Shawarma is traditionally spit-grilled chicken or meat with succulent spices. Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma marries the same flavors that make classic chicken shawarma so delicious, in a gluten-free, vegan recipe.
The other day at a football tailgater at Michigan State, I met a kid of Dan’s cousin who found out not long ago that he has celiac, and can’t eat gluten. Not uncommon, I know—I was just touched when he saw the huge box of donuts open up before him, and his big beautiful eyes grew even bigger. His mom got right in there and redirected him to the back of their vehicle where he found special cookies he could eat.
The boy’s dad asked about my gluten-free recipes; are there many? There are many, of course, in the Mediterranean diet.
Then another cousin asked about vegetarian and vegan options? What she misses most, she says, are the flavors that are often reserved only for the meat dishes. Like shawarma.
We have gotten so attached to chicken shawarma that it’s one of those weekly gotta-have-shawarma things. A fix. Similar to the way I feel about sushi (Dan, not so much on the sushi fix, but the shawarma big time).
I got to thinking about the truly complex flavors involved in shawarma spice, a mix of so many different spices, and how that spice blend ought to work well with certain vegetables.
The other important flavor in shawarma is the flavor of flame, not char necessarily, but certainly caramelized meat that is marinated in and then doused with rich (yet ever so healthy) olive oil.
Seemed to me that cauliflower, being such a hearty vegetable, could stand up to the caramelization. I wanted this to happen in the oven, on a very hot sheet pan. This way a shawarma’d veg would be possible throughout the holiday season. And the vortex months in places like here where the grill is a no-go.
Guess what? I was right! The cauliflower loves the shawarma spice, and all of the olive oil, roasted on high heat (no problem with the oil). Such an unexpected yet natural melding of texture and umami flavor.
Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma. Fabulously at home as a vegan main, or aside turkey, roast beef, ham, you name it.
Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma
Cauliflower takes to the shawarma marinade perfectly. Be sure to lay the cut-side of the cauliflower down on the hot sheet pan to get the caramelization that makes the cauliflower shawarma so delicious. Make your own shawarma spice blend, or get my special blend at Maureen Abood Market here. Serve the cauliflower hot as a main dish or side dish, or at room temperature atop a salad.
Shawarma spice recipe (makes more than needed here):
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Place the pan in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk the Shawarma spice with the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over the cauliflower in a large bowl and toss to coat.
Take the hot pan from the oven and scatter the coated cauliflower on the pan, turning so the cut-side faces down on the hot pan. Lay the onion on the pan and drizzle the wedges with a bit of olive oil.
Return the pan to the oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Roast until the cauliflower is golden brown and just soft enough to cut through, about 25 minutes.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle with more olive oil. Finish with a pinch of sea salt, and serve immediately.