Cauliflower Fried Rice

Skip directly to the Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe, or for loosey-goosey cooks, the step-by-step.

cauliflower-fried-rice
Cauliflower fried rice accompanies West Lake Fish,
a recipe I need to get up online because it’s really tasty.

I love rice: long grain, short, jasmine, sticky, wild (which isn’t really rice, btw). But I find I’m eating it less and less. Maybe it’s aging; despite my previous admission to loving carbs, I find I’m eating them less.

Now fried rice has long been a comfort food for me, using real leftover rice, and especially if I’m watching something on TV or a movie (and these days, is there a difference??) and somebody busts out the Chinese take-out. But because I eat less rice anyway, the chances of me having a leftover batch to fry up are close to zero. Cauliflower fried rice works as a natural, super-easy substitute.

But look: Cauliflower rice can easily taste like b.s. Real rice squashes under your teeth in a pleasant way. Cauliflower rice, particularly if you go too crazy with the food processor, gets mealy. I don’t buy the frozen version, because the freezing process plays havoc with the water content of foods. So something naturally prone to mealiness will only get more so.

The trick for me is to roast the coarse cauliflower rice ahead of time. Then, at the end, simply toss it with some veggies that you’ve sauteed while your “rice” roasts. Voila: Cauliflower rice with very little hands-on time.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Step by Step

First, heat your oven to 400º. While it preheats, chop up your cauliflower florets in a food processor. Before processing, cut the florets to be fairly  uniform size. Don’t overprocess so that they become crumbly or actual rice-sized if you want them to have some texture. Toss the “rice” in a bowl with some sesame oil, spread on a parchment covered sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes, until they get some color.

cauliflower-fried-rice

As the “rice” roasts, get your veggies ready: sliced scallions (keep the white and green parts separate), minced ginger and garlic, and julienned or chopped carrots, peppers, and snow peas. (Or other veggies you have in the fridge and want to use up; just be sure to cut fairly uniform shapes.) About 7-10 minutes before the cauliflower is finished roasting, heat your pan, then add oil. Peanut provides classic Chinese flavor, but a taste-free oil like canola or avocado also works nicely. (Don’t use olive.) Add the scallion whites, garlic,  ginger, and the julienned stuff. Add soy sauce and sake, which will bubble up and be all steamy and fragrant.

Right about the time you achieve maximum bright colored, still crisp sauteed veggies, your timer will ring. Dump the roasted rice right into the pan. Add chopped cilantro (the stems are really nice here; no need to separate them from the leaves if you don’t want to) and scallion greens.

You can top with toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, or cashews. Cauliflower fried rice makes a lovely vegan main, or a light, healthy side for the protein of your choice, particularly if you’ve done a classic Chinese-inspired cooking treatment (like this tea-smoked chicken, for instance). Below, note the radish and pea shoot salad on the side: just thinly sliced radish and pea shoots, no dressing, and you’re good to go. Enjoy.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Recipe

autumn-sweet-potato-kale-curry

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry

Jump to the Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry recipe.

chickpea-curry

So before proceeding to the evolution and execution of this Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry, I must take a moment to pay homage to my guy, Tim Gunn.
For the rest of you: I love Tim Gunn.

I’ve suffered through many a grim episode of Project Runway just to watch him stroll into the studio, impeccably dressed, marvelously discerning and insightful, and most of all, respectful. I’ve been trying to mastermind a Tim Gunn for President of the World campaign for, like, ever. Sigh. Tim, you will also be the secret to making the world fabulous, better dressed, and kinder in my book.
Now a lot of times on Project Runway, one of the contestants will come up with a real Fashion Don’t. And Tim will say, “I’m concerned,” and the way he says it…

…you know that he is the only thing between that contestant and an icy and heart-freezing look from Nina Garcia…

….who would disdainfully raise her eyebrows if Botox hadn’t robbed her of that ability long ago in a way that is all the more soul-destroying because in that moment, said unfortunate contestant realizes that he/she/they simply don’t exist for her and never did.

And then Tim will say, in this wonderfully hearty and stirring way, “This is what we call a Make It Work Moment!!”

