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Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro-Pecan Pesto

4 Servings

In Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen, chef Josef Centeno honors the cooking traditions of his Tejano family and the food he was nurtured with during his childhood in San Antonio, Texas. Here, he shares a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower With Cilantro-Pecan Pesto inspired by his mother’s cooking.

“This was inspired by my mom’s steamed cauliflower, which she would serve as a side with pasta with pesto sauce. She made the pesto with what­ever nuts were on hand, and it being Texas, that was often pecans. I riffed on her variation by using cilantro instead of basil and cotija instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Like the broccolini torrada, this is always on the menu at Bar Amá.”

Note: Blanching the cilantro for the pesto helps prevent it from oxidizing.

Reprinted from Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019.

Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro-Pecan Pesto

Ren Fuller

Cilantro-Pecan Pesto
 2 bunches fresh cilantro (leaves and soft stems only)
 ½ cup toasted pecans or cashews
 3 tbsp grated cotija cheese
 zest of 2 lemons
 1 garlic clove
 1 cup olive oil
Roasted Cauliflower
 1 head cauliflower, florets separated
 3 tbsp olive oil
 Pinch of fine sea salt
 Fresh black pepper
 2 fresh thyme sprigs (optional—if you have some around, great)
  cup grated cotija cheese
 Juice of 1 lime

MAKE THE PESTO: Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water; set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the cilantro and cook just until bright green, 1 minute. Transfer to the ice bath to stop the cooking and drain. Squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible with your hands or in a clean kitchen towel. Coarsely chop the cilantro and put it in a food processor. Add the nuts, cheese, lemon zest, and garlic. Pulse until a coarse purée forms (it should be fairly chunky). Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until it’s the desired consistency. Set aside.


Heat the broiler. Put the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Season with the salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the thyme, if using. Broil until the cauliflower is just tender and the edges are well browned, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking.


Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss with about 1/2 cup [120 ml] of the cilantro-pecan pesto. (Reserve any extra pesto for another use; store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Transfer the cau¬liflower to a serving plate. Sprinkle with the cotija and then the lime juice, and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 4