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.
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.
elsewhere: At ReadyMade, I eat rice for breakfast and find it comforting. At Poppytalk, I make super healthy & low-fat muffins out of millet.
lemon, cumin & sumac roasted cauliflower
I large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1/3 c olive oil
1 large lemon, zested & juiced
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground sumac
1 t garlic powder
1 large pinch kosher salt
good grind fresh black pepper
additional lemon, quartered (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F.
In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, cumin, sumac and garlic powder. Toss with your hands or a wooden spoon so that everything gets evenly combined. Dump onto a cookie sheet prepped with a silpat mat or parchment paper and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping cauliflower over at the 15 minute mark. When everything is golden brown and crispy, remove from oven. Serve with additional lemon quarters for that added lemony bite.
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!
I want you to take me out when I come up to Vancouver!!! P.s.- SUMAC!! Genius! I love that stuff.
oh… more cauliflower! I love you! But where do I find sumac out in the wilds of the Fraser Valley???
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 😛
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 🙂
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!
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?
For a restorative Bloody Mary, I’d come to Vancouver. Beet juice! Love it. Also love this. I’m into cauliflower right now!
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.
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!
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!
This sounds so lovely! Simple, but with some unique and complex flavors.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
I find that roasting some vegetables (Brussels sprouts, in particular) makes them taste addictively like popcorn. These look so snackable, too!
Roasted cauliflower is the ONLY way to go (deep fried is good of course too but not as virtuous). Nice touch with the soumac.
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!
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!
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.
Jennifer the lemon makes it all bright and shiny 🙂
Thanks Rachel, I’m glad we’re on team cauliflower.
I love cauliflower. What’s not to love? Always have loved it. It’s so versatile.
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!
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.
Roasted cauliflower is the best! I love the flavors in this dish.
Thanks. I made it tonight and it was delicious!
I absolutely love cauliflower and sumac…
Gotta try this one!
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!
…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.
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!
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!!
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…
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
My mom makes a version of this but with garlic, lemon and parmesan – also amazing!!
Thank you, Dana!
Rawbean, sounds amazing!
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…
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!
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.
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!
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).
Subha, I think crushed red pepper is a great addition. So glad you enjoyed it!
Yumm I love roasted cauliflower!! Now I want to go to nuba for their cauliflower too mm.
I really like Najib’s Special at Nuba, too!
Are there any other dishes you’d recommend at any Vancouver vegetarian-friendly restaurants?
I blogged about making your recipe at
Check out the vintage Pyrex pieces I used! 🙂
Made this recipe this afternoon. BEST. CAULIFLOWER. EVER!!!
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.
First time was a big hit! thank you for making cauliflower a star in our kitchen!
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.
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!!
Made it and really liked it. Changed the spices a little. Thanks for the recipe.
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!
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!
LOVE Nuba!! Making this right now.
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!
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!
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.
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.
This recipe is amazing! Equally as tasty as the fried stuff at Jam Jar and Nuba!
Mmm love the cauliflower from Nuba!