By Mardi Linane
I didn’t grow up eating cauliflower. In fact, I did not grow up eating many fresh vegetables at all.
Ours was a larger family of seven to nine, depending on who was living with us at the time. We followed the typical Standard American Diet: Cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, dinner consisted of a protein of some sort, a mashed potato, canned or frozen vegetables and a salad made of iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber with either orange, white or Italian dressing from a bottle.
When our family got our first microwave sometime in the '80s we began eating fresh vegetables for the first time. And by fresh, I mean microwaved, nightly.
By vegetables, I mean broccoli.
I was in high school. Everyone we knew ate like this and we thought we were eating a balanced nutritious diet.
In my early 20s I worked in Los Angeles as a sales rep. I had the enviable and best lunch territory, which ran from Malibu to Beverly Hills. I began eating outside of the (at home) Standard American Diet.
This is when and where I fell in love with the taste of taste. Mind blown.
It was during this time that I had cauliflower for the first time. Honestly, it took some getting used to. Slightly strange mouth feel. Raw was a much more harsh experience. I ultimately fell in love with cauliflower among so many other vegetables I was experiencing for the first time, including artichokes and asparagus. I alternated between cauliflower and broccoli among the many other vegetables in my weekly shopping trips.
I attempted to reverse engineer (a cooking and tasting perception technique I learned from my adopted abuela) many of the amazing meals I enjoyed at some of the best restaurants in Southern California.
In recent years I focused on nutrient dense whole foods. I began moving beyond steaming, stir-frying or serving cauliflower raw for dips or crudités platters.
I began mashing cauliflower with garlic, pureeing, blending into soups, roasting it with various spice blends. I read cookbooks like many read novels.
I read a suggestion for processing cauliflower into pellet or rice-sized pieces as a rice substitute. Rice is more of an inexpensive filler than a quality whole food. I admit, I miss rice a little, cheap food that it is.
I set out to make cauliflower rice.
I pulsed cleaned, raw cauliflower florets in my food processor until what was left looked like grains of rice. I was surprised.
So then what? I sautéed the cauliflower in a pan of butter and seasoned it with sea salt.
It was not bad. Not bad at all. I severed it as an accompaniment to beans and fajita style peppers. It was very filling and tasty. Fresh salsa on top was perfect.
I realized that the possibilities were endless with this clean tasting base for anything.
I began serving it seasoned with crushed garlic, fresh lemon and dill for a bed with fish or chicken.
I sautéed it with cumin and sea salt as a side for curry dishes.
Most recently, I made a faux risotto that was out of this world! This can be a great vegetarian main dish or fabulous side for a variety of dishes.
I started by determining what I had in the fridge (basket). This is how dinner develops in our house when I haven’t made a weekly meal plan. It happens to the best of nutritionists.
“Chopped kitchen” Redlands -- I had a head of cauliflower, Portobello mushrooms, red onion, red and yellow bell peppers, spinach, garlic, carrots. I am sure this will spark ideas for many ways to blend veggies to make interesting ‘rice’ dishes.
So here is what I made from what I found:
1 head cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed into florets
2 Portobello mushrooms (chopped into bite size pieces)
½ each red and yellow bell pepper (chopped into bite size pieces)
½ red onion diced
1 purple heirloom carrot (cleaned, rough chopped medallions)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup clean, fresh spinach
½ teaspoon sea salt, pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Place cauliflower florets and carrot medallions in food processor or blender, process (or rough chop) to rice-like consistency. Set aside.
Melt butter in frying pan large enough to allow room for tossing all ingredients.
Add mushrooms, peppers and onions. Sautee until just cooked.
Add cauliflower-carrot mixture, minced garlic and spinach. Use tongs to turn mixture over to cook spinach. It won’t take long from start of cooking to finish, less than 10 minutes. If ingredients look dry add a little more butter or extra virgin olive oil. Just enough to keep everything from sticking to the pan.
Adjust sea salt and pepper to taste. Depending on what we are having, it is nice to let this sit in the pan after it is done cooking on low or no heat to allow vegetables to become a little crisp on the bottom.
Enjoy this beautiful dish alone as a very satisfying lunch or dinner or as a side for myriad protein accompaniments.
Mardi Linane is a healthy foodie lifestyle coach in Redlands. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org