At a Trader Joe’s in Nashville, TN there is such demand for cauliflower rice that they don’t even stock it on the floor. It must be asked for by name whereby an employee goes to the back to retrieve no more than two bags of this frozen product for you to purchase. When I heard this story from a friend who lives in Nashville, I was struck that this whole scenario seemed more like a backroom drug deal than a supermarket purchase. Then again I clearly missed the rise of cauliflower to rock star status.
I guess I should have seen it coming. Cauliflower’s neutral flavor and meaty texture have long made it popular with cooks seeking healthier alternatives. For years, I have heard about cauliflower mac and cheese (although still never tried it) and recently I’ve seen cauliflower spring up as a substitute for Buffalo chicken wings of all things (toss them with hot sauce and presto you have a vegetarian version of the sports bar favorite). Meanwhile, in my kitchen, cauliflower has been stuck in a corner; no fancy preparations here, just some old school roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper and Parmesan.
But that all changed last month when I stumbled upon a recipe for cauliflower “couscous” in Lukas Volger’s stunning new cookbook. Clearly it was time to jump on the bandwagon and see what was behind this cauliflower craze.
Taking inspiration from Volger’s recipe and my own spring garden I dutifully chopped, seared, steamed, and blanched my way to one of the prettiest and most feel-good lunches I have had in a long time. The hype for cauliflower in “grain-form” is well-deserved. The cauliflower couscous was delicious and the perfect backdrop for this simple, yet flavor-packed spring lunch. Happy cooking!
Spring Vegetable Cauliflower “Couscous” Bowl – Printer Friendly Recipe
Inspiration for this dish came from Lukas Volger’s stunning new cookbook bowl. It is a beautiful book and my only criticism is that the photography in it literally makes his food too pretty to eat. I adapted his method of cooking cauliflower couscous from his recipe aptly titled “Cauliflower “Couscous” Bowl,” substituting rice vinegar for the red wine vinegar called for in his recipe.
14-ounces firm tofu, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
1 medium cauliflower head, florets cut into small pieces
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed
20 thin asparagus stalks, ends trimmed
1 1/3 cups sugar snap peas, stem end and string removed from each pod
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 green onions, ends trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
3 large radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
Place a clean dish towel on a baking sheet and place the tofu slices on top of it. Fold the towel over the tofu and place a heavy casserole dish or pot on top of it. Press the tofu for at least 20 minutes or as long as several hours. If pressing for more than an hour, refrigerate the tofu during pressing.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough canola oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Pat the tofu slices dry and add them to the oil. Cook until golden brown; about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the browned tofu from the pan and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
To prepare the cauliflower couscous, place the florets in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until the cauliflower is very fine; it will look like couscous. Fill a large pot with about 1-inch of water and bring it to a boil. Add the processed cauliflower and cover the pot. Cook for two minutes then drain the cauliflower through a fine-mesh strainer. Be sure to thoroughly drain the cauliflower before proceeding to the next step.
Combine the minced shallot, rice vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Place the drained cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle the vinegar mixture over it. Toss with a fork to combine.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Blanch the asparagus stalks for about 30 seconds in the boiling water then rinse them under cold water before draining. Repeat with the sugar snap peas. Toss the asparagus and sugar snap peas with the sesame oil and season to taste with salt.
Scoop large spoonfuls of the cauliflower “couscous” into four large shallow bowls. Top with the tofu, asparagus stalks, sugar snap peas, green onions, radishes, and pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!