Side dish

Purple sage and colorful cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage DSC 7757

I’ve been leery of cauliflower for most of my life. Despite my early penchant for devouring white foods, there was just something about cauliflower that seemed a bit wrong. To me, it looked like albino broccoli and no matter how much cheese you added to a steaming plate of it (because growing up that was the only way it was served—smothered in cheddar cheese), it felt like an imposter, a genetic mistake that no amount of dairy could improve.

Then a few years ago, I dated a guy who was on a low-carb diet. And if you’ve ever spent time preparing low-carb menus you know that mashed cauliflower is a highly recommend substitute for the off-limit potatoes. I’d puree them with roasted garlic, fresh rosemary and a bit of butter, and if I closed my eyes I could pretend that they were almost as good as the real deal. But I always felt this seemed unfair to the cauliflower—making it work as something it wasn’t. Surely there had to be a way to eat this vegetable where its essential cauliflower-ness was retained and yet would still be satisfying.

Enter pan-roasted cauliflower. After tossing a couple of chopped heads with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and cooking it at a high heat in the oven for about half an hour, the cauliflower came out tender but with a bit of a snap, nicely caramelized in spots which added a sweet depth to the flavor. I was hooked. But I was still a bit put off by the color.

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage | Homesick Texan

So imagine my surprise last Wednesday when I went to the farmers’ market and they had purple and orange cauliflower on display along with the usual white heads. I was struck by their beauty, but was even more impressed by the name for the orange: Cheddar cauliflower. A vegetable named after cheese? Now that’s something I can support! The farmer said they wouldn’t be in season very long, probably for just a few more weeks, so I grabbed one of each, brought them home, threw them in the fridge and then forgot about them.

Such is my life that from Wednesday onward, I’m working late hours at the office and too tired to come home and cook. But Sunday after having a marathon baking session (I was trying to find a perfect cookie recipe for my homemade banana pudding) I was in sugar shock. I needed something fresh, flavorful and healthy, yet a dish that would be a cinch to prepare as well. I peeked into my fridge and there in the back of the crisper drawer sat my two colorful cauliflower heads, forlorn and forgotten and quickly going bad. I then knew what I would have for dinner.

After doing a bit of research on the Internet, I learned that the purple cauliflower has a tendency to lose its vibrant color when cooked, sometimes turning completely gray-green. Well that’s no fun, I thought to myself—I wanted purple food! I did discover, however, citric acid or vinegar would keep the color intact, so after I tossed my florets with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, I also added some white wine vinegar to the mix.

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage | Homesick Texan

Now before I continue, I just wanted to mention that Kalyn over at Kalyn’s Kitchen is celebrating the second anniversary of her food event—Weekend Herb Blogging. I’m a huge fan of Kalyn and her blog, and as I’m never one to miss a good party, I decided that this colorful cauliflower dish would be my offering to her big bash. But what herb should I include?

Last spring, I purchased many herb plants with high expectations. A few months have passed, and sadly I’ve had to say good-bye to a few due to the compromised conditions of apartment gardening. But fortunately, the purple sage, one of my favorites (OK, it’s really the favorite, but as with children I can’t say that out loud or the other plants will be upset. So let’s just keep that between ourselves, shall we? I’d hate for, say, my rosemary plant to get rebellious and stop growing!) has stayed lush and lovely, and provided me with a quick fix of fresh flavor whenever I needed it. Plus, the name matched my food theme for the evening. So I tossed the purple and orange florets with some purple sage, and it added a woodsy accent that’s perfect for autumn.

A note about purple sage, lest you think this post is a bit out of the ordinary for me. Did you know it’s the state shrub of Texas? In a large portion of the state it grows wild and is also often used in yards as bushes. Some people even call it Texas sage. Contrary to its name, however, the leaves of purple sage are not purple at all—instead they’re a silvery green, soft and velvety to the touch. But the stems are purple and the leaves when they first appear have a lavender hue as well. But it’s the bright purple flowers this perennial produces that give the herb its name. Mine hasn’t flowered yet, but I look forward to when it finally does.

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage | Homesick Texan

So happy birthday to Kalyn’s creation: Weekend Herb Blogging—I hope you enjoy this roasted cauliflower and purple sage dish I’ve brought to the party. Matter of fact, I loved it so much I’m planning on preparing it at Thanksgiving as well. But you don’t need a special occasion to whip this up, as it’s quick and easy with a sweet and tangy reward. Not a fan of cauliflower? Don’t worry: I’ll soon be serving up some homemade banana pudding (but only if you at least try your vegetables first!)

Do you like cauliflower? How do you prepare it? And what dishes do you add a bit of sage—purple or otherwise?

