Tip #14:Cauliflower is a magic vegetable

Bear with me here.

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Cauliflower can be steamed and served with cheese sauce.
It can be cut into slabs or florets and roasted until it is deeply browned and nutty. With a squeeze of lemon juice and some grated zest, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and some chopped capers, it is heaven on a plate.
Cauliflower can be boiled in broth and some seasonings and then puréed to make an easy, creamy soup with no cream.
It can be riced, and used as a substitute for actual rice for those who are cutting carbohydrates in their diet.

It is this last use that I want to focus on here. Full disclosure: I was skeptical. Rice has a flavor and consistency all its own. There is no way cauliflower is going to hit the flavor and texture notes.

I had a wedge of cauliflower, the neck of a butternut squash, the end of a bottle of Thai red curry paste, and some odds and ends of broccoli in the refrigerator. There was an eight ounce cube of tofu, an ingredient I am learning to enjoy. I also had the majority of an opened can of coconut milk. (See leftover containers’ graveyard. This gathering of bits and bobs is not an infrequent occurrence.) Most importantly, sitting on the counter I had the Eating Well recipe for Cauliflower Rice Pilaf that had kicked the skepticism into high gear. And I was hungry.

The results? No, cauliflower rice does not exactly taste or feel like rice. It does not look like rice either; I think it looks more like couscous. But it is nutty and savory all in its own way, helps soak up any sauce it is paired with, and is worth eating even if you are not trying to cut carbohydrates from your diet. The only thing I added to my cauliflower rice was salt, since I wanted to use it as a rice substitute with the curry I was making, but I think the pilaf recipe would be delicious as a side dish.

An added benefit is that cauliflower rice could not be easier to make, if you have a food processor. If you do not, or if you need it to be even easier, most grocery stores are carrying it in their freezer cases.

How do I know it is something I will eat again (and again, and again…)?  I did not feel the slightest bit virtuous eating it, meaning I did not feel like anything was missing in the name of “doing better things for my body.” Because let’s face it: no matter how healthy something is, if it is not absolutely delicious, I am not interested.

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Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry with Cauliflower Rice

2 tbsp peeled, minced ginger

2 tbsp peeled, minced garlic

½ cup sliced scallion, divided

1 tbsp sesame oil

3 cups broccoli (I used florets and peeled stems, cut into matchsticks)

3 cups peeled, diced butternut squash OR sweet potato (1/2-3/4-inch dice)

½ cup vegetable broth

1-2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

2 tbsp reduced-sodium tamari

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 can coconut milk, well-stirred

8 oz tofu, cut into ¾-1 inch cubes (I had firm, so it is what I used. Extra-firm would work, too.)

¼ cup cilantro leaves (optional)

4 cups cauliflower rice (see link above for recipe)

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the sesame oil. When it shimmers and/or you can just smell it, add the ginger, garlic, and half of the scallions. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add broccoli and butternut squash to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, curry paste, tamari, and rice vinegar and stir well. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the coconut milk. Nestle in the tofu, being careful not to break it up.
  3. Let the mix simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, or until the butternut squash is cooked through.
  4. Ladle ¼ of the curry mixture into an individual serving bowl, and make a well in the vegetables. Scoop 1 cup of cauliflower rice into the well, and sprinkle with 1 tbsp remaining scallions and cilantro, if using. Repeat with three more bowls.

Adapted from a recipe by Kris Carr

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