Picking sides is inevitable at holiday gatherings.
Some choices may lead to joy and cheer; others may bring annoyance, grumpiness and arguments. It’s part of the excitement & hilarity of gathering a diverse gaggle of family and friends for several hours (or days). (Even more so if the quarters are close and the outside temperatures plummet.)
So here’s to making the most of the nutty mix of holiday togetherness and uniting all sides with a side-dish everyone will pick.
How’s that for a roundabout segue?
The dish in question? Jeweled Cauliflower Rice.
Eaters with all of the following needs will be thrilled:
Foodies will be also pleased by the festive use of spices and herbs, which matches the exuberance of the season while incorporating modern trends (innovative use of vegetables) and international flair (the dish is loosely based on jeweled Persian rice or jeweled couscous dishes from North African).
Traditionalists may object, especially if you try to pass this off as an alternative to dressing. Instead, brand this as a vegetable side and all should be well.
Most of all, you, the cook, will be pleased because this dish looks gorgeous, tastes incredible, and will impress all, but takes minimal time and effort (and no great expense) to prepare. Win!
The cauliflower rice can be prepared up to a day ahead of time (process it in a food processor, or grate it by hand with a box grater), as can all of the other components. The cooking can take place just before eating, and served warm, or you can cook everything an hour or so ahead of time; the dish is wonderful warm or room temperature. If making it ahead, though, wait until serving time to add the herbs, nuts and dried fruit, to keep the flavors and textures bright and fresh.
Increasing the quantities is simple, so make as much as your crowd size demands. Then again, there is no need to wait for an official gathering to savor this festive rice; it is remarkably suited to almost any day or season, including any weeknight (for example, tonight!).
Cheers, and TGIF, everyone!
- 1 medium-large head cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon oil (of choice, e.g., olive, coconut, avocado)
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or ground cinnamon)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- zest & juice of 1 medium lime
- 1 cup loosely packed cilantro or parsley leaves, chopped
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
- ⅓ cup chopped dried fruit (I used apricots & cranberries)
- ¼ cup chopped roasted or toasted nuts (I used almonds & cashews)
- Cut or break cauliflower into large florets. Coarsely grate, using the large holes of a box grater, OR, process in a food processor (half the florets at a time) until the size and texture of .rice.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes until softened.
- Add the cauliflower, pumpkin pie spice, turmeric, salt and pepper to skillet. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes longer until cauliflower is just tender.
- Remove skillet from heat and toss with the lime zest, lime juice, cilantro and mint. Sprinkle with the dried fruit and nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.