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage DSC 7723
4.75 from 4 votes

Roasted cauliflower with garlic and sage

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 heads cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch-sized florets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F and line a large baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the chopped cauliflower with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and sage. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

  2. Spread the cauliflower evenly onto the baking sheet and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  1. Oh man, that purple is amazing – you get such good color in your photos! I have so much sage, i could start my own farm stand – i’ve been planning on making the corn bread with sage and habaneros. Perhaps tonight – for the chili i’m also keen on making!

  2. My parents grow purple sage in their yard. I love the smell of it.

    As for cauliflower, that’s a vegetable I’m okay with. Admittedly, it does need a bit of doctoring up to be tasty…some butter and salt & pepper at least. I’ll need to try your recipe as it sounds yummy.

  3. Such beautiful cauliflowers! I like cauliflower puree by the way. I just love the flavor of sage on dishes!

  4. This looks gorgeous! I *love* roasted cauliflower. I usually toss it with a little olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and thyme and roast at about 400F until golden brown (~1hr). If I’m feeling a little crazy, sometimes I’ll puree it, add some chicken stock and milk and turn it into soup!

  5. Barbara

    Beautiful colors! Yes, white vinegar is acidic enough to save the color of purple cauliflower–as you discovered. It is more acidic than my favorite addition for color and flavor–lemon juice. I always loose a bit of color with lemon juice, but I love the flavor so much, I just deal with magenta cauliflower rather than deep violet.

  6. Beautiful! I had never seen purple cauliflower before moving to Sicily but here the purple variety is much more common than white so I’m used to seeing it now. It does have a tendency to turn ugly colors when cooked so I’ll try the vinegar trick sometime! The recipe sounds wonderful!

  7. Caffienated Cowgirl

    I’ve never come across orange cauliflower…maybe if I told my hubby is was “Cheddar Cauliflower” he’d eat it :o)

  8. I must admit that I would eat car tires before I ate cauliflower. Well, maybe not tires, but I’d eat durian before cauliflower. I see the beautiful colors now at the farmers’ market, and I want to bring them home, but I just can’t bring myself to eat it. Something about the smell of boiling cauliflower — the way my mother cooked it when I was a little girl — that I can’t seem to get past. Your photos are beautiful, though, and I’m almost tempted to try again.

  9. Lisa Fain

    Radish–Thanks (though I do use Photoshop). And can you believe I’ve never used habaneros in my corn bread? Something I must try soon!

    Verily–It does smell wonderful, doesn’t it?

    Veron–Puree is good–a perfect vehicle for butter and herbs!

    Dana–I’ve never cooked it that long–I reckon it gets nice and caramelized!

    Barbara–I wanted to try it with lemon, but I didn’t have any on hand. And I didn’t know that vinegar was more acidic than lemon juice–I guess that explains why the color wasn’t lost. Though I have no problem with magenta!

    Nicole–Reason number 957 why I love Italians–they know good food and can appreciate a burst of color!

    Caffenated Cowgirl–Ha! Sadly it doesn’t taste like cheddar, though you could certainly melt some on top.

    Lydia–Durian’s bark is far worse than its bite, but I understand your aversion. I learned, however, that the older cauliflower is, the more likely it is to stink up the kitchen. So farmers’ market cauliflower if used the same day you purchase it shouldn’t be malodorous.

  10. HA! You bought them! At the UN greenmarket and from the farmer’s that are from my hometown (Samascott’s) I’m assuming?
    We bought some too. I grated mine and mixed them into fregola and scrambled eggs. It wasn’t as pretty as yours, but it sure was tasty!
    I’m so jealous that your sage has prospered. I tried three different plants and they all died 🙁

  11. Knitopia

    I am not a cauliflower fan, but your post along with this one and this one make me want to give it another try.

  12. Anonymous

    Hi Lisa – I love your site! I am a huge fan of food blogs and check out my 15 or so favorite ones (including this one!) every day. I hardly ever leave a comment, though! Anyway, I wanted to say that your photos and recipes are awesome – I’ve read your entire archive. And I ALSO wanted to say that I *can’t wait* to see your banana pudding recipe! I (also a homesick Texan that will hopefully be returning soon) have always used the banana pudding recipe that my mom made, which I love, but since beginning to substitute “Nilla Wafers” for homemade, I have not yet found that perfect cookie. So a huge thanks for tackling this one!

  13. What a great entry! I wish I had some of those colorful cauliflowers, especially the cheddar one, which I’ve never seen. I just don’t understand all this cauliflower aversion, I love cauliflower in pretty much every form. Same goes for sage! I have a purple sage plant that gets wonderful flowers every year. Thanks so much for helping us celebrate the two year anniversary!

  14. Christina

    This is a beautiful post, but what really has me salivating is the mention of the homemade banana pudding. I cannot wait for you to post that recipe.

