lemon roasted cauliflower with cumin & sumac

roasted cauliflower

If you were to come to Vancouver, I’d take you to one of my favorite places. It’s a little restaurant called Nuba. We’d order their spiritual tonic, a fresh beet juice Bloody Mary that is as restorative as it is a kick in the pants. And no matter what you were looking at on their menu, I’d steer you towards the Najib’s Special – a Lebanese plate filled with all sorts of wonderful things, but the star attraction is the crispy, salty, lemony cauliflower. Granted, the cauliflower is deep fried, so I know I can’t re-make (nor would I want to) that kind of magic at home. However, I’m fine with that because there’s 3 locations within brisk walking distance from my house. It’s good to be neighbours with great cauliflower.

roasted cauliflower

I’m surprised when people say they aren’t cauliflower fans. I don’t get it. I think the big white fluffy looking vegetable is as beautiful as just about anything to come from the ground. And it’s versatile: soup, curry, braised and roasted. What’s not to love? But if you are on the cauliflower fence, give it a try this way: roasted, crispy, salty, lemony, earthy and tangy. The sumac and lemon work together to brighten the the tartness while the cumin adds an earthy simmer. Plus, it’s dead simple to prepare.

I may not have created a copy-cat recipe, but it’s got all the elements I love – lemon, garlic, saltiness and tang. I consider this a wild success and something I’d be happy to chow down on this any night of the week.

roasted cauliflower

elsewhere: At ReadyMade, I eat rice for breakfast and find it comforting. At Poppytalk, I make super healthy & low-fat muffins out of millet.

72 comments to “lemon roasted cauliflower with cumin & sumac”

  1. 1
    lesley   January 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    mmmm, i adore najib’s special. sigh.
    also, cauliflower is a staple at our house, we eat a couple heads a week, most often roasted. it is the ONLY vegetable my 2-year-old will eat without a fuss, she loves it as much as the rest of us.
    i will definitely be trying this recipe, i always love new spins on our regular meals. thanks, jeanette!

  2. 2
    tracy   January 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I want you to take me out when I come up to Vancouver!!! P.s.- SUMAC!! Genius! I love that stuff.

  3. 3
    wendy   January 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    oh… more cauliflower! I love you! But where do I find sumac out in the wilds of the Fraser Valley???

  4. 4
    Joanne   January 20, 2011 at 3:16 am

    I’m actually a big cauliflower fan and I happen to have just bought a little jar of sumac! I’d say this is pretty good timing. You must have a camera in my spice closet 😛

  5. 5
    Aku   January 20, 2011 at 3:30 am

    I’m just going through a cauliflower resurgence so I think I’ll be giving this a go sometime soon! Just gotta get my hands on some sumac first 🙂

  6. 6
    Jennifer   January 20, 2011 at 5:41 am

    I left Vancouver a few months ago and I used to live right around the corner from Nuba. It’s funny that besides my friends, I miss the great food more than anything! You’re making me quite jealous of your cauliflower!

  7. 7
    The Rowdy Chowgirl   January 20, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I love, love, love roasted cauliflower. But I usually just use salt and olive oil. This combo looks terrific! I haven’t used ground sumac before–what sort of flavor should I expect from it? Maybe I’d better go sniff the jar in the bulk spice section of the co-op?

  8. 8
    Kimberley   January 20, 2011 at 8:46 am

    For a restorative Bloody Mary, I’d come to Vancouver. Beet juice! Love it. Also love this. I’m into cauliflower right now!

  9. 9
    Marisa   January 20, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I love Najib’s special! I tried to duplicate the cauliflower myself but way overdid it on the lemon. This looks delicious! I’ll have to try it.

  10. 10
    Kali   January 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Roasted cauliflower is about the only way I can get my husband to eat it! I like your take on it, though, and will definitely make it as a side sometime soon. I bet it would as equally delicious and prettier with one of those gorgeous colored heads of cauliflower I sometimes come across at the Atwater Market!

  11. 11
    LadyGouda   January 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

    YUM- I just finished up a big batch of curry roasted cauliflower I made earlier this week and I am sad it’s gone. Plus, I was just gifted a jar of sumac, so this will be high on the list of recipe priorities in the coming days/weeks. Thanks!

