Cauliflower has moved from boring to fashionable as a substitute for carbs and meats in the last four years or so.
One cup of cooked cauliflower has about 25 calories (compared to 204 calories for the same serving of white rice and 216 for the brown variety). In addition, that one serving of cauliflower has 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, plus other nutritional benefits.
My take on the trend: cauliflower is great as a rice substitute, but not so satisfying in texture, taste or mouthfeel as a stand-in for animal proteins. Grilled 1-inch slices of cauliflower are nice as a vegetable side but won't assuage my carnivore cravings for a thick New York strip beef steak.
While cauliflower can have a strong aroma, especially when boiled, its flavor is mild. That low-key personality makes it suitable as a stand-in for rice when the latter is playing a supporting role.
If cooked rice is just a vessel for holding an entrée, such as creamy chicken, Americanized beef and broccoli or smothered steak, then riced cauliflower is a wonderful substitute to lower the calories and carbohydrates.
You can rice fresh cauliflower by cutting it into large pieces and running the florets over the large holes of a box grater. Another method is to pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are about the size of lentils.
Or, use the riced cauliflower now available in the frozen foods section of grocery stores.
Following is a recipe for Mock Dirty Rice with Cauliflower, inspired by the dish Seafood Dirty Rice in "Lean Star Cuisine" (1993). Healthy recipes fill the 303-page hardback cookbook by Lake Austin Spa Resort.
Their version of dirty rice is not as authentic as the ones I see in my collection of vintage Louisiana cookbooks. The dish usually incorporates chicken livers and/or gizzards plus pork sausage. And, I found no versions with tomato sauce or half and half like in the spa recipe.
According to the spa cookbook, "dirty" refers to the cayenne heat in the dish. In reality, "dirty" describes how rice turns darker when cooked with the chicken liver or other meats.
In some respects, the spa's recipe is more like an etouffee, which is a thick, spicy Cajun and Creole stew served over rice.
What the spa dish lacks in authenticity, though, it overcomes with heartiness and spicy flavor – two qualities sometimes lacking in "healthy" meals. By replacing the rice with cauliflower, I have another low-carb entrée in my kitchen toolbox.
Tweaking dishes is a natural progression of cooking. I appreciate authentic fare, especially foods that define a place. But, people move, and their foods come with them. The transition usually leads to a blending of old and new.
Lady Helen Henriques Hardy described the value of that transition in the 80-page softcover cookbook "Louisiana's Fabulous Foods and How to Cook Them" (undated). I'm guessing by the photos and typeface the cookbook was published in the 1950s.
"If we all cooked alike, think of the jaded appetites that would appear," Hardy wrote. "Food would no longer fascinate or satisfy. Thank good this is not likely to happen. As long as people continue to exchange recipes and experiment in the kitchen, we can look forward to an abundance of good eating."
Here's a tip of the fork to a lot of good eating in 2022.
Share your own old recipes or food-related historical recollections by emailing Laura Gutschke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mock Dirty Rice with Cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced celery
2 1/2 cups riced fresh cauliflower (or 1 10-ounce package of frozen riced cauliflower)
1 cup (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup seafood or chicken stock
1/3 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup minced green onion
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and butter. Heat for about 3 minutes.
2. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
3. Add the raw cauliflower and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. (If using frozen cauliflower, cook according to package directions then add to the mixture.)
3. Add the tomato sauce, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste and stock. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. If mixture boils, reduce heat.
4. In a small cup, blend together the half and half and cornstarch until well combined. Add to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through.
6. Stir in the green onions. When fully heated, serve. Yields 4 servings.
OPTIONAL: Substitute 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of cooked, crumbled spicy breakfast sausage for the shrimp.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Try cauliflower in mock dirty rice recipe