In the past few years, Cauliflower has become the new chameleon food. Cooks everywhere are turning it into pizza crust, grilling it in place of steaks, and pureeing it until it resembles mashed potatoes. I’m pretty sure that the Paleo diet craze should take all of the credit for creating all of the cauliflower hype. In the past year in particular, cauliflower rice has become the new “it” food. Essentially, it’s raw cauliflower that is chopped into grain-sized pieces, then sautéed until tender and served just like any other grain or starch.
I have to admit, I was pretty apprehensive about trying cauliflower rice. I enjoy cauliflower when it’s tossed with pasta or cooked into an Indian curry, but I wasn’t sure about what I would think of it disguised as rice—I was sure it would still taste like a raw crudités platter. It was a pleasant surprise then when I found that the taste and texture is remarkably similar to traditional rice. The “grains” are fluffy and tender without being mushy. Best of all, they absorb sauce just like actual starches.
To accompany the cauliflower rice, I sautéed some tempeh slices to serve on top. On top of the tempeh and cauliflower rice is a simple tahini sauce with harissa and honey for a rich contrast to the rest of the dish. The sauce is slightly spicy and sweet and brightens up the plate—any leftovers would be especially delicious on falafel. Tempeh, in case you’re wondering, is an Indonesian fermented soybean cake with a nutty taste and firm texture. When I first heard about tempeh, I found the description somewhat off-putting, when in reality it’s more like a hearty vegetable burger with notes of walnuts and bulgur. It’s much more filling that tofu, and has lots of protein and healthy fats. Like tofu, it is sold in the refrigerated section and can be safely served from the package, but most people choose to cook it. Serving tempeh uncooked can make it taste bitter, but once pan-fried in a little oil until golden brown it becomes much milder. If you’re a vegetarian that’s had enough with lentils and tofu, it’s a great new food to try that adapts well to a variety of dishes and cuisines. Cauliflower rice and tempeh are new foods for most people, but don’t let them intimidate you: although they’re relatively unknown, they’re simple to prepare and work with a wide range of flavors.
Whether you’re looking for a new alternative to rice, want to try new ways to prepare vegetables, or want to jump on the cauliflower bandwagon, this a great dish to try.
Tempeh and Cauliflower Rice with Tahini-Harissa Sauce
½ head cauliflower, cut into 4 inch chunks
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
8 oz. Tempeh, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
Tahini Harissa Sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon harissa
2 teaspoons minced parsley
- For the Cauliflower rice: Place the chunks of cauliflower rice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower has been broken into small pieces that resemble grains of couscous or rice. This will take 10-15 1-second pulses. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the cauliflower and sea salt and sauté for 6-8 minutes, until the “rice” is beginning to turn golden brown and tender. Transfer the “rice” to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
- For the tempeh: Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining olive oil and heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh slices in a single layer and sauté until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes a side. Turn off the skillet and set aside.
- For the tahini sauce: whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and adjust seasonings to taste.
- To serve: Place a portion of the cauliflower rice on a plate or in a bowl, then top with the tempeh slices. Drizzle the tahini sauce on top, then serve immediately.