  12. 12
    Gemma   January 20, 2011 at 11:22 am

    This sounds so lovely! Simple, but with some unique and complex flavors.

  13. 13
    Bijoux   January 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I love cauliflower. I would make it more often but someone in the household doesn’t like it too much. I’ve read about Sumac seasoning before but I haven’t seen it at my local bulk store. I presume it’s one of those items you need to get from a Middle Eastern supermarket or on-line?

    p.s. What a great idea re: roasting your cauliflower on a silpat. I have one and I never use it because it seems to always burns my cookies.

  14. 14
    kickpleat   January 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Lesley, another najib’s fan! Who isn’t? Try it out and let me know how it compares 🙂

    Tracy, I’d love to take you out!! Come to Vancouver again!

    Hmmm, good question Wendy. Not familiar with the Fraser Valley, but there might be some good spice shops somewhere! Or just stop by the Gourmet Warehouse next time you’re in Vancouver. Or a middle eastern shop!

    Joanne, sounds like this recipe is ready for your take on things.

    Aku, good luck and I hope you enjoy it!

    Jennifer, Vancouver has such great food and Nuba especially. I’d miss it a lot too.

    Chowgirl, it’s tart tasting so it’s good when you want to add a squeeze of lemon to something – just sprinkle on sumac. Which is why I tried it here since I wanted to add tartness but didn’t want an overly lemon flavour. Enjoy!

    Kimberley, c’mon on down! It’s a good drink and the cauliflower is fantastic 🙂

    Marisa, I think the sumac helps to quell the powerful lemon by adding a special kind of tartness.

    Kali, yes, I’m sure it would be lovely!

    Sounds like you’re ready to go, LadyGouda.

    Thanks Gemma.

    Bijoux, I think you can find it at a shop that carries lots of spices, a Middle Eastern market would be perfect. I use my silpats all the time (I’ve got 2!) – any vegetable roasting, I use a silpat. For pizza, for cookies, everything!

  15. 15
    Jacqui   January 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm


  16. 16
    Deena   January 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Man I love roasted cauliflower! My discover last year was roasted cauliflower pizza (more of a flatbread I guess). Roast it a little less done than you’d like, throw it on a pizza bianca dough, bake til done and add some rosemary (if you want) and coarse salt. Lordy.

  17. 17
    kaye i   January 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I LOVE roasted cauliflower, they’re like candy!!!
    I should check out Nuba, how could I have not known about that place?! I like Lebanese/Mid-Eastern food! Mm-hmm…

  18. 18
    Maddie   January 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I find that roasting some vegetables (Brussels sprouts, in particular) makes them taste addictively like popcorn. These look so snackable, too!

  19. 19
    Suzy   January 21, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Roasted cauliflower is the ONLY way to go (deep fried is good of course too but not as virtuous). Nice touch with the soumac.

  20. 20
    Jennifer @ A Busy Nest   January 21, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I love roasted cauliflower but haven’t had lemon in the recipe before. I can’t wait to try this with orange cauliflower tonight. Thanks!

  21. 21
    Rachel   January 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I’m always confused by non-cauliflower eaters too. What’s not to love?
    The flavors you have going here sound awesome, even more so on crispy cauliflower!

  22. 22
    kickpleat   January 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Oh yes, Jacqui!

    Deena, that sounds amazing!!

    Kaye, if you haven’t found Nuba, you should.

    I love brussels sprouts but have never roasted them, Maddie. I must be crazy! I’ll be trying that next. Thanks for the tip.

    Thanks Suzy!

    Jennifer the lemon makes it all bright and shiny 🙂

    Thanks Rachel, I’m glad we’re on team cauliflower.

  23. 23
    bellcurves   January 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I love cauliflower. What’s not to love? Always have loved it. It’s so versatile.

  24. 24
    Amy   January 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I went searching for a sumac cauliflower dish online because it’s one of my favorite dishes at a local restaurant (in Kansas City) and I wanted to try it at home. I found this one, which looks perfect, and I’m planning to try it tonight. One question: the cauliflower doesn’t seem to make an appearance in the recipe (outside the ingredients list) until you “flip it”. I’m assuming that I toss it in the large bowl with all the other ingredients to get it coated? Thanks!

