Earlier this year during my “everything-cauliflower spree” I read about cauliflower couscous. Make cauliflower into couscous? Though intriguing, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. Then last Thursday I bought a cauliflower especially for making “couscous.” While researching recipes, I found this 2010 video for a cauliflower couscous salad. Chef Eric Ripert, the much acclaimed chef and co-owner of one of the world’s top restaurants, Le Bernardin, stood in his home kitchen turning cauliflower into couscous.
My attention span for online videos can be rather short. However, Eric Ripert was so engaging and informative that I watched the entire episode of Avec Eric. I’ve since prepared my slightly adapted version of his bright, beautiful and refreshing Cauliflower Couscous Salad a few times. I’ve substituted vegetables, refined the taste and simplified the techniques a little more each time.
Let me explain. Finely chopped and lightly cooked cauliflower actually resembles couscous in shape, size and consistency. What a wonderful surprise. Cauliflower couscous is also light and flavorful and so much fun to make.
In Cauliflower Couscous Salad, cauliflower couscous substitutes for “real” couscous. Real couscous is a grain made from durum wheat. It’s a staple of many North African cuisines. However, nary a granule of wheat touches this salad. So not only delicious, bright, refreshing and colorful, Cauliflower Couscous Salad is also gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
Cauliflower has been reinvented. From the bland and boring white vegetable on crudités platters, some say cauliflower has become the new kale. Here are a few of my favorite recipes featuring this increasingly versatile vegetable:
- Cauliflower Soup – Impossibly Rich & Creamy
- Cauliflower Steaks, Cauliflower Puree, Tuscan Kale Pesto
- Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Mediterranean Flair
- Giardiniera – Your Next Favorite Ferment
- Greek Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew
Absolutely delicious with a gorgeous presentation, Cauliflower Couscous Salad is worthy of your best extra virgin olive oil and the freshest, seasonal vegetables and herbs.
Green beans, sugar snap peas, baby turnips, baby potatoes, peas, corn, watercress, cilantro, thyme, etc.
An equally delicious and rather less time-consuming presentation involves spooning the cauliflower couscous onto a plate or bowl and topping it with the lightly dressed vegetables.
Vegan, gluten and dairy-free. Lightly adapted from a recipe by Eric Ripert.
Serves 4 as an entrée salad
Start to Finish: 60 minutes
1 small to medium cauliflower
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Juice ½ large lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 small baby bok choy (Shanghai bok choy), cut in half lengthwise
4 small carrots (peeled if not organic), cut in half lengthwise
12 asparagus spears
6 radishes, quartered
3 small compari tomatoes, each cut into 6 or 8 wedges
½ cup arugula, cut or torn into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard, preferably homemade or Dijon-style
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Large pinch salt
Few twists of freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Remove the cauliflower from the core. Cut or break the large florets into smaller florets—you should have about 4 cups.
- Transfer 2 cups of florets to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times until finely chopped and resembling couscous. Remove to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining 2 cups of florets.
- Place a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add ¾ cup water. (Or ¾ cup of the water from blanching the vegetables.) When boiling, add the finely chopped cauliflower in an even layer. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt.
- Cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes. Taste. You want the cauliflower to retain a bit of its crunch.
- Drain and transfer to a large plate to cool.
- When cool, toss the cauliflower couscous with the fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Vegetables (these can be prepared a few hours ahead of time or while the cauliflower couscous is cooling)
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Fill a medium bowl with lightly salted ice water.
- Blanch the bok choy first. When just tender, transfer to the ice water. Remove when cold to a paper towel-lined plate to dry.
- Repeat with the carrots and then with the asparagus.
- Cut the asparagus spears in half on a long diagonal.
- Cut the halved carrots in half on a long diagonal.
- Place the mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to combine them.
- Whisking continuously, gradually add the olive oil. Continue whisking until the dressing thickens.
- Use either a 3-4-inch round ring mold or line a 3-4-inch jar lid with plastic wrap. Pack with one-fourth of the cauliflower couscous. Unmold the couscous in the center of a large plate. Alternatively, spoon a circle of cauliflower couscous in the middle of a plate or bowl. Flatten it to about ½ inch.
- Use a spoon to drizzle some of the dressing around the cauliflower couscous.
- Lightly toss the vegetables with some of the dressing.
- Stack the vegetables individually, or place a random mound of the vegetables, on top of each round of cauliflower couscous.