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Mistake

Well, making this Sweet Potato Kale Curry was a total Make It Work moment for me. Because I did a very dumb thing, which was: I didn’t get all my ingredients out before hand. I say why one should never do this. Physician, heal theyself!! Or be forced to get through a Make It Work Moment.

I got my new (October 2018) issue of Clean Eating, and there’s this awesome article on spice blends. And there’s also a recipe for Squash, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry. (I’d give you the link here, but the recipe’s not online yet.)

Well, just a couple of days ago, Steve went to visit our friends at Frog Holler Farm, and he came home with this lovely butternut squash. Also, that morning, he mentioned we had some kale just kind of sitting in the fridge, and I nearly always sub kale for spinach, because the texture holds up better. Chickpeas? Tons of cans lying around. Ditto coconut milk.
Also, it was an overcast rainy day and so really perfect for some curry.

So I start merrily following the recipe. First up: A really terrific homemade turmeric blend. This is a direct copy of the original recipe at Clean Eating (and I’ll link to it when it’s available); I’ve reproduced it below in half the amount.

curry-spice-blend

There’s a little blurb in the magazine on the joy of turmeric, and this particular blend is generous with a bunch of other stuff, so mainly the turmeric adds color, because on its own it’s got kind of a weird dusty flavor. So I mixed that up straight away.

I heated the coconut oil, chopped up half an onion. We’re going gangbusters so far.

curry-sauteed-onions

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Joy of Improv

Then I say, “Hey, babe, did you bring in that squash from the farm?” 
“It’s in my car.”

I start to exit stage left—and then remember we left the car in Ann Arbor (the details are not that interesting). With the squash in it.

But I did have some sweet potatoes on the counter. So I thought, ok, a sweet potato will Make It Work. Phew! I peel and cube one, throw it in the onion pot that already also has some garlic and the spice blend in it, and add some broth. Everything’s bubbling away making a cozy sound.

Off to the garden to pick a bunch of basil, then wash it along with the kale. I happily chop my troubles away as the sweet potatoes cook up on the stove.

It’s time to add half of them to the blender with a can of coconut milk. Which…we don’t have.

Dammit!

How can this be? I’ve looked a at least 4 cans of coconut milk in my pantry for ages, thinking, why did I think I would use a small case of of coconut milk? (Because I was at Costco, that’s why. That place makes me think I’d better stock up for that army of epicures who are bound to kick down my door, demanding facsimiles of southeast Asian delicacies.)

I search my pantry and my apoteca, which is this kind of cool roll out door that holds the stuff that won’t fit in my smallish pantry, increasingly wild-eyed. There is no damn coconut milk.

Bauer, you can Make It Work! I told myself, feeling plucky despite my trembling lower lip. Quickly, I improvised. I had frozen a bunch of buttermilk in little 1/4 cup batches in the fridge. I threw four in the blender, along with a handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut, and a little almond milk. I blended in the sweet potatoes.

It actually worked. The buttermilk is thick and not out of place in a curry. The almond milk and coconut lent some nuttiness and sweetness.

So that was cool. I poured my coconut milk substitute into the sauce pan, being careful not to boil it (so it wouldn’t curdle), added the kale, and went to find the chickpeas.

vegetarian-curry-sauce

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: Continued Thrills

You probably saw this coming. I had dried chickpeas for days, which frankly were not going to do me a damn bit of good. But a can of cooked chickpeas? You know, one from the batch I’d bought at Costco that took forever to get rid of?

Forever, apparently, passed me by. Not a cooked chickpea in sight.

But in my frantic can search….what to my wondering eye should appear?
Oh, for pity’s sake.

canned-coconut-milk

Well, I had a half cauliflower on hand. So I roasted it…

cauliflower

….because at this point, the dream of sweet potato kale curry for lunch had evaporated and I just ate some sort of snack.

cauliflower-curry

I also had packs of rice and quinoa from Costco, which are just sitting there like all the six packs of things I get from Costco, so I threw one of those in.

chickpea-curry

My Make It Work Moment tended to be just like the ones on Project Runway—about an hour long. But I did make it work. 
I don’t recommend you reproduce my angst. Please get ingredients out ahead of time. Making It Work is gratifying, but slightly stressful. Then again, sometimes that frisson of panic is exactly the seasoning a dish needs. Bon appetit.