  25. 25
    kickpleat   January 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I’m in total agreement, bellcurves!

    Amy, thank you! I totally missed it in the instructions…add cauliflower. Oops. Thanks for your eagle eyes. Corrected.

  26. 26
    Natasha @ Saved by the Egg Timer   January 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Roasted cauliflower is the best! I love the flavors in this dish.

  27. 27
    Amy   January 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks. I made it tonight and it was delicious!

  28. 28
    Rocky Mountain Woman   January 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I absolutely love cauliflower and sumac…

    Gotta try this one!

  29. 29
    Nicole   January 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Mmmm…roasted vegetables are the best! I love the combination of flavors here. Funny question-has your silpat been that dark for a while? I’ve kept mine relatively undarkened until making baked potatoes coated in olive oil and it got very dark. It’s soaking right now and I’m hoping it will loosen!

  30. 30
    Avice   January 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    …I struggle with finding the words to describe how much I love this recipe. Suffice it to say that two of us DEMOLISHED a medium-sized cauliflower and wanted MORE when I made it for dinner last night (Sunday). I think it would make a lovely starter for a dinner party. Fits well with my current Ottolenghi obsession as well.

  31. 31
    tea_austen   January 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Oh man, I am making this just as soon as I can get cauliflower in the house. This is SO my kind of recipe.

    And I suspect Nuba would be my kind of restaurant too!

  32. 32
    kickpleat   January 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks Natasha.

    Amy, so glad you enjoyed it!

    RMW, I’m sure you’ll love this then.

    Good question, Nicole. I have 2 silpat mats – both different manufacturers. I think this is the older one of the two and it’s always been darker from the beginning. No idea!

    Hooray, Avice, love hearing that. Demolished. Excellent work.

    Tea, I’ll take you to Nuba. Come to Vancouver!!

  33. 33
    Brilynn   January 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I roast broccoli a lot more than cauliflower but I could easily be convinced to give this a try, although I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty intrigued by a deep fried version…

  34. 34
    gia   January 25, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I made this last nite for dinner, could not find sumac at local groceries but we still loved it! I broiled the cauli for a few mins to get some xtra crunch. thank you 🙂

  35. 35
    shine on you crazy diamond   January 26, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I love that you posted this recipe because Nuba is one of my favorite restaurants and the najib special is also one of my favorite things to order, I’ve been experimenting over and over to re create it! I’m excited to try this out.

  36. 36
    kickpleat   January 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi Brilynn! I’m sure you could be easily swayed to the cauliflower side 🙂 Definitely.

    Gia, so glad you tried this!

    I’m glad you know the magic of Nuba, shine! Enjoy.

  37. 37
    Dana   January 30, 2011 at 7:41 am

    My mom used to make steamed cauliflower when I was a kid which I ate but didn’t like. Once I discovered how brilliant it can be when made just about any other way, I fell in love. I adore sumac and I think it sounds wonderful here!

  38. 38
    rawbean   January 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

    My mom makes a version of this but with garlic, lemon and parmesan – also amazing!!

  39. 39
    kickpleat   January 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you, Dana!

    Rawbean, sounds amazing!

  40. 40
    Thea | mon ami   January 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I LOOOVE Najib’s special so much I never try anything else at Nuba!Thanks for the option of trying to re-create it in my own home.

    Now I just have to figure out the secret to their creamy hummus with the secret spice I can’t place…

    thank you!

  41. 41
    SixBalloons   January 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Oh, kickpleat! I just tried the recipe… Had to make a few mods – onion powder for garlic powder, and a couple dashes of celery seed instead of sumac.

    I didn’t know cauliflower was so delicious! Great crunch, and nice lemony taste meant not having to add too much salt. Really liked it, can’t wait to roast up some butternut squash soon (speaking of roasting, and nice caramelizing)… Thanks for the recipe!

  42. 42
    Michelle   February 7, 2011 at 2:26 am

    I love cauliflower and we get plenty of it here too (Kent, UK), so I made this recipe (from memory as I’d forgotten to print it out) and it turned out fab!

    Thanks for the inspiration – I’d never have thought of roasting cauli.


