Weekly Winner: A Healthy Hack and Veggie Fix Combined

buffalo cauliflowerFirst things first:  I am in no way saying that this recipe will trick you into thinking your tucking into a big basket of buffalo wings.  It won’t.  However, if like me, you are trying to lighten things and find more virtuous versions of your cold weather comfort foods, this does the trick.  At least it did for me.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower and all the ways you can transform it.  To me it’s a great “blank canvas” to take on different flavors and textures.  It can be pureed to thicken soups, it can be roasted to crunchy, golden deliciousness, and it can be minced up to mimic rice or couscous.  Now, apparently it can be “buffalo-ized” as well.  Buffalo Cauliflower Salad comes from Eating Well Magazine and has all the “requirements” of buffalo wings (OK, except for the actual “wing”).  It has the crunchy carrots and celery, the tangy blue cheese and the nice spicy kick of the buffalo sauce.  And you’re eating a salad!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it is starting to soften and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine hot sauce, butter and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the roasted cauliflower and toss. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and drizzle with the sauce left in the bowl. Roast until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more. Stir to coat the cauliflower completely.
  5. Add lettuce, carrot, celery and onion to the dressing in the large bowl; toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with the Buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese.

Weekly Winner:  Stuck on Stuffing Stuff — A Lighter Version

 What’s happening to me??  Not too long ago I swore I was not a fan of stuffed veggies.  I said it was not worth the effort and that it detracted from not only what you were stuffing, but generally the stuffing itself.  Then I discovered Sausage-and-Basil Stuffed Tomatoes, then just last month came Chicken Stuffed Bell Peppers, and now this — the ultimate shock – a totally vegetarian version!  Ack!  No pork product or meat of any kind!

That’s just a testament of how delightfully surprising this gem of a dish is.  Couscous-Stuffed Tomatoes rocked my world!  The recipe comes from Fine Cooking.  I honestly was simply testing the recipe for some of my clients who like this kind of thing (read: “vegetarian entrees”) and while I was expecting it to be light and tasty, I absolutely never imagined it would rise to the upper echelon of “Weekly Winner” status.  But, here it is.  And it deserves it.  It is bright and zesty thanks to the lemon and mint and since it is served at room temperature or chilled, it makes a perfect summer meal.  Not that a little crumbled bacon wouldn’t make it just a tad more perfect!

Couscous-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. toasted walnut or olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. pure maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 oz. (1 cup) Israeli couscous, preferably toasted

4 scallions, finely chopped

2 tsp. finely chopped garlic

4 large tomatoes

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, plus small leaves for garnish

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Procedure:

In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the oil with the lemon juice, maple syrup, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Set aside.

In a 3-quart pot, bring 1½ cups water to a boil. Cook the couscous in the boiling water according to package directions until the water is absorbed. Toss with the vinaigrette.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat the remaining 1Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring often, until browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Combine with the couscous, and then toss with the chopped mint and parsley.

Core the tomatoes, slice a tiny bit off their bottoms to create a level base, cut off their top 1/4 inch, and then seed them with a spoon. Drain the flesh and seeds in a colander, then chop and add to the couscous. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among the tomatoes, garnish with the mint leaves, and serve.