  15. hensteeth

    Have the sage in the front yard but can’t do the cauliflower, though your recipe reads delicious. It’s one of those veggies I promised myself as a kid I wouldn’t have to eat cooked ever again, like lima beans.

    Doing the refrito thing tomorrow, New Mexican style. A long watery simmer, lots of cumin, a whole green chile floater, a good mash, and a refry in cholesterol busting bacon fat. Land that burrito in a swamp of guisado de chile verde, and make my friends in Dallas weep.

    I so enjoy your wonderful blog, thank you!

  16. Hey, that’s a cool idea with the oven roasted cauliflower. I’ve done a similar type-ish thing but in a cast iron skillet, a wee bit of oil and then sizzling up the cauliflower. With a cover on the pan they get tender and also slightly golden and dark in areas. I discovered I lovvvve cauliflower this way, and add a little smoky paprika and salt…oh mama. Your oven roasted cauliflower sounds even easier, I can not wait to try it!!! Thanks!

  17. Blue Zebra

    How much fun!!! I haven’t seen these. 😀 I love both colors and love love love cauliflower in every shape and form! Great write-up!

  18. Thanks for the comment on Texas Monthly, I’m now working there, so you’ll see more food blogging by me!

  19. Love cauliflower. Many comment here that they won’t eat certain foods because their mothers were brutal cooks and it brings back painful memories and smells etc…

    My mother was a terrible cook. She could take good produce and destroy it in minutes. She would almost liquefy cauliflower and would expect you to eat it. I am glad I gave it another go years back.
    Don’t hold grudges against vegetables. Try them again.

  20. Lisa Fain

    Ann–Yes I did! A wise purchase–I hope they’re there next week when I get back in town. I’m sorry about your plants, but I had the advantage of not being hit by tornadoes this summer!

    Knitopia–Thanks for the links–both recipes look incredible! You should definitely give it another try.

    Anon–Thank you and welcome! Yes, finding that perfect cookie has been my struggle as well. But I’ll have the pudding recipe up soon!

    Kalyn–If you can’t find them, you should try to grow them! And happy anniversary!

    Christina–Check back next week and it’ll be up!

    Hensteeth–You’re welcome! Those beans are mouth watering–I’d do anything for a spoonful right now! And perhaps you should give cauliflower another go, like lima beans, as an adult I’ve discovered with proper cooking its quite delicious.

    Tace–I love your addition of smoky paprika–I’ll have to do that next time!

    Blue Zebra–Aren’t the colors vibrant? It’s hard to not like any food that’s just so pretty!

    Jerry–Congrats on the new gig! I’ll look forward to reading you on the blog!

    Tommy–I agree, never hold a grudge against a vegetable–at least give them another try as an adult and decide if you really dislike them or not.

  21. Kim Foster

    OMG! Your site is so much fun!

    Thanks for your comments on mine. I’m so glad I found you!!! Thanks for making the connection.

    Consider yourself blogrolled on yummymummycooks. I’ll update as soon as I can and consider me a new faithful reader!


    PS thanks for your buttermilk suggestion with the liver. We are going to do more offal soon and you’re gonna be my girl for that one!

  22. Oh, wow! I must lead even more of a sheltered, small town life than I thought, because I’ve been deprived of purple and orange cauliflower…love these colors! How nifty! I admit that I even have a fondness for regular old white cauliflower, but these more glitzy ones are really irresistible. I enjoyed reading this post. And your photos are terrific. 🙂

  23. Wow, what a fun way to get kids to eat cauliflower! I’ve seen the orange variety before, but purple was new to me… Thanks!

  24. I’ve tried the vinegar trick to preserve color–it works! It’s funny, cause I just bought orange cauliflower yesterday and got into this deep conversation with the farmer about beta-carotene and unusually colored foods. He told me that many years ago he tried to sell orange cauliflower and couldn’t give it away because people thought it was too weird. Now he gets top dollar for it and can’t grow enough of it!

  25. homesick texan

    Wow. I’m pretty boring with cauliflower, its crudite or curry and that’s it. I can’t wait to try your simple take on it, it sounds delicious! (and makes me hit my head saying, now why didn’t i think of that? ;))And great use of sage! Its normally overlooked for vegetables being such a great complement to poultry.

  26. Homesick Houstonian

    AAAH! that wasn’t homesick texan, sorry!!!

  27. Remember the Mexican corn stall you blogged about, and I made my own at home?

    Well, when I came back from NYC there are two Indian ones in our neighbourhood. You get a choice of seasonings. I must say, the kernels are really plump and round and not sticky at all. Still, I would have liked to take mine home and add cheese and cilantro!

    Now, about the cauliflower, I can probably count on the fingers of both hands the number of times in my life I have eaten it. Seriously! I prefer broccoli, or even rapini.

    I wonder about the hybrid colours. I heard that carrots were originally purple, but that the Dutch bred them to be orange, in a patriotic gesture I suppose.

