Spice Merchant Cauliflower Couscous

By • March 7, 2013 • 63 Comments


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Author Notes: Opening a jar of spice is like magic. Adding a dash of spice to a simple dish, feels like letting a genie out of the bottle. A touch of cumin, a touch of lemon, a few good quality ingredients -- we think of the long journeys along the silk road, and remember that once upon a time spices were more precious than gold, tightly guarded, that they created civilizations, destroyed empires, and led to the discovery of new continents…

P.S. I learned the magic of turning the cauliflower into couscous from Sam1148’s post, http://food52.com/recipes/14493-cauliflower-couscous. It became a foundation for many wonderful dishes. It even made my daughter eat cauliflower, for which I will be eternally grateful.
QueenSashy

Food52 Review: WHO: QueenSashy is a native New Yorker and a scientist who loves a lot of things, but does not love cilantro.
WHAT: A deeply spiced cauliflower dish masquerading as couscous. (Or is it the other way around?)
HOW: Blitz a head of cauliflower, let magic ensue, then mix it all up with a blend of spices, citrus, nuts, and raisins.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We were transfixed with the genius treatment of cauliflower in this dish -- that is, until we tasted the complexity of the spice, the nuts, the raisins, and the herbs. Nevermind that it's a gluten-free version of couscous -- we put it out for lunch one day, and counted the minutes until it was gone.
A&M

Serves 4-6

  • 1 large cauliflower (about 1 ½ pound of cauliflower florets)
  • 5 ounces raw cashewnuts
  • 3 ounces sultanas (gold raisins)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon za’atar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour warm water over them. Leave the sultanas for about 15 minutes, until plump. Drain and discard the water.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the cashewnuts and toast them for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and gently charred. Stir frequently to make sure that cashewnuts do not burn. Let the cashewnuts cool. Cut the half of the cashewnuts into smaller pieces (or simply crush them with your hands).
  3. Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure to leave behind as much of the stem as possible. Chop the florets into smaller pieces. Transfer the cauliflower into food processor in batches, and pulse until the pieces are finely chopped and resemble couscous. Be careful not to over-process.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower couscous to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the couscous from the heat and let it cool. Add the sultanas, cashewnuts, za’atar, cumin, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Leave the couscous for about 15 minutes for the flavors to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Comments (63) Questions (1)

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5 days ago Alicia

This is so delicious and so incredibly easy to make! I made it for our Passover meal last night, and wow! It disappeared so quickly. Even people who said they didn't like cauliflower gobbled it up.

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8 days ago Nyborg

Whoops, I mistakenly followed Sam1148's post on cauliflour "couscous," thinking it was this one, and mixed all his ingredients before realizing it. So then I used the dressing from this recipe and it's a great combo. Very fresh due in part to the fact that his is raw..

Sept2

10 days ago Sarah Clark

This was so good! Even my healthy-hating husband loved it. Love the idea from the commenter to add pomegranate seeds - will do that next time!

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13 days ago ro_laren

Hello, I really want to make this delicious recipe. Can you please confirm how much couscous I would need?

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13 days ago beejay45

ro_laren, there is no actual couscous. The cauliflower is masquerading as couscous, making this not only delicious but gluten free!

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about 1 month ago London GM

We tripled the amount of nuts evenly among cashews, almonds and pistachio plus we hadded the seeds of one fresh fresh pomegranate - it was a show stealer!

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about 1 month ago nycnomad

Also I tried this with pumpkin seeds instead of cashews…amazing and I think next time I'll sauté it in coconut oil. I think it might be an interesting modification. So yummy!

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about 1 month ago nycnomad

Hi I just made this recipe and realized, you don't mention what to do with the garlic. I sautéed it in the pan before adding the cauliflower but am not sure if that was the intention. Could you be so kind as to comment. Thank you.

Moi_1

about 1 month ago QueenSashy

Hi nycnomad! When the cauliflower has cooled, I added crushed garlic together with the other ingredients.

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2 months ago Amy

I have never used Za'atar and am overwhelmed with the choices on Amazon. Can someone advise me what to order?

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2 months ago Hana

Hi Amy, I haven't tried this spice in this brand but their other spices are great so I think this one will be just as great. Teeny Tiny Spice Co. of Vermont Organic Za'atar. Hope this helps.

Moi_1

2 months ago QueenSashy

There are more za’tar blends than there are people on this planet! This dish is very forgiving, whatever blend you use, it will be mighty fine. I have many different ones, some with cumin, some without. I used "cumin-less" Israeli brand in this dish (thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, anise, coriander, fenugreek) and added cumin separately.

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about 1 month ago lalf

It’s so easy (and inexpensive!) to make your own, fresh, especially since some store-bought brands can be bitter or otherwise not great tasting. There are lots of recipes for Za'atar on the web. Here's one from Sylvena Rowe, author of “Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume”:
2 tbs thyme
1 tbs marjoram
2 tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 tbs sumac
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and store in a jar.

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2 months ago Hana

This looks so good! I'm going to make this right now, I just so happen to have all of these ingredients. Thanks for the recipe!

Stringio

2 months ago Allison Klein

I made this last night and it felt like magic--turning cauliflower into what looked like snow, and then cooking it for a short while until it became something that is almost indistinguishable from couscous. I used everything the recipe called for, but I had some mushrooms, carrot and celery hanging around, so I sauteed them and added it to the mix. I also added a bit more za'atar, plus a dash of smoked paprika, and pomegranate arils. Tasty, and I feel so virtuous while eating it!

