Grains like quinoa, teff, barley, millet, and brown rice are my jam─they are the base of what I eat. Breakfast might be a little rice pudding with honey and blueberries, or quinoa with apples and cinnamon. Lunch and dinner usually have a cup of whole grain on the side, or incorporated into the main dish. Even though cauliflower rice sounded interesting, it has taken me a long time to try it. I finally did.
I like cruciferous veggies, but I was prepared to be underwhelmed with cauliflower’s ability to hold up to ultra-versatile rice. (I like my rice.)
I set out to make a Colombian-inspired recipe. I have a friend from South America who told me about a dish like this one, and it has sat in the back of my mind for years. The way he told it to me, it sounded like a good everyday type of thing that you could have alongside a heavy protein or add the protein right into it another day. You could put a sauce over it, or even enjoy it alone as a snack.
Colombian-Inspired Cauliflower Rice
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
1/2 regular to large cauliflower, broken into florets
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 Cup broth (could be vegetable, chicken, or bone broth.)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim away the stem and leaves from a head of cauliflower and slice in half.
- Break up the half of cauliflower into florets and reserve the other half for another use.
- Place the florets into a blender and pulse until crumbled. (About 10 seconds if using a high-powered blender.)
- Place the oil into a pan over medium heat.
- Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Add the crumbled cauliflower, parsley, broth, salt, and pepper.
- Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are cooked through. Approximately 7 minutes.
I figured this idea was simple enough to test a vegetable’s ability to hold up to a time-tested grain. My cauliflower seemed big, so I sliced it in two to start. If you have a whole family to feed, or love leftovers, you could easily double the recipe and use the entire head.
The blender could probably chop up the half intact, but I didn’t want to potentially have a broken blade or something, so I broke it up into florets.
The first thing I was surprised about was how crazy fast the florets crumbled into rice-sized bits in the blender. It was fairly instant.
Like, six seconds of holding the pulse button and florets turned into grainy bits. A hand blender would definitely take a bit more time but probably do the job.
The second surprise was also about speed. I only sautéed a clove of chopped garlic in olive oil for less than a minute, added the rest of the ingredients, and literally, it was done in under 10 minutes. I didn’t have to continuously stir either.
I like bland food with subtle flavors. If you like spices, it would probably work nicely with a bit more herb, like tarragon, or a little jalapeño.
The third surprise was the biggest. I paired my new dish with a salad just like I would have if it were an actual whole grain. I wasn’t expecting to feel full or satisfied. I mean, cauliflower is a vegetable, so essentially I was just adding a hot salad on the side of a cold one, right? OK, yeah, I felt a little lighter than usual, but not hungry. Cauliflower rice kind of won me over. My skepticism dissolved. I liked it a lot.
Since I had the other half of cauliflower to use, I did a fried rice dish. You know what happened with that don’t you? I liked it even better. This idea had way more flavor and was just as fast. The fried rice idea is another super speedy dish to make, and the best part is, it’s a one-pan complete meal.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
1/2 large cauliflower, pulsed into grain-sized bits
1/4 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/4 cup petit frozen peas (just because they are sweeter; use any peas or green beans)
8-9 small leaves of Chinese cabbage, chopped
1-2 eggs, whisked or 1/4-1/2 block of tofu
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or sesame oil for a more authentic flavor)
Tamari (soy sauce) to taste
Black pepper to taste
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add the oil.
- Sauté the onion for one minute and then add the carrots, cauliflower, and cabbage pieces. Depending on your pan, you may need to turn the heat to low. Cook for 2-5 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes more, for everything to cook through and incorporate the flavors.
The cleanup on both dishes might be enough reason to repeat these recipes again and again. Actual grains can be sticky and require scrubbing to get the pans clean. Nothing stuck here. Even that blender with bits wedged in under the blade came clean in less than two minutes. I’ll definitely be buying more cauliflower.