shawarma — is added to the vegetables, imbuing them with a pungent scent.

If you served the spiced vegetables as a side dish with chicken or sausages, you’d get a meal perfectly suited for the snowiest winter evening. But paired with a lemony tahini spiked with hot sauce, and topped with juicy cucumbers, tomatoes and briny olives, you have something that feels like it’s dreaming of summer.

This recipe makes just enough for a pair of hungry diners. If you want to double it, use two pans, dividing the vegetables evenly between them. Then add a few extra minutes onto the roasting time. Properly crisp-edged vegetables need room to brown, and two pans of food in your oven require more cooking time than just one.

The sauce smeared onto the different shawarma iterations can vary by region. Sometimes it’s made up of yogurt, and sometimes of tahini. In Lebanon, it’s a thick, garlicky emulsion called toum. I took the tahini route, but feel free to swap things around.

The same goes for assembling your plate. You can tuck everything into a pita, wrap it in flatbread or just serve the bread on the side. That way, your loved ones can choose the exact ratio of vegetables to sauce to bread, and make a meal that feels the most like spring.

Recipe: Cauliflower Shawarma With Spicy Tahini


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