Autumn Harvest Salad

I love a big old bowl of rainbow crunch. This Autumn Harvest Salad, inspired by a June 2017 Clean Eating recipe, fits the bill and sums up for me the things I love about this time of year: the rich colors, the produce bursting with vibrant flavor and color, and that wonderful feeling of newness that hits me every September.     autumn-harvest-salad-with-chicken Read the step by step or jump straight to the recipe.

The dressing is a citrus-y yogurt concoction, though I adapted it to be a little lighter on the acid. I just don’t like dressings that are too liquid or have too high a proportion of vinegar. I did add the juice left over from sectioning an orange I had on hand. The original recipe calls for a bigger amount of juice and no fruit. It made a lot more sense to me to add the sections. The approximate tablespoon of juice that resulted was pretty much perfect, without me feeling like the salad was swimming. See this quick tutorial to efficiently slice up an orange.

how-to-slice-an-orange

Beyond that, it’s a pretty straightforward operation. Make the dressing (see details below if you don’t have the basics down). Chop a bunch of stuff. In my case, that included plenty o’ cabbage….

cabbage-autumn-harvest

….along with  some carrots, mint, parsley, jicama, and fresh corn, with a few hemp hearts and golden raisins thrown in for good measure.

autumn-harvest-ingredients

You can keep your Autumn Harvest Salad entirely vegetarian by adding tofu, tempeh, beans, or nothing….

autumn-harvest-salad-chicken

But if you happen to have some protein on hand, like, say, this tasty best damn chicken (hey, here’s the recipe!), add it, by all means.

best-ever-chicken

Shrimp or salmon would work, too. Build it all up on a dish. Enjoy with gusto.

autumn-harvest-salad

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Autumn Harvest Salad: The Recipe

 

best damn chicken title card

The Best Damn Chicken

As I recently noted in the recipe for Tea-Smoked Chicken, I want to like chicken. But most of the time…I just don’t. People always go on about how easy it is to cook, but they never mention the word “perfectly”—and for good reason. Chicken has a very small window of perfection. Overcook it the least bit, it’s dry and chewy. Undercook it and it’s not just repulsive, it’s dangerous. So this is why I’m excited about the best damn chicken. Ever. (I added that last part just to sound like all the other bloggers. You gotta do that single word period thing if you really want to play in the big leagues….) Here it is topping a salad (recipe coming soon!). Jump straight to the recipe for the best damn chicken or read my Fabulous Commentary and Step by Step.

First off, let’s address the whole meat thing. I’m not wild about the texture of chicken thighs, despite everyone insisting that they’re more flavorful. That flavor comes from extra fat, and that fat gives the meat a texture that I just find weird. As a child, the smell of roasting meat, particularly beef, which my mom cooked every freaking Sunday, used to make me gag. I still don’t eat mammals except for (forgive me) an occasional bit of bacon.

For the meat-squeamish, dark chicken meat—thighs, wings, drumsticks—just doesn’t cut it. Even when boneless, but especially when the bones are still in there. That whole gnawing-on-a-bone thing appears to be the height of primal ecstasy for some folks. For me, a medieval banquet sounds about as fun as living in medieval times. In other words, head lice, chastity belts (call me uncomfy!), and a lot more people who look like this…

princess bride boo lady than this:

princess bride buttercup

So right off the bat, you can bet that the best damn chicken is breast meat. Boneless and skinless. Yeah, I’m sort of like a picky 6-year-old here, and I am So OK With It.

Here’s how I prep it.

