It’s not easy pulling off a major PR breakthrough when you happen to look remarkably like the human brain (especially when you’re an edible).
But the humble cauliflower has done just that.
And a whole lot more. Emerging from the recesses of childhood memory where it was once written off as a wet, pulpy mass of tastelessness and rising to achieve culinary darling status, our brainy friend can now be found strutting its stuff all over town appearing in the form of: whole roasted cauliflower; cauliflower steaks; cauliflower pizza; cauliflower bread slices, cauliflower noodle lasagna, cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash (just to name a few).
Oh, almost forgot one of our faves, cauliflower ‘wings‘.
It turns out this winter white beauty is versatile and gorgeously adaptive. Cauliflower shines when intermingled with seasonings that temper its bitterness and accentuate its surprising depth of flavor. Cooking methods such as roasting, grilling and sautéing are some of the best ways of achieving this result.
In this particular recipe, I’ve broken down the cauliflower into ‘rice’ with a couple of quick pulses in the food processor and then simply sautéed it with some coconut oil and a delicious blend of spices. It’s about as simple as it gets and the results are tasty and a refreshing change from the usual denser side dish fare. This balance can be especially welcome when things tend to tip towards the heavier hitting carbs around the holiday season.
I chose the classic Indian combination of peas and mushroom (reminiscent of Khumb Matar) to complement the spices but you can go in any direction here with veggies of your choice. The soft plump raisins offer a delicate sweetness to balance the savory seasonings and the almonds some crunchy resilience. I decided to give the dish a seasonal flare with a sprinkle of pretty pomegranate seeds too.
In terms of texture, my youngest hit it on the head when he said the cauliflower rice reminded him of couscous. It has a softer, spongier texture than rice – this not to say that it’s unpleasant, but it is different so if you’re anticipating a firmer rice texture, you’ll be disappointed.
I hope you have fun with this one and experiment with your own favorite combinations of flavors, textures and seasonal colors.
Be sure to have a look through the Notes for more information and best results.
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium-large head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 10 oz brown crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup peas, thawed from frozen
- ½ cup plump golden raisins (substitute dried cranberries or sliced apricot)
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- sprinkle of pomegranate seeds (arils)
- Curry from Scratch:
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cayenne powder (or to taste)
- Curry in a Hurry:
- 2 Tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- pinch cayenne powder, as desired (it's hot!)
- In a small bowl, combine curry seasonings of choice and set aside.
- Place cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse just until the florets are broken down and resemble 'rice' (you don't want to overdo this because as you breakdown the cauliflower more and more water will be released - you may need to work in two batches). The cauli rice will be moist but should not be dripping wet.
- Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a large skillet set to low medium heat and sauté onions and mushrooms until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has been released (about 10 minutes). Season the mixture with a good pinch of salt and coarse pepper (as desired). As the mixture continues to cook, sprinkle with half of the curry seasoning and toss to integrate.
- Add the peas and raisins to the skillet, tossing for a moment and then the cauliflower rice - sprinkle with remaining curry mixture and, using broad strokes, gently mix just until the 'rice' has heated through and the seasonings are well combined (you don't want to overdo this part to avoid a mushy mess).
- Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- This cauli rice is best served immediately. You can spread it out on a serving platter (as pictured) and sprinkle with almonds and pom seeds or on individual plates.
Spicing: 'curry powder' refers to a combination of spices ground together to impart the taste that we typically associate with Indian cuisine. The curry powders found in grocery stores are relatively mild. And although you won't generally find 'curry powder' used in authentic Indian recipes, there is nothing wrong with using this spice blend if it helps simplify your life - especially around the holidays! (I've included two recipe options for the curry blend in the recipe card).
Side or Main: this recipe was developed as a side dish but you can easily ramp it up to a main dish by adding some chickpeas and paneer (Indian cheese) for example. Or maybe some sautéed cubed tofu or tempeh. As you wish. A nourishing a delicious meal that happens to be vegetarian.
The Smell: once the cauliflower is broken down in the food processor it releases sulfurous compounds that are rather odiferous :o you don't want to store your freshly pulsed cauliflower rice in the fridge for hours before making this recipe (lest one of your kids ask you what died in there) - this is one recipe you want to make in one shot and luckily, it's not a very time consuming one.
Health Benefits: along with its other cruciferous friends (broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, Brussels sprouts), cauliflower is known for its high concentration of chemicals called glucosinolates which are broken down by bacteria in our digestive tract and transformed into bioactive compounds with cancer fighting properties.