Cauliflower “Couscous” with Market Vegetables

Eric Ripert is a chef who I greatly admire.  He is remarkably talented and I respect the work he has done to promote  sustainable seafood and fishing practices.

A couple of months ago, I picked up his cookbook Avec Eric which, in addition to some really wonderful recipes, talks about the journey of the ingredients from their source to the kitchen.   For each recipe, he explores different cultures and traditions from the West Coast to Europe, and then returns to his kitchen to cook a dish inspired by his travel.  I have filled the book with little Post-It tabs throughout.    He also has a program on PBS by the same name which follows the same format.  The goal is to dine at his restaurant, the three Michelin star Le Bernardin, the next time I’m in NYC, which hopefully will be soon.

He made the recipe below in one of the episodes and I was fascinated by it.  I thought it was such a gorgeous dish that showcased the freshness and brightness of the current season’s vegetables.  How creative to mimic couscous with cauliflower!  While my presentation of the dish is not as sophisticated as his (he used ring molds to layer the ingredients), I think it’s still gorgeous.

I didn’t have all of the ingredients in his original recipe, so I modified it quite a bit. For example, his recipe called for the use of argan and canola oils, whereas I used only extra virgin olive oil.  I also didn’t use nearly as much oil as the recipe indicated.  Additionally, I used balsamic vinegar.

I served this as an accompaniment to some steamed fish.

Cauliflower “Couscous” with Market Vegetables and a Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

(adapted from a similar recipe by Eric Ripert, which you can find here)

Serves 4

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, you probably won’t use all of it
  • 1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
These are the veggies I used:
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • Asparagus tips
  • Baby bok choy, tough outer leaves removed
  • 1 bunch radishes, quartered
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

Separate each of the cauliflower florets and place the florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower resembles couscous. Transfer the cauliflower “couscous” to a sauté pan, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and gently cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and most of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Strain and place in a mixing bowl to cool.

Prepare the vegetables for blanching. Cook each of the vegetables in the boiling water, drain, and shock in a bowl of ice water. Transfer to a towel-lined plate and set aside.

My blanching times:

Asparagus, carrots, radishes — 5 minutes

Bok choy and spinach — 1 to 2 minutes

Season the cooked cauliflower couscous with the lemon juice, 3 tbsp olive oil, mint and parsley and set aside.

Combine the mustard and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil but only enough to balance out the acidity while whisking constantly. Set aside.

Spoon the couscous onto a plate or bowl.  Place the vegetables on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Serve immediately.

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The Quinoa Project

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I don’t know how or why I have stayed away from this grain.  I recently tried quinoa and I’m in love!  I have so many ideas as to how to begin incorporating it into everyday dishes.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is considered to be a “superfood.”  Nutritionally, it’s a very complete food.  It is:

  • Very high in protein
  • Full of vitamins
  • Gluten- and wheat-free
  • Cholesterol-free
  • Delicious

Quinoa comes from a plant native to the Andes Mountains in South America and has been around for thousands of years.  It contains more protein than any other grain and should be considered for vegetarians or vegans who might be concerned about the level of protein in their diets.

What does it look like?  It’s a tiny round grain with a band around it that ends with a tiny “tail.”  As it cooks, the tail unwinds and detaches itself, leaving a white ring on the grain.

There are several different varieties of quinoa and it is available in grain, flour, and flakes. Once relegated to health food stores, you can find it just about anywhere now.

Substitute quinoa in any dish calling for rice, couscous, or even pasta.  It can also be used in soups, salads, baking, and even in sweets.

One method of cooking quinoa is to treat it as you would rice.  Use two cups liquid (water, chicken/vegetable broth) to one cup of quinoa, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add herbs and seasoning as desired in order to make a variety of dishes.

I’ve made a few very simple savory dishes using quinoa.  At some point, though, I will also try some more complex ones, as well as a sweet dish/dessert and will post the results.  Hence the name of this article. 🙂

The other night, I made for dinner quinoa with roasted chicken, tomatoes, onions, parsley, and chives.   Totally healthy…and delish.

Quinoa with roasted chicken, tomatoes, olives, onions, parsley, and chives

Last night, I made some chicken, and as a side I made the dish below.  It serves 4 as a main dish, or you can halve the recipe as I did, and it will serve 4 as a nice side dish.

Stuffed Peppers with Olives and Tomatoes

(Serves 4 as a main dish)

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 peppers (green, red, yellow, or orange)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, squeezed of pulp and chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 10 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Water
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the quinoa in a saucepan with the water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed.

Cut the peppers in half, lengthwise.  Remove seeds and membranes.

In a bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, olives, salt and pepper.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the peppers and place in a baking dish.  Pour about 1/2 inch of water on the bottom of the baking dish.  Drizzle olive oil over the peppers.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the quinoa stuffing is golden brown and the peppers are soft.

Stuffed Peppers with Olives and Tomatoes