Best Damn Chicken: Cutting and Marinating

Best damn chicken starts with marinating boneless chicken breasts, because chicken breasts are hella bland. In order to expose as much surface as possible and, at the same time, make sure there are no disgusting tendon surprises in the meat, I cut the meat into about 2-3 inch pieces. The marinade needs salt due to the bland factor, and soy sauce functions beautifully in that role. There’s also some acid for tenderizing, via , and minced garlic and ginger for more flavor. If you were preparing this to go with Italian food, you could sub a super flavorful (read: not from Costco) broth for the soy sauce, and leave out the ginger in favor of some oregano. Let the chicken soak in that for at least half an hour; I like to do 3-4 hours myself.

best damn chicken marinade

(You could probably do it overnight in a pinch, though I haven’t tried it and can’t guarantee that the marinade won’t start to break down the texture. But given that it’s just a small amount of acid, I think you can get away with it.)

(Also? It is even harder to make this pretty than Chia Seed Pudding. I tried….)

Best Damn Chicken: Coating

First, heat your oven to 400º. Place a parchment lined rimmed dish or baking sheet in the oven to warm up. I like to put a little butter, say 2 tsp or so, on the sheet to melt.
While the oven preheats, mix up an egg in one bowl. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, then place it in the egg bowl and stir it around. Let it sit while you cover a plate in the flour of your choice; gluten-free will work just fine. Fish the pieces out of the egg one at a time with a fork; you’ll probably end up using your fingers at some point, but I’m just warning you it’s pretty messy. Put the egg-covered chicken piece in flour and turn it so that it’s lightly covered in flour. Some missing spots are ok, and it’s more of a dusting, not a dunk. Depending on how much you’re making, you might want to have a rack over a piece of parchment to hold the egged and floured chicken as it finishes.

best damn chicken coating

You could also shake 2 pieces at a time in a bag with flour; I just don’t know many people who keep paper bags around these days (not the small ones, like we used to use for lunch bags, which are kinda perfect for this).

Best Damn Chicken: Baking

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven, and, if desired, add about a teaspoon or so of oil to the melted butter. You can either set the egged and floured pieces directly on the heated baking sheet, or you can just keep them on the rack, in which case there’s no need to have any fat on the baking sheet. But I find the fat adds a nice richness to the chicken. The rack method is not really going to yield a fried consistency, no matter what people tell you about oven fried chicken.
(BTW, I’m currently scouting for deals on an air fryer to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be, but I have to say I’m skeptical that blowing all that hot air on food is really going to be good for it….)

Bake 10 minutes, flip the chicken, and it really only needs about another 3-4 minutes to be perfect. Add it to anything, especially a big salad or bowl. Or just dip it in ranch dressing. Thoroughly toothsome, to go slightly medieval on you.

best damn chicken baked

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Best Damn Chicken: The Recipe

Tea Smoked Chicken

Tea smoked chicken sounds like a pain in the ass. It isn’t. Super simple to make, it is seriously some of the most flavorful and tender chicken I’ve eaten. I’m not big on chicken because, I dunno, unless the texture is just right, it bugs me. Also, tendons equal a giant “ewww” in my book. So once again, this one does the trick, makes the house smell heavenly and stands in for all that rotisserie chicken called for in many, many ready-made magazine recipes that I run into. The recipe was inspired by and adapted from one in Nina Simonds’ 1999 cookbook, A Spoonful of Ginger.

tea smoked chicken

Faithful and beloved vegan and vegetarian readers, I do think this will work beautifully on tempeh as well. I mean to try it, but haven’t yet. If it works for you, please post a photo and tag me on Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest (@nanlechou). Or comment. Whatever, I love feedback.

Tea-smoked chicken (or tempeh) is about process, so I recommend you read the step by step, but as always, feel free to jump directly to the recipe.

Step 1: Prepare the marinade. Lately, I am considering a chicken marinade an essential, don’t-skip step. I’m not that crazy about chicken. It’s too easy to under or overcook it (unless you deep fry it, and homey don’t play that any more, alas. Deep-fried chicken completely rocks, but it’s way too messy and just not the pinnacle of health no matter how you slice it). Also, it’s hella bland. A marinade—with some soy, ginger, garlic, a teench of sugar, maybe some sake—gooses (ha!) the flavor up big time.

