Curried Cauliflower “Couscous”
Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “C”, as in “creative”, “clean” and “crave-worthy”. Or, you know, “cauliflower”.
I have always felt that cauliflower, like most crucifers, is often sadly overlooked. We spend so much effort on eating the rainbow, filling our plates with vibrant, colourful fruits and vegetables, that we sometimes forget the value in those that are just plain white. Pallid parsnips get passed over for purple and orange carrots, and poor old cauliflower plays a distant second fiddle to just about everything else. You totally know what I’m talking about, even if you are as much of a cauliflower lover as I am. Picture in your mind the last dozen half-eaten and abandoned vegetable trays that you’ve seen at a party. There might be a few lonely carrots rolling around, a solitary piece of celery and a mangled looking cucumber slice hidden under a piece of decorative purple kale, but the quarter tray of cauliflower looks as pristine and unsullied as when it was first laid out. There might as well be a sign on there saying, “Cauliflower, go home. Nobody likes you here, anyway.”
Except that I do. Quite a bit, really.
At times, I try to trick you into thinking that I have some kind of eternal home-cook creative genius going on, whereby I’m positively brimming with unique ideas that are just waiting to be shared. This is not one of those times. I happily stole the brilliant idea for a cauliflower “couscous” from Bitchin’ Kitchen after watching a re-run of an old Hallowe’en themed episode.
To be clear, this is not a couscous salad, it is a cauliflower salad that is prepared in such a way that it looks startlingly like couscous and would likely be the perfect foil for your picky no-veg-eating loved one. If you have a food processor, it comes together in a snap and is a lovely light side dish or offering on the buffet table. When I photographed this salad (many moons ago), it was paired with a Middle Eastern sweet and tangy spiced lamb chop, but it would be just as perfect alongside grilled chicken, fish or even a juicy pink pork loin.
Curried Cauliflower “Couscous” Salad
Serves 6 as a side dish
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 1 medium red pepper
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted (~20)
- 1/3 cup dried currants *
- 1/4 cup slivered almond
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1.5 lemons, juice only
- 1 tsp mild curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- small handful fresh mint (2 tbsp minced)
- small bunch of parsley (3/4 cup minced)
- kosher salt, to taste
* You can substitute raisins if you prefer.
Grate or press the peeled garlic into a fairly large mixing bowl. Measure in the olive oil, 1/2 tsp of lemon zest, and juice of one and a half plump lemons. Add the dried spices. I’m always a fan of mixing the dressing for a salad directly in the bowl first, because as far as I’m concerned it is just one less dish to wash! Season the dressing with salt before whisking together the ingredients.
Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet (or the oven, if it happens to be on) until they are golden brown. Set them aside to cool.
Now on to the bulk of the salad – the cauliflower! Carve large florets off of the head of cauliflower and discard the main stem. Working in batches of about 1/4 cauliflower at a time, pulse the raw florets in a food processor until they are equally small and granular, about the size of couscous. Remember to pulse the mixture in short, small whizzes so that you have control over the size, because your intent is not to create a cauliflower puree. When each batch is complete, add it to the mixing bowl containing your dressing.
Chop the red pepper into a small dice and coarsely chop the olives. Mince the parsley and mint. Add these ingredients, along with the currants, to the cauliflower.
Stir until everything is combined. Taste the salad and season again with a bit of salt if you need it, which you might. I find that people tend to have a much lighter hand when seasoning via dressing than they would when seasoning a whole salad, myself included.
Garnish the cauliflower couscous with your toasted slivered almonds, and you’re done!
I served this salad on the side of some gorgeous rare lamb chops, but it is well worth noting that I have also eaten the leftovers for lunch as a stand alone meal and it was surprisingly satisfying, and possibly even more flavourful after allowing the ingredients time to blend.
With the warm weather here, and a summer full of backyard BBQ and potlucks looming on the horizon, dishes like this fast, fresh and healthy salad are hitting my table more frequently than ever. Or, put another way, cauliflower is quickly becoming a new favourite “grain” in this house!