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3 months ago Frank

I replaced the cauliflower with 1 cup of quinoa. Came out AMAZING.

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3 months ago elise maiberger

Unable to consume grains for health reasons, I am loving the runaway versatility of cauliflower. I can enjoy couscous again! Thank you for this recipe.

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6 months ago teafanatic

Made this for dinner last night... used ideas from many comments: cooked the garlic (3 cloves) w/the cauliflower, added mint, and increased the amts of cumin, zatar, and parsley dramatically (we like our food spicy). Fantastic! Thanks QueenSashy & F52 community for another keeper.

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7 months ago fearlessem

Made this (with tweaks) last night and it was a big hit at a potluck I brought it to. Like LovesFood I sauteed the garlic with the cauliflower, and also took Antonia's suggestion to toast the cashews in the oil first... I didn't have raisins, but did add substantially more parsley as well as some chopped mint. Fantastic! Really really impressed with the couscous-style treatment as well as the overall flavor profile...

Moi_1

7 months ago QueenSashy

so glad it worked, thanks so much for letting me know...

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7 months ago andrea lee

I just made this, thank you for posting! I added curry powder instead and sautéed with jalapeños and garlic, then tossed in raw, chopped walnuts with the soaked sultanas and chopped dried cherries. So good!

Moi_1

7 months ago QueenSashy

sounds delicious, thanks for sharing...

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8 months ago Loves Food Loves to Eat

I made this last night, and I'm obsessed. SO GOOD. I sautéed the garlic with the cauliflower rather than throwing it in raw, and I don't actually know if my nut & raisin proportions were accurate, because I just threw a handful in of each, but wow... such great flavors. Can't wait to make this again... like every night. Now I just need to get a bigger food processor...

Moi_1

8 months ago QueenSashy

Thanks for letting me know...

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8 months ago beejay45

I love cauliflower just about any way I can make it, even subbing it for mashed potatoes. I had never thought of doing something like this with it. Props to Sam1148 for the original concept. QueenSashy, I love this rendition! What I like best is that it's so adaptable, with so many great flavors, it's easy to customize. I think for me, I'd follow your recipe pretty much exactly, but I wouldn't cook the cauliflower. ;) More of a slaw, I guess, but it just sounds like such a delicious salad/side dish kind of thing. Either way, though, good stuff.

Moi_1

8 months ago QueenSashy

Thank you beejay45.

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I like this recipe a lot. I've made it many times, including last night. Here is the note that I sent to the editors. In the interest of full disclosure, I was not one of the three official testers, as my click on the button to test did not go through, but I did not realize that until after it was too late to try again. I sent my note anyway, though the editors did not acknowledge receipt of it.

Here is my review:

Although this recipe provides an excellent blueprint for a light, tasty summer side, I don't think it deserves Community Pick status for the "Best Portable Side." Here's why:

The proportions are, to my mind, out of whack. In the amount called for, the sultanas' sweetness overwhelms the rest of the dish. For that much cauliflower, which itself becomes somewhat sweet when cooked, with all of those raisins, much more lemon juice is necessary. Also, the tiny amount of chopped parsley relative to the other ingredients almost disappears.

The author also gives up a great opportunity, at no cost in terms of time or effort, to get more flavor from the cashews. Before this weekend, I always made this by toasting the cashews over medium heat in a bit of the oil, and then removing them before cooking the cauliflower. Doing it this way (i) makes it easier to brown the cashews evenly without burning them, and (ii) scents the oil, which improves the dish overall.

Finally, the only way I'd take this dish on a picnic (assuming I'd adjusted the herbs and lemon to balance the sultanas) would be by keeping the cashews separate until the very end. With the picnic theme in mind, I made this and then let it sit for a few hours before eating it. The cashews became soft and soggy after sitting in the cauliflower, making the salad too homogeneous in texture. This dish needs a bit of crunch, which the cashews provide when served shortly after its made. For a picnic, the cashews should be added just before eating this.

I'm going to continue to make this dish, with the adjustments mentioned above. I don't, however, for the reasons noted above, think that as written it's good enough for a Community Pick.

;o)

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8 months ago beejay45

Is this really the forum to address the way community picks are picked? Seems unfair to dump on one particular recipe/recipe creator.

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Constructive criticism, i.e., factual observations about what does or does not work in a recipe, with suggestions for ways to improve the recipe, is encouraged here on Food52. The editors also encourage agreement or disagreement with Community Pick selections, if presented constructively, which my comment certainly was. And for the record, a comment that starts with "I like this recipe a lot. I've made it many times," and ends with "I'm going to continue to make this dish," can hardly be deemed "dump[ing]" on a recipe or its creator. If you scroll down and look at the comments posted well before this was entered into the contest, you'll see my enthusiastically appreciative remarks. ;o)

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17 days ago Cathy Gordon

If you scroll down a few comments a month before you posted your cashew issue as to crunch the author already had suggested cashews be added before serving.

Sit2

8 months ago Sam1148

Congratulations! I'm glad technique worked for you. It really is a jumping off point for many recipes.

Moi_1

8 months ago QueenSashy

And thank you Sam1148 for teaching me the technique! A good part of this win goes to you...

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8 months ago fearlessem

Planning to make this for an upcoming potluck... I'm just wondering -- can it be made the night before? Or does it need to be done day-of?

Moi_1

8 months ago QueenSashy

I have not tried it, but do not see a reason why not. But I suggest adding the cashews before you serve, I kind of like them crunchy...