  28. I just love how we get attached to our plants, talk to them and then whisper sweet nothings that we don’t want the other plants to hear lest they become offended.

    What a visual enjoyment it must have been to have purple and yellow (cheddar) cauliflower on your plate!

    We only get the white ones here.

  29. This is great. I love the colorful cauliflower (we get that at our market, too). I never thought to roast it with sage, and as I’m always looking for uses for the leaves of my (non-purple) plant, I’ll try that. I generally just use it with potatoes and with poultry.

  30. Hey Hi! I am visiting your blog thru Amanda’s. Seems like I hit it just at the right time for Herb Weekend. Very nice post and you have lovely photos. I’ll stop back!

  31. Rasa Malaysia

    Such beautiful cauliflower, wow! You take really beautiful pictures. 🙂

  32. Many thanks for this recipe! I was at a farm market on the weekend and brought home a huge cauliflower (regular white – they had the orange and purple too but I was too chicken to get them. :-/)

    We usually steam cauliflower and scatter grated cheddar overtop just before serving. (The hot cauliflower melts the cheese.) But now we’re going to have to try roasting it with sage!


    P.S. Does purple and orange cauliflower taste any different from regular cauliflower?

  33. these farmers markets are really a good thing. I wish we had something like that here . I’ve never seen these coloured cauliflowers. They really make any dish interesting. I’m sure the taste was the same though.

  34. “The state shrub of Texas…” OMG, for no reason, that set me off laughing. State shrub…heh, heh, heh.

    Stunning photos!

  35. Lisa Fain

    Kim Foster–We should thank the Good American Wife, which is how I found your blog! And good luck with the liver!

    Belinda–Aren’t they fun? Thanks!

    Clumsy–Great idea–I bet kids would love it!

    Susan–He was ahead of his time. Glad he’s getting top dollar now!

    Homesick Houstonian–Curry isn’t boring! And yes, I’m prone to throw sage into everything–I love it!

    Olivia–That Indian corn sounds delicious! And I’d never heard that about carrots–and what’s strange is that some of the purple carrots you can pick up a the market are orange on the inside.

    Cynthia–My mom used to say plants and pets were the gateway to children–though I haven’t quite gotten there yet! But yes, I love my plants and how they brighten up my apartment. Someday I hope to have a real garden.

    Lisa–That’s so funny everyone keeps mentioning sage with poultry because I think of it more as an herb for pork. And yes, you’ll have to try this–it’s simple and delcious.

    Winedeb–Welcome and thanks for stopping by! I’ll look forward to seeing you again.

    Rasa Malaysia–That’s high praise coming from you–many thanks!

    Elizabeth–Don’t be chicken to try them—they taste the same in my opinion. And I love cheddar on my cauliflower as well, but it’s also fun to try new things.

    Kate–The taste was the same. And just wait, I bet colored cauliflower may make it’s way across the ocean someday!

    Rachael–Glad I gave you a laugh!

  36. Thank you!!! I’ve hated cauliflower all my life. I have tried many times to like it. ugh, texture, color and aroma. I tried your method, tho with white cauliflower and just green sage, IT WAS FABULOUS!
    Thanks Again!
    Elsie in CT

  37. Did you alter the color on those photos in any way? Not that that wouldn’t be alright, but that color is the most beautiful colored cauliflower I have ever seen!

  38. Lisa Fain

    Elsie–Awesome! I’m so pleased you enjoyed it!

    Hillary–No, they were really that colorful. Such gorgeous vegetables and very photogenic as well.

  39. Sprittibee

    Wow! That looks great! 🙂

    I made it back to Texas. 😉 You know on the Luby’s cups it says, “Tastes like Texas, feels like home.” I think they are right!

    May you have all the flavor of Texas until you can come back and live here! * grin *

  40. Thank you!!
    Im from Austin, often look at your blog. Live in NYC now. I saw these cauliflower in union sq and wondered what to do with them. I’ll try this!

  41. Anonymous

    I have just discovered roasted cauliflower… OMG!!! I’m addicted to the stuff. I usually drizzle a little olive oil over top, toss and sprinkle with sea salt and coarse ground pepper. I love the crispy carmelized edges, MMMMmmmm. Thankfully, my meat-and-potatoes husband loves it too:)

  42. Anonymous

    I just discovered roasted cauliflower 2 weeks ago – we've had it 3 times since! The recipe I've been using says to cook it past the stage where it's brown & done looking – it will shrink with dark brown toasty areas.
    Thanks for the tip on vinegar/lemon juice to keep the purple color when cooking – even my foodie/farmer husband hadn't figured out that trick!

  43. HZ in DF

    The family enjoyed this as one of the sides for Christmas dinner. I have nicknamed it Riders of the Purple Sage Cauliflower 😉

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