Cauliflower “Rice” Taste Test

Cauliflower Rice with BasilBags of fresh and frozen cauliflower “rice,” cauliflower cut into rice-sized nuggets, are flying off the shelves at Trader Joe’s across the country. Some stores have a 2-bag per customer limit. For a vegetable! Be still my heart.

Cauliflower comes in at about 25 calories per serving, versus white rice at 150. A big savings, plus a vegetable beats a processed grain any day for nutrition. You’re probably wondering how it tastes. So I cooked up a bunch to find out.

Cauliflower, like people, shines when its being itself instead of trying to be rice. However, if you want a mild starchy base for a stir fry or to soak up a sauce or gravy, cauliflower “rice” will do the trick and give you a good boost of nutrition too. No one will be fooled into thinking you are serving rice, but no one over the age of 18 will complain about the mild taste and texture. Just cook according to the package directions and you are good to go.

Where this cauliflower rice is the bomb is in salads and soups.

I know it sounds crazy but its true. I got inspired by this salad recipe from Food 52 for a spicy bean and cauliflower rice salad, and riffed on it several times. Here’s my favorite version:

Cauliflower “Rice” Salad

2 cups fresh cauliflower “rice” (or thawed frozen)

almost 2 cups cooked lentils (I use steamed lentils, in the packaged veggie section)

1 can chickpeas or kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1-2 cups pre-chopped broccoli florets (optional but good)

chopped red or green onion to taste (I use 4-6 green onions)

juice of one large lemon

2-3 Tbs. olive oil

1 avocado

salt and pepper to taste

Dice the avocado and squeeze a little lemon juice over so it won’t brown. Put all of the rest of the ingredients into a big bowl, squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over it all, and add the olive oil. Toss to combine and season to taste. Add avocado just before serving.

This salad can be customized so many ways: add hot sauce, peppers, a whole grain (farro, brown rice, quinoa), tuna, etc. It holds for days in the refrigerator and makes a great protein at dinner or a great lunch.

As for soup, I have been making the cauliflower soup from America’s Test Kitchen for a while and we love it. Cauliflower can turn into a creamy puree when its simmered in liquid until soft and then buzzed in a blender. You can either make a cauliflower soup, or use pureed cauliflower to make another type of soup (like broccoli) creamy.  Creaminess from a vegetable – its awesome.

Cauliflower soup using cauliflower “rice”

2 Tbs. butter

2 packages frozen or 1 1/2 packages fresh cauliflower “rice”

4 cups water

1 leek sliced thin (I use the frozen sliced leeks to make it easy)

1 onion chopped

Melt butter in your soup pot, add leeks, onion and some salt and cook until soft. Add half of the cauliflower and the water, bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add the rest of the cauliflower. Simmer for another 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft. Blend, adding more water if its too thick. It should be the texture of a bisque. Add some more browned butter to the top if you want to make it extra special.

To use pureed cauliflower in place of cream in other soups, simmer the cauliflower in water until its very soft (the longer you cook it, the less it tastes like cauliflower). Blend, adding more water to make it the consistency you want. Add it to your soup and taste for seasoning. If you are blending your whole soup, just add the cauliflower 10-15 minutes before the soup is done and blend it all together.

Cauliflower “rice” will now be in my shopping cart on a regular basis, along with pre-steamed lentils and pre-washed spinach. Getting a good meal on the table is easier than ever.

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