As a child, cauliflower was not a welcome guest on my dinner plate. The brown butter sauce my mom drizzled overtop was the single redeeming factor.
Fortunately, cauliflower has come a long way from the mushy stovetop rendition many of us remember, proving itself to be as adaptable as it is healthy. Contemporary recipes have offered unique twists on favorite comfort foods such as mashed potatoes and pizza crust, all with the help of this versatile veggie.
We’ve all heard the directive, reinforced by many popular diets, not to eat white foods like pasta, white bread, and sugar. But this cream-colored cruciferous vegetable packs a nutritional punch. Loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, cauliflower also contains sulfur compounds that have been associated with a lower risk of some cancers. It happens to be low in calories and carbs, too.
Several years ago, my friend, Justine, from Full Belly Sisters, sent me the following recipe with a note saying that she thought my family and the readers of The Fountain Avenue Kitchen would love it. She suggested getting over its “weirdness” and giving it a try. Knowing Justine’s knack for creating recipes that are as satisfying and delicious as they are healthy, I tried it right away.
The brilliance of this fried rice dish is that half of the rice is replaced with cauliflower, thereby reducing the carb count while adding a variety of nutrients. Yet the method of preparation makes it look—and taste—a lot like rice.
When I first prepared this dinner for my family, I didn’t mention the unconventional component. My intent was not to be sneaky; I just wanted unbiased feedback. They cleaned their plates, requested seconds, and my younger son actually asked for leftovers the following night.
I’ve since used this recipe for several food demonstrations and it is consistently met with glowing reviews. More recently, my three-year-old niece tested it and proclaimed it “very yummy.”
Yields 4-6 main dish servings, more if serving as an hors d'oeuvre.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (if not available, use all olive oil)
- 7 scallions, chopped (keep white/light green ends separate from dark green tops)
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3 cups cooked brown rice, *cold* (from 1 cup uncooked)
- 2 cups cooked broccoli, chopped small (see tip)
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, minced (see notes)
Remove the cauliflower’s tough stem and roughly chop the florets. Using a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until they resemble rice or couscous. You should end up with about four cups of “cauliflower rice.”
Heat the olive oil in a large (12- to 14-inch diameter) skillet over medium heat. If available, a cast iron pan works well. Add the garlic and the white and light green scallion pieces. Sauté for one minute or until fragrant.
Add the cauliflower to the skillet. Stir to coat with the oil, and then spread in an even layer and let sit; you want it to brown slightly to bring out the sweetness. After a couple of minutes, stir and spread out again.
Add the cold rice and the coconut oil (or more olive oil). Raise the heat to medium-high. Toss everything together and, again, spread the mixture over the pan and gently press down. Let it sit for about two minutes so the rice toasts and gets a little crispy. Add the peas and broccoli and stir again. Drizzle the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil over the rice. Cook for another minute or so and turn off the heat. Add the chopped scallion tops and minced eggs. Toss and serve immediately. Leftovers are delicious, gently reheated, for lunch or dinner over the next several days.
- One of the ways I adapted the original recipe was by using hard-boiled eggs, which can easily be prepared in advance, in place of the stir-fried egg typical of fried rice. As an option, you may scramble two eggs, remove to a plate and roughly chop. Then simply wipe out the pan and proceed with the recipe, stirring in the eggs at the end.
Pressing down on the cauliflower and letting it cook, undisturbed, allows is to brown a bit and develop great flavor.