This is one of those dishes that is hearty enough for the end of winter but gets you terribly antsy for spring with the citrus notes and the finishing of dandelion greens dressed in a light vinaigrette. Dates are a pretty common place in my house for green smoothies, raw desserts, etc. so when developing this dish, I really wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and use dates as a key component in something savory. I racked my brain over this; I started daydreaming about a sea bass with crispy skin scored and seared to perfection and somehow ended up on this spicy fried cauliflower, with light notes of coconut, carrots and dates finessed two ways – all complemented by dressed dandelion greens. It finishes off as a kind of fun riff on honey-glazed fried chicken. Needless to say, it was a playground that ended up tasting pretty good. —Miak
Head of Cauliflower
1 ¼ cups
All Purpose or Cup 4 Cup Flour
about 3 cups
Neutral High Smoke-point oil (Canola, Peanut, etc.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Wine Vinegar
about 2 teaspoons
Herbes de Provence
about 2 teaspoons
In This Recipe
An hour prior to cooking, take half of your pitted dates (approximately 3-4 dates,) chop roughly, and soak in a ramekin with 1/4 cup of coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence.
Preheat oven to 435° Fahrenheit
The black rice simmers for 40 minutes. I do about 1 3/4 cups of water to every 1 cup of rinsed rice; bring the rice and water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, reduce flame to low, cover, and allow to simmer.
Peel your carrots and add them to a parchment-lined baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice. Season carrots with freshly cracked black pepper, cayenne pepper, kosher salt (about ½ teaspoon of each,) a pinch of Herbes de Provence, massage everything together, and put them in the oven to roast for 35 minutes.
While the carrots are roasting, stir your simmering rice gently, and begin to prepare your dandelion greens and vinaigrette.
Cut away any tough stems on the dandelion greens and chiffonade the remaining leaves. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of coconut nectar (alternately, you could use 1 teaspoon of date puree [2 dates and 1/4 cup of hot water and blend,]) 1 tablespoon of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of orange juice, and the slightest drop of sesame oil for its inherent smokiness. Set your dandelion greens and vinaigrette in the refrigerator separately until the vegetables are done.
Get a large well-seasoned cast iron skillet ready by heating it at medium-high on your stovetop while you cut your cauliflower head lengthwise with the stems so the florets do not fall away. You’re aiming for ¾ of an inch thick cauliflower steaks. Add 1 cup of water to the cast iron, then your cauliflower, and cover for 10 minutes to lightly steam.
While the cauliflower is steaming, prepare your dredge station. In the first of three bowls, add 1 cup of flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of black pepper. In the second bowl, add 1 cup of coconut milk, 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence, and mix. In the third bowl, you'll be adding 1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour, 1 teaspoon of cayenne, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon of mustard powder.
Once the cauliflower is done steaming, remove the cauliflower onto a plate. The water in the skillet should be nearly evaporated; take care to drain any remaining water and dry the cast iron before filling it ⅔ of the way to the top with your neutral, high smoke-point oil (in my case, canola.) Heat the oil with a medium-high flame; we're aiming at 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oil is heating, begin the cauliflower dredge: flour, coconut milk, seasoned flour, and when going from the coconut milk to the seasoned flour, make sure to purposely bring a lot of the coconut milk with you to make more clumps in the flour for a crispier fry.
Like clockwork, the oil should be at the proper temperature by the time you are done battering your cauliflower (I usually get about three good pieces per cauliflower head.) Add your cauliflower to the oil and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side (until golden and flip.)
Once both sides are golden, remove the cauliflower from the oil onto a drying rack with paper towels underneath for any residual oil to drain.
Your roasted carrots should be just finishing up. Add 3 roasted carrots to your blender with the dates that are soaking in the coconut milk, the soaking liquid, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 habanero pepper, 3 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper, 1 cup of hot water, and blend until smooth.
* You may need to use the tamper on your blender or chop the carrots first if you don't have a high-powered blender.
Take the remaining dates and slice thinly; you’ll be using these to accent the dish.
Grab your dandelion greens and vinaigrette and toss lightly to coat the greens.
For plating, lay down a bed of rice on your plate with a pinch of salt. Place the cauliflower atop of the rice, drizzle over your carrot-date glaze sparingly, grab your dandelion greens, and add a handful to the plate. Top with your fresh dates, drizzle some more of your glaze liberally this time, add a squeeze of fresh lemon, and enjoy!