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cauliflower two ways

July 5th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Cauliflower is so endlessly versatile, and to think up until a few years ago, I’d only eaten it raw or boiled. Boiled? Ugh. Steamed is a much better, albeit bland, option, but if you allow it to go too far in the steamer, it’s lack of inspiration becomes legendary. The epiphany, thankfully,  was the pan of deeply roasted cauliflower that changed my mind about the stark white florets forever. I’ve tried it mashed like potatoes, and also pureed smooth with parmesan for a creamless alfredo sauce. But time and again, I placed a pan loaded with it in to a hot oven and devoured the results.

That was about it for that vegetable, and I was fine with it. I could eat cauliflower year-round, and I do, but now with a few new methods in my arsenal, I can enjoy this vegetable a whole lot more.

I came across this fried ‘rice’ recipe for Cauliflower on Shanna’s blog and knew that I had to get that going in my own kitchen. While I do love fried rice to the depths of my heart, it’s best when you have cold, cooked rice on hand and that’s not just something that materializes in this kitchen every day. But a head of cauliflower, ground in a few pulses in your food processor and mixed with the same type of seasonings in a hot wok can be a dynamite substitute, with a lot less calories and carbs.

And simple doesn’t even do this justice. It’s ridiculous how easy and quick this is. I spent more time prying the leaves from the core of cauliflower than any other aspect of putting this together, including chopping an onion. Given that you’re basically pulverizing the vegetable, you can use the core of it as well and no one would ever know the difference. In less than 10 minutes after heating up my wok, we sat down to steaming bowls of this fragrant meal.

Shanna has two options for this recipe on her blog, which is a wealth of beautiful writing (with a love story that’s almost as good as ours…..) and this base of ground cauliflower could really withstand just about any treatment to create your own version. I made a rich curry flavored dish, enhanced with ground pistachios for flavor and as I tossed and cooked it, inhaling the fragrance from the wok, I started thinking of all sorts of vegetables I could add to this to make it better and deeper in flavor, and in a second round of this simple meal, I added in some leftover vegetables from a coconut curry stir fry that Griffin had made, as well as a few handfuls of cold rice and the results were equally spectacular. This will be a new favorite in our house, you can bet on that.

Another mind-blowing option for Cauliflower that I’d been thinking about lately is to prepare it on the grill. I’ve seen methods of doing this by slicing through the head, creating a ‘steak’ and laying that on the grill. In my attempt to cut my Cauliflower though, my ‘steaks’ broke apart, leaving me with no other choice but to toss them on my grill plate to cook. Probably one of my best purchases for outdoor cooking, my cast iron grill plate lays directly on top of the grate and is perfect for cooking all manner of small foods; I can grill peppers and onions for fajitas, asparagus without losing any stalks, mushrooms, small fruit and a wide range of other foods, and it was perfect to create this smoky, sensational grilled cauliflower. I could barely contain myself from eating the entire bowl of it.

My most favorite marinade to use on grilled vegetables is a spicy mustard vinaigrette, brushed or tossed with the vegetable prior to being placed on the grate. It imparts terrific flavor, with just a bit of punch from the mustard. I’ve found that it works well on almost every vegetable I’ve ever grilled. Which, admittedly, has been A LOT. I love to grill just about anything.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

1 small head cauliflower, leaves removed and broken in to large chunks
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
Coconut oil for cooking
Soy sauce and sesame oil to finish

Place the cauliflower in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse to break it down. You want small pieces but not too deeply ground up. It happens fast too, and I need about 3-4 good pulses before it’s perfect.

Heat  a small amount of coconut oil in your wok, or other large deep skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring continually, until it’s softened, maybe 5 minutes tops. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for several more minutes. Add the cauliflower and stir to mix everything up. At this point, once the cauliflower is warmed, you can be done. I cooked it through a bit so it wasn’t completely crunchy, retaining just enough bite to be toothsome. It’s entirely up to you.

Drizzle the cauliflower with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, if desired, before serving.


RECIPE NOTES: This can be treated like any fried rice recipe, using vegetables to bulk up the finished product. The variations you can make are positively endless.

unconventional fried rice

May 21st, 2012 | 2 Comments »

A really good bowl of perfect fried rice is one of my most favorite things to consume. Any restaurant with it on the menu sets it’s yardstick by how good their fried rice tastes, and with one bite I’m either over the moon or sadly disappointed. A matchless bowl will have the ultimate combination of firm grains of rice, a deep rich flavor from the wok and enough extras to make good flavor without sacrificing the overall taste of the dish.

I’ve made fried rice at home on occasion, and always with the caveat that my wok will never replicate that of a good restaurant. I enjoy it for what it is from my own kitchen and don’t expect perfection. Especially if I stray from a standard method and go off on my own path.

I’m like that as a cook, anyway. I’m not one to follow a crowd and stick to something tried and true. I like to push myself with my food and try many different means to fill my belly. My unconventional means to a steaming bowl of fried rice started with roasting a few pans of vegetables and ended up with a decent rendition for dinner that everyone enjoyed.

The best beginning to any fried rice is always cold, cooked rice. A few cups of that, along with any variety of vegetables and a hot pan and you’ve got what you need. My version had edamame, roasted cauliflower and carrots in it, plus the remains of some shredded lacinato kale that I had on hand. True proponents of fried rice likely would shake their heads at this combination, but that’s me, in a nutshell. Improvising is my strongest tool when it comes to cooking. There are many days that I stand, pantry doors open, fridge ajar, my mind churning with possibilities, and learning to utilize what’s on hand is a skill worthy of any home cook.

Plus? This was utterly delicious.

Roasted Vegetable Fried Rice

1 pkg frozen Edamame pods
1 head cauliflower, washed and cut to bite sized pieces
1/2# carrots, washed and sliced on a bias
1 c. shredded lacinato kale (or other greens, like spinach or chard)
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 T. minced fresh ginger
4 c. cold cooked rice
2-3 T. sesame oil
Soy sauce to taste
Fresh squeezed lime juice (optional, but delicious!)
Sesame seeds for garnish (also optional, also delicious)
Peanut or coconut oil for frying. (You want an oil that will withstand the high heat needed in this dish. I don’t recommend using olive oil for fried rice as it breaks down at high heat.)

Cook Edamame according to package directions, cool and remove from the pods. Heat oven to 400°.

Roast cauliflower and carrots on separate baking sheets, as they will need different times to cook completely. Toss them in a bit of oil, salt and pepper prior to placing in the oven, and roast them to desired tenderness.

In a wok, or large skillet, heat a small amount of oil. When hot and shimmering, add the ginger and garlic and quickly stir for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to combine, breaking up the clumps. Stir and toss the rice until it’s nice and hot, the drizzle about a tablespoon of sesame oil around the edge of the pan and stir the rice with the oil. Add in the vegetables and stir to heat through. Drizzle with soy sauce and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice. (the zest is really nice too!) Add a bit more sesame oil and a few tablespoons of sesame seeds, if you have them. Stir together to combine until it’s all nice and hot. Serve topped with more sesame seeds.