  43. 43
    kickpleat   February 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Thea, I think nuba peels their chickpeas to make their hummus super smooth! No idea what spice is there, though. Glad I could help!

    SixBalloons, so glad you loved this!

  44. 44
    Subha   February 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I tried this last night for our dinner and it was GREAT! the two of us polished off an entire head of cauliflower in one sitting. Thanks for the great recipe! The only mod I did was to add some crushed red pepper flakes to the marinade (being true to my indian roots).


  45. 45
    kickpleat   February 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Subha, I think crushed red pepper is a great addition. So glad you enjoyed it!

  46. 46
    Ashley   March 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Yumm I love roasted cauliflower!! Now I want to go to nuba for their cauliflower too mm.

  47. 47
    emily   April 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I really like Najib’s Special at Nuba, too!

    Are there any other dishes you’d recommend at any Vancouver vegetarian-friendly restaurants?

  48. 48
    SixBalloons   May 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I blogged about making your recipe at


    Check out the vintage Pyrex pieces I used! 🙂

  49. 49
    Lisa   October 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Made this recipe this afternoon. BEST. CAULIFLOWER. EVER!!!

  50. 50
    Sara   November 2, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Thank you for reminding me to use the sumac on my shelf. I sprinkled about a 1/4 t along with a heaping 1/2t of ras el hanout (I had a small cauliflower) and the juice of one lemon. It was really fantastic! I did learn that I was out of garlic, which is a bit of a tragedy as I can’t get to the store for the next few days, but it didn’t seem to matter.

  51. 51
    Deena   January 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    First time was a big hit! thank you for making cauliflower a star in our kitchen!

  52. 52
    Sarah   January 10, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Had this last night and looking forward to it for lunch. Such a novel way to cook cauliflower, just loved the brown bits. I will be telling all my friends. Only just discovered your blog and can’t rate it highly enough.

  53. 53
    Megan   January 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Nuuuuuuba. Nuuuuuuuba. That food is the stuff dreams are made of. Can’t wait to try this. Just have to find the sumac and I’m ready to go!!

  54. 54
    Anne   February 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Made it and really liked it. Changed the spices a little. Thanks for the recipe.

  55. 55
    Dani   February 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    My boyfriend and I love Nuba, and we made this with tahini sauce and falafels for dinner last month; time to do it again tonight!

  56. 56
    annieD   March 13, 2012 at 4:25 am

    This… this is just ridiculous. I’ve been making roasted cauliflower forever with just olive oil, salt and lemon. That recipe has now been forever usurped. I actually body blocked my hubs from getting to the little brown bits left on the pan. It’s that good!

  57. 57
    Jackie   December 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    LOVE Nuba!! Making this right now.

    Thank you!!

  58. 58
    Kale   August 12, 2014 at 4:35 am

    Oh my gosh. I’ve loved Nuba for years, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to search for a home version of Najib’s Special. Without a doubt, I’ll be enjoying this very soon. Thank you!

  59. 59
    Joe   January 11, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I am not a big fan of Cauliflower but whilst living in Vancouver my friend took me to Nuba and introduced me to Najib’s Special and Wow! I was blown away. Love this recipe and so glad to find it. Thank you soooooo much!

  60. 60
    Joe   January 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I am not a big fan of Cauliflower but whilst living in Vancouver my friend took me to Nuba and introduced me to Najib’s Special and Wow! I was blown away. Love this recipe and so glad to find it. Thank you so much! I can now enjoy sharing this with my friends and family and hope to stun more people like me who are not so keen on the vegetable.

  61. 61
    Nadine   September 1, 2016 at 11:52 am

    After i get to that stage of what you did i find the cauliflowers are dried out and still a bit raw… so i would call this a half way point in my recipe. the next thing i do is i bring a pot, add a starch like rice or couscous, half water and half stock, and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the starch is done.. and voila, the cauliflour is now mushy and burnt and awesome.

  62. 62
    Krista   February 21, 2017 at 10:17 am

    This recipe is amazing! Equally as tasty as the fried stuff at Jam Jar and Nuba!

  63. 63
    Naomi   April 21, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Mmm love the cauliflower from Nuba!

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