Have you seen the newly trending cauliflower rice dishes? Yesterday, I was feeling adventurous and when I saw riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s, I thought, well, why not give it a chance? We had a friend over for dinner and I brought together some of my favorite ingredients, fresh herbs from my urban garden, and my mediterranean culinary roots to come up with this recipe for Spiced Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice.
I’ve never loved cauliflower, I must confess. Its relative, broccoli, I like to have just right – meaning, not overcooked so that it bends like cartoony Gumby and not too raw that the little tops are crumbly and dry. Broccoli, done right, with just the right amount of steaming is perfect. Cauliflower seemed too difficult and has an almost bitter smell, so I have always been hesitant to cook with it. Up until I put my spoon to my mouth, I was still a little concerned that this meal would be ruined by cauliflower.
Fears abated……this dish has made FRESH, COMFORT-FOOD status! Try it.
I can’t think of an easier blend for cooked food than a one-pot “rice”, veggie, onion, meat, garlic, spice dish. I suppose, this is my version of an American casserole. Mediterranean spices are amazing – they add so much to dishes, so if you haven’t yet explored some, this is your chance. Think: this is your chance to “take a trip” to an exotic place where there are lovely spice markets, like the ones you see in photos. So, besides the cauliflower, I was well within my cooking comfort zone. In fact, I remarked as I sautéed onions that I’ve been smashing ground beef with a wooden spatula since the year 2000 (Y2K, anyone?).
I think you’ll love it.
Here’s how to fix this easy dish in 30 minutes. Easy pea-sy. Literally.
You will need:
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tblsp ground black pepper
- 3 pinches sumac
- 1 tablespoon ras el-hanout
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- garlic, 4 cloves, chopped
- handful of small tomatoes, I used san marzano tomatoes from Trader Joe’s I happened to have.
- 1 bag, about 1 pound riced cauliflower (basically the heads without the stalks, in small rice-like grain pieces)
- 1 pound ground beef (I use 96% lean)
- fresh mint leaves
- fresh thyme (a couple sprigs)
- feta from a block
- 1 cup english peas (a little peppery! you can use any peas you like)
First, heat the skillet. I used cast-iron. Sauté onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil. Don’t use olive oil in a hot skillet – it becomes bad fat. Grapeseed oil or coconut oil are good choices to use because they don’t transform under high heat. This takes about 5 minutes.
Add in ground meat and stir in with softened onions and garlic and alternate with covering and steaming the meat until juices are present. Add in tomatoes when meat is almost done cooking, cover, and steam for a couple minutes.
Uncover, then add all spices and soy sauce to the meat. Add in fresh thyme. Add peas. Add in cauliflower. Lower heat to medium for 10 min. Cover for 10 minutes at low-medium.
The texture of the riced cauliflower is like a soft grain, between rice and barley or couscous. The meat flavor soaks into the cauliflower and makes the whole dish smell and taste wonderful. The feta adds a little extra salt and a new texture. The mint is refreshing with the spices and the peas. The tomatoes add some warmth and acidity. This is a terrific dish for the summer! You may also choose to garnish with a spoon of juicy red pomegranate seeds. I’m converted – using cauliflower as a substitute for grain works perfectly here.
Nutrition Notes: Peas are a great source of protein and b vitamins like thiamine, and cauliflower has vitamin K for bone building (easy to remember – they’re white like bones) and boosts glutathione production in the body, readying it to protect your DNA from damage. How’s that for a rice staple substitute??
Will you try this? I hope you love it!
Until the next dish,