As the low-carb lifestyle continues to grow in popularity, cauliflower has become the superstar vegetable of the culinary movement, morphing into cauliflower rice, pureed as a replacement for mashed potatoes and even incorporated in pizza crusts.
The latest incarnation of cauliflower is the cauliflower "steak." Now, before steak lovers protest that cauliflower could never come close to replacing their beloved red meat, they might find at the very least that it would make a tasty holiday side dish.
In this Lebanese-inspired recipe, the cauliflower is a canvas for beautiful Middle Eastern ingredients such as caramelized onions, a splash of pomegranate seeds, a dusting of sumac and a drizzle of tahini. Sumac comes from dried and coarsely ground berries, which have a sour, citrusy flavor. The burgundy-colored berries grow in clusters and are widely used throughout Middle Eastern cuisine. The tahini sauce imparts a nutty flavor and richness, while the orange juice adds a nice balance of citrus. The sweet onions add extra depth, but you can leave them out if you are not an onion fan or are strapped for time.
A dash of feta, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds add a festive touch. You also can use any leftover tahini sauce as a salad dressing - just stir in extra water if the mixture gets too thick in the refrigerator.
If you are more of a traditionalist, you can cut up the cauliflower and roast it as florets. You might find this "cauliflower canvas" unleashes your inner Jackson Pollock and inspires you to customize your own toppings, so let your creativity flow and enjoy the process.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the YouTube cooking show "Feast in the Middle East" and author of the "Feast in the Middle East" cookbook. For tutorials and recipes, visit feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com or youtube.com/blanchetv. She also teaches cooking classes at Draeger’s Market. For a schedule, visit bit.ly/draegerscooking.
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Citrus Sauce
• 1 large head cauliflower, sliced lengthwise into "steaks"
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, divided
• 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 more minced clove for tahini sauce
• 1 teaspoon sumac
• 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons orange juice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
• 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
• 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
• 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
Preheat oven to 400 F. In bowl, whisk 1/4 cup oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper and sumac. Place cauliflower "steaks" on large cookie sheet and brush tops with garlic oil mixture. Bake approximately 12 minutes, or until browned.
Remove cauliflower from oven and carefully flip over on baking sheet. Brush other side with remaining garlic oil mixture and bake 12 minutes more.
While cauliflower is baking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Sauté onions on medium heat 15 minutes, or until caramelized, adding salt to taste. Set aside.
For tahini sauce, pour tahini, 1 minced garlic clove and orange and lemon juices into bowl and whisk until smooth. Add salt to taste. If mixture looks too thick to drizzle onto cauliflower, add 1 tablespoon water at a time until you reach desired consistency.
Once cauliflower is roasted, place on platter and top with caramelized onions. Drizzle with tahini sauce, then sprinkle with pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and feta.
Makes 4 servings.