We’re ramping up to the eating season, starting with tonight’s candy. Cold weather, good appetites heavier food, and a need to compensate for the darker days ahead bring us to the table more often now. And so, though we may try to set the scale back ten pounds tonight (good luck with that), the reality is weight gain is on the horizon if we don’t pay attention. Okay, Debbie Downer, thanks for that.
Now I’m an equal opportunity eater, so I don’t espouse any drastic ‘nutritional’ plans, but adding more vegetables can’t hurt. This cauliflower rice pilaf is a great stand-in for rice or couscous if you want to cut back on carbs where you can.
To start, core the cauliflower and slice it into small pieces. No need to fuss with breaking it into florets. Using about one-half at a time, finely chop it in a food processor until it looks like small grains. You could sauté it in a large skillet with olive oil, but I like this method. Spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast it in a hot oven. The cauliflower steams and releases some of its moisture, making it fluffy. Pick up the parchment and dump it into a bowl, and that’s all there is to it. You can be creative with seasonings. I like this combination for its satisfaction quotient. Lentils and spices, with fresh herbs and a touch of sweetness from the currants make a pleasing dish to serve with a roast chicken, for example. You will probably be eating a lot of that too, now that Old Man Winter is slowly making his way to your doorstep.
Speaking of doorsteps, I hope you didn’t buy peanut butter cups for the kids tonight—bad strategy! Only buy candy that you really don’t like, and you can stay on the straight and narrow, at least until Thanksgiving really kicks off the eating season.
Cauliflower rice pilaf with turmeric, lentils, and currants
1/2 cup Le Puy or small French lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pistachios or sliced almonds
1 head cauliflower, cored and sliced into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup currants
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a small baking dish. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the lentils, water, and salt to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander.
3. In the baking dish, spread the pistachios. Toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, turning often, or until pale golden. Remove.
4. Set the oven at 400 degrees.
5. In a food processor, pulse half the cauliflower pieces until finely chopped. Transfer to the baking sheet and pulse the remaining pieces. Mound the cauliflower grains in the center of the baking sheet, and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with the salt, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Toss with your hands to mix together evenly. Spread in one layer, and bake for 7 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven, stir, and spread again on the sheet. Bake for an additional 7 minutes (total cooking time is 14 minutes.) Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in the cooked lentils, pistachios, lemon juice, currants, parsley, and mint. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and lemon juice, if you like.