Step 2: While the meat marinates, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, prepare the smoking mixture. First, line a pot with a tight fitting lid with foil. This is essential so you don’t burn your pot. Then, add about 2 parts sugar—coconut sugar is outstanding here, but brown will do—to 1 part tea. For one chicken breast, one tablespoon is a good part. Put that in the bottom of a pan with some chunks of citrus rind and some cinnamon, and you’re good to smoke. Break up some skewers—I keep some around for testing cakes, on the rare occasion that I make them—in half and make a little hashtag in the bottom of your pot.

tea smoked chicken smoking mixture

Step 3: Steam the marinated chicken til just tender—like so barely cooked through, you wouldn’t eat it unless you smoked it, which you’re about to do.

Step 4: Smoke the steamed chicken by putting it on top of the skewer hashtag. Then cover it with a foil protected lid. Turn the pot on to high heat; as soon as it starts smoking (and it will smell amazing), turn off the heat. The pot, and the chicken inside, will still smoke away.

Lengths of time for steaming and smoking depend on both the amount and type of chicken. Boneless or with bone? Thigh, breast, or whole megillah? So you might, in particular, want to smoke or steam a tad bit longer; Nina Simonds recommends 15 minutes smoking over high heat for 2 whole chicken breasts with bones, which is a lot o’ bird. The thing is, the chicken’s done from steaming and that initial blast of smoke, and by keeping it in the pot and not lifting the lid, it’s getting more smoky goodness and more done without getting dried out. But cooking’s always a little bit of an experiment. Your stove, your ingredients, your preferences are yours. Play with this til you’re happy with it and have the smoked chicken of your dreams on your plate.

tea smoked chicken

Steve seriously sort of freaked out about this, in a good way. Like me, chicken is about the last protein he wants to eat, but lately I’ve come around to it since I can get an ethically sourced version, and we really only have it once a week anyway, at most. Let me know if you agree, either in the comments or over on the old insta feed (@nanlechou).

I think I’m going to have to try the tea smoking on tofu and tempeh, as well, for a vegan version. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Enjoy!

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Tea Smoked Chicken

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo gluten-free bowl perfect for st. Patrick's day

Emerald Isle Bowl

Ireland is green, green, green, and the fish is—naturally—fresh, fresh, fresh. Steve and I visited a couple of years ago, and loved every minute we were there. Beyond all the stuff we did and people we met, we ate amazingly. I invented the Emerald Isle Bowl while we were there, taking advantage of the gorgeous fresh produce and the fresh-out-of-the-Irish-Sea salmon.

Jump to recipe.

With St. Patrick’s coming up and spring trying hard to push back winter, I wanted to get this simple, relatively quick, and very colorful meal in front of you. The textures of the Emerald Isle bowl give your mouth plenty to play with.

They start with the raw. That includes juicy fruit—I used a pear but green apples are terrific as well—crispy cukes, crunchy cabbage and romaine, and chewy kale.

raw ingredients for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

And then we have the cooked: delicate salmon, golden-outside-soft-inside cauliflower and broccoli. I also gave the pistachios a little toast for extra crunchiness.

cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

The herbs, a throw-caution-to-the-Irish-wind blend of tarragon, dill, mint, and parsley, add fresh-meadow flavor. The horseradish dressing does that thing where it kind of opens the top of your head. In Dublin, I went crazy for Graham’s, the absolute best horseradish sauce I’ve ever tasted. But any good horseradish cream sauce will work. Or just add some wasabi or minced horseradish to the yogurt and mayo you have on hand.

the sauce for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Optimum prep includes reusing the same bowl to do all of the following:

  • Toss the cauliflower with oil.
  • While the cauliflower cooks, toss the broccoli with oil.
  • Massage the kale with oil.
  • Toss the romaine, cabbage, herbs, and kale with the dressing before plating.
  • raw greens for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Above all, be sure to improvise. Use whatever herbs you have handy, though dill and parsley are highly recommended. Change up the vegetables if you like; the bowl looks just as pretty with other colors besides green. And if you want a starch, watch your email for my soon-to-appear recipe Colcannon, the classic Irish potato with whatever-greens-I-have-in-the-fridge.

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo-friendly gluten free bowl recipe from le chou fou

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Emerald Isle Bowl: The Recipe