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In the Kitchen With: Lukas Volger’s Cauliflower “Couscous” Bowl

by Kristina Gill

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In pursuit of keeping with my decision to “eat outside of the box” to reset my system after the holidays, I was literally bowled over (pun intended) by Lukas Volger’s most recent cookbook, Bowl. Recipe after recipe presents wonderful ideas for one-dish meals of every type. I am of course a dumpling and noodle fanatic, but I wanted to share a low-carb bowl recipe — Lukas’ Cauliflower “Couscous” Bowl — that is vegetarian, or can be vegan if you leave out the seed brittle or work around the egg white in the brittle. (If any readers have tips for veganizing the brittle, let us know!) If you’re looking for a quick, easy salad to make this weekend, this is the one! —Kristina

Why Lukas loves this recipe: I’ll always love grains in the form of pasta and rice, but this concept of replacing them with fresh vegetables — by turning cauliflower into couscous, or similarly by spiralizing vegetables like cucumber or sweet potato — is so appealing! And this dish in particular is such a texture experience. The cauliflower is soft and tender; the brittle, the radishes, and the celery bring some crunch; and then there are these lovely, juicy bursts with the pomegranate. It’s an excellent, really refreshing lunch.

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Photography by Michael Harlan Turkell; Portrait by Cara Howe

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Cauliflower “Couscous” Bowl

A few pan-fried tofu matchsticks, crisp shavings of radish and celery, tender baby arugula, tart bursts of pomegranate seeds, and a shower of fresh herbs make for a very fresh, vegetable-centric bowl for almost any time of the year. This method for transforming cauliflower into something that resembles couscous has become increasingly popular. Its fluffy texture and soft flavor makes an easy base for any number of toppings and I especially enjoy it as part of the next day’s lunch, served cold. The barely sweetened savory seed brittle is addictive — it makes extra, and you’ll find other uses for it in salads, soups, or even as a replacement for granola.

Serves 4

For the savory seed brittle

– 1 egg white
– 2 teaspoons maple syrup
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
– Pinch of cayenne pepper
– 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
– 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
– 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
– 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted whole coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
– 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, coarsely crushed
– 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

For the cauliflower bowls

– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into small florets
– 2 small shallots, minced
– 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil
– 7 ounces firm tofu (half of a 14-ounce block), sliced and pressed
– 5 cups loosely packed baby arugula
– 2 crisp celery stalks, thinly sliced on the bias
– 6 radishes, sliced into thin rounds
– 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
– 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
– Olive oil, for drizzling

1. Make the brittle: Preheat the oven to 300°F.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg white until frothy. Whisk in the maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne. Stir in the pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Transfer to a baking dish or oven-safe skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving any liquid behind in the bowl. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and peppercorns over the mixture, stir once, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden. Cool and then break up into small pieces. Stored in an airtight container, the brittle will keep for about 5 days.

3. Make the cauliflower bowls: Stir together the vinegar and salt in a small bowl until the salt dissolves.

4. Place the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until broken down into a fine, couscous-like consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides periodically. Bring about 1/2 inch of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the cauliflower, cover the pan, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until just tender. Drain in a fine-mesh colander. Wipe the pan dry, then return the cauliflower to it. Stir in the salted vinegar and the shallots.

5. Meanwhile, heat the neutral-tasting oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu, arranging it in a single layer, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes without disturbing, until golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then cut into matchsticks.

6. To serve, divide the arugula and cauliflower “couscous” among four bowls. Top with the tofu, celery, radishes, pomegranate seeds, mint, and a generous handful of the brittle. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and serve.

Text excerpted from BOWL © 2016 by Lukas Volger. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

About Lukas: Lukas Volger is the author of Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry, and founder of Made by Lukas, a premium veggie-burger company. The editorial director of the biannual magazine Jarry, he has been featured on the Splendid Table and in the New York Times.

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