Spiced Cauliflower "Couscous"... with toasted cashews and pomegranate. I know cauliflower has emerged as a "genius" substitution for a variety of rice or wheat based dishes. Recipes have been created to minimize the carbohydrate laden dishes and making them wheat-free, rice-free , etc.... I've posted my take on "fried rice" before... using cauliflower instead of traditional rice. Even ventured to try the cauliflower crust pizza... which I loved. But recently I ended up substituting a cauliflower "couscous" for the usual wheat based couscous... and loved the result. Why, it even looks like couscous!
While I made a spiced (Middle Eastern) version of couscous, you can easily turn this into a tabbouleh-style sort of dish, skipping the spices and increasing the amount of parsley. But I must say I simply loved the addition of the toasted nuts along with the pomegranate seeds. It not only makes the dish look beautiful, but it imparts a ton of flavor to the overall dish.
I was inspired to make this spiced version after seeing the recipe win a contest for the best picnic-style side dish on Food52. While I loved everything about it, I knew I didn't care for the added golden sultanas. Not a fan of too sweet a dish... though I always fall for sweet and sour chicken:).
There were a few pomegranates in my fridge, pomegranates that I had received from my sister during our last Thanksgiving vacation. She had collected a bagful of pomegranates from her tree and gave me some to take back home... for which I was quite grateful! Love pomegranates. Since coming back home we had eaten the pomegranates mostly as a snack, but I had kept on to a few. In my mind I was thinking to use them in a savory dish of some sort. It's interesting, but those pomegranates lasted well into January... sure the skin wrinkled, but inside, well, they were just perfect. Of course, I immediately thought of the last few pomegranates I had lingering in the fridge when making this dish.
I just knew the pomegranate seeds would work much better than the sweet sultanas. Well, at least I thought so:). Obviously the original recipe had won a contest with the sultanas, but you know, those pomegranate seeds really added that extra pop of tartness that I loved... actually felt they were needed to balance out the sweetness of the cooked cauliflower. Not to mention the bright red color made the dish totally stand out.
This dish is the type of dish you will have to adjust to taste. If you feel the cauliflower couscous isn't sour enough, then adjust by adding extra lemon juice. The dish can also take more olive oil, if you like. And definitely add salt to taste. While I liked it the first day, I loved it even more so the following days as the spices mellowed out a bit. I could easily see how this dish could be made ahead and brought to a potluck/picnic without too much hassle... and you wouldn't need to worry about it staying out too long. No mayonnaise, no eggs, no meat. Just healthy and tasty.
A great side addition that would go well with a variety of dishes... great used as a base for lamb chops, koftas, or grilled fish. Hope you enjoy...
You will need:
1 large head cauliflower
3- 4 TBS olive oil
4 TBS meyer lemon juice
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp za'atar
1/2 tsp garlic flakes, can use raw crushed garlic
2-3 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 green onion, chopped
2 TBS minced parsley and/or cilantro and/or mint, etc
seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 cup raw cashew pieces
1. Dry toast raw cashews till charred in spots... a few minutes on medium low heat, stirring often. Set aside.
2. Mix marinade. Set aside.
3. Process cauliflower florets in 3 batches... 15 short pulses... till size of rice/couscous.
4. To a dry skillet, add 3-4 TBS olive oil. Heat on medium heat and cook cauliflower for about 7 minutes... stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of any brown bits.
5. Remove cauliflower "couscous" from skillet and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool.
6. Pour vinaigrette over cooled couscous, stir until combined.
7. Add minced herb/s of choice, chopped green onion and pomegranate seeds(I like to rinse the seeds of any clinging juice so it will not stain the "couscous"). Stir to combine.
8. Adjust seasoning if needed with extra salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.
9. To maintain the crunch, stir in cashews just before serving salad.