Sriracha-stir fried cauliflower

IMG_8406

Isn’t cauliflower the best? I have been going a little nuts with it lately–putting it in all kinds of pasta dishes, chopping it up and adding it raw to salads, roasting it and topping it with Parmesan, pureeing it into soup, even scrambling it with eggs–because everything is good with eggs.

But then I saw Ree Drummond make a quick stir fry of cauliflower with Sriracha, lime juice and soy sauce and became instantly jealous I hadn’t thought of it first. So I’m sharing it with you now, in case you don’t also watch Food Network cooking show reruns while riding a stationary bike in your bedroom.

This dish is incredibly easy, except for the cutting up the cauliflower part. I feel like a lot of cookbooks and food blogs fail to acknowledge what a pain in the ass it is to cut broccoli or cauliflower into tiny florets. Many of them gloss over that part by simply listing tiny florets as an already-ready ingredient…as in, “1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets”.

But in a dish like this where the total time post-chopping is about 5 minutes, I have to mention what a pain in the ass cutting up the cauliflower is, otherwise I’d be misleading you.

To do it, I like to first cut the head in half. Then I break it down into more manageably sized “trees” by sawing off their stems near the top; then I break those down again with my fingers until I end up with little bite-size florets. (I keep some of the more tender stem pieces and save the rest to make soup or cauliflower ragu, both of which are also great ways to use those outer leaves.)

OK? Now you can relax. The rest will take you almost no time at all, and it will taste like all the very best food adjectives: charred (almost meaty), tangy, salty and hot.

FYI, I’ve tried making this in a few different pans and have found that a cast iron skillet is the best for getting a really good char on the cauliflower.

IMG_8407

Sriracha-stir fried cauliflower
adapted from Ree Drummond

Ingredients

    1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
    1 head cauliflower, cut into tiny florets (see above)
    1 shallot or small onion, minced
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 heaping tablespoon Sriracha
    Fresh cilantro leaves or chopped green onion, for garnish

Method: Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high, and add the cauliflower and onion. Cook, turning every few minutes, until the florets have softened and charred on all sides. Add the soy sauce and lemon and toss to coat.

IMG_8401

Cook for another minute, then turn off the heat and squirt in the Sriracha. Toss the cauliflower to ensure every floret is coated. Pile into a bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves or green onion.

When greens turn

IMG_8687

I hate withery greens! Like when you open a perfectly fresh looking box of lettuce or other leafy greens only to discover that several of the leaves in the middle are covered in brownish mush where once-fresh leaves were. The more you dig, the more you discover that the withering has spread, until you’ve plucked out about a third of either withered or contaminated leaves and are now cursing out loud.

I’ve found the best way to use up greens that are starting to turn is to either cook them down a bit or make pesto out of them. Because I always have garlic, some kind of nuts, lemon and olive oil on hand, I made my picked-over arugula into pesto. I added a couple big basil leaves because their anisey sweetness tempers the peppery arugula a little, but they’re definitely not a requirement. (Nor is it a requirement to make this out of almost turned arugula that you’ve spent the last 15 minutes rifling through and swearing at.)

IMG_8683

Once you’ve made the pesto, your rage will melt into pure giddiness as you realize all the possibilities for your facelifted arugula. Stir it into pasta! Smear it on bread and top with sliced avocado!Β Or salami and cheese! Or fried eggs! Swirl it into polenta or vegetable soup! And with every smear, plop or swirl, be proud–because you refused to let some ugly greens get the better of you.

IMG_8692

Arugula pesto
Ingredients

    1 box prewashed arugula (about 5 ounces)
    Handful of fresh basil leaves
    1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts
    1 clove garlic, smashed
    1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
    1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
    Salt and pepper

Method: Add the arugula and basil to a food processor along with the nuts, garlic and red pepper flake, and blend on low until they form a coarse purΓ©e. You might have to scrape down the sides a few times with a spatula to get everything chopped up.

img_2701

Add the lemon juice, and with the food processor running on low, slowly stream in the olive oil and blend until it forms a paste.

Remove the blade, and fold in the Parmesan cheese. Taste, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

To store the pesto, place it in an airtight container and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. It should keep for about a week.