These early spring days are always the most frustrating, at least when it comes to dinner. Though the weather is milder and that distinctly earthy pungent scent is wafting through my Brooklyn farmer’s market, the stalls remain largely a barren field of potato beige and onion skin brown, with a leafy bounty still weeks away.
But by this time of year, I’ve grown tired of my cold-weather roster of soups, stews, and casseroles. In March, I start cooking brighter, spicier dishes, even though the winter ingredients I use 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 is with this vegetarian version of shawarma, which is somewhere between cozy and bubbly bouncy.
Instead of the usual lamb, chicken, or turkey, this shawarma variation consists of cauliflower and onions, roasted until caramelized and tender. A pinch of coriander, cumin and paprika — the same spices used to marinate shawarma — is added to the vegetables, giving them a pungent scent.
If you served the pickled vegetables as a side dish with chicken or sausage, you’d get a meal that’s perfect 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’ve got something that feels like summer’s dream.
This recipe is just enough for a few hungry diners. If you want to double it, use two pans, spread the vegetables evenly between them. Then add a few minutes extra to the roasting time. Properly crispy vegetables need room to brown, and two pans of food in your oven will take longer to cook than just one.
The sauce spread on the different shawarma iterations can vary by region. Sometimes it consists of yogurt and sometimes tahini. In Lebanon, it is a thick, garlicky emulsion called toum. I took the tahini route, but feel free to swap things around.
The same goes for assembling your board. You can put everything in a pita bread, wrap in flatbread or just serve the bread on the side. That way, your loved ones can pick the exact ratio of veggies to sauce to bread and create a meal that feels most spring-like.
Recipe: Cauliflower Shawarma With Spicy Tahini