So…remember last week how I told you I was competing for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Title? Well, this is my first blog post as the Armed Forces Insurance Fort Hood Military Spouse of the Year! Although I found out, today, that I won’t be moving on to the finalist round, I’m surprisingly happy with the news. Public speaking and raising awareness for the issues military spouses face are daunting responsibilities. I needed to start with baby steps, and my Army post was just the right size to begin my journey. And, while the title may be amazing, the crew still has to eat. So, I did my little happy dance in the middle of the Sam’s Club parking lot and headed home to make this Vegetarian Curried Cauliflower with Basmati Rice.
Seems like anytime my Soldier hears the word, “Vegetarian,” he rolls his eyes. The thought of willingly going without meat bothers him for some odd reason. I, personally, spent three years as a vegan, so meatless meals are no punishment for me. Hector, on the other hand, would rather eat gefilte fish than go vegetarian. When I told him I was mulling over an Indian curry using cauliflower as the main ingredient he sighed…AUDIBLY. Not only was I going to “torment” him with a vegetarian dinner, I was going to “torture” him by making it with cauliflower, as well. Quelle horreur.
“You’ll be alright…or, you’ll be hungry. Your choice.”
He chose vegetarian. Smart man, he is.
This recipe, an experiment, was a hit. Even Hector had to admit he would become a vegetarian if the food tasted like this all of the time.
Let’s address what curry is/is not before we even begin this journey to vegetarian nirvana. For starters, curry is not a spice. Curry is, in fact, an anglicized version of the Tamil word for “sauce”. Although the word translates to sauce, curries can be dry or wet and can run the gamut of flavoring or main ingredient. Curry, simply put, is an Indian (or Southeast Asian or Caribbean) dish in sauce.
The first thing we need to do is make sure we have a pungent, aromatic garam masala to use in our curry. Garam masala just means “spice blend that warms the body”. As with many other spice blends, regardless of country of origin, garam masala can be made to suit your preferences. I prefer to make mine using toasted, whole spices, not ground. The primary reason is because I have no idea when the bottled, powdered, spices were ground. Instead of wasting the money on a ho-hum spice blend, I’m going to purchase whole spices at a fraction of the cost, grind them myself, and make a bomb spice blend. Then, I’m gonna share it with you, cause you’re my Boo.
Seriously, all you need to accomplish this are the spices and a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices. But, don’t use the grinder that you use to make your morning cup of coffee. It’ll make your coffee taste funky and you’ll be cussing me out. Here’s my recipe for Garam Masala. If you don’t have the 6 minutes it takes to make your own, you can purchase any garam masala that you find in the grocery store.
I start my vegetarian cauliflower curry with my garam masala spice blend. There’s a set measurement, but I tend to use a heaping spoonful because the stuff is so full of flavor and love. I can’t help it. Yes, I can, actually. I just don’t want to help it.
After the garam masala, I add ground turmeric. This is one of those times where I do use ground instead of fresh, but only because turmeric is a beast to slice, dry out, and grind.
Finally, I add chili powder (which is another blend of spices). This completes the dry seasoning blend that we need to season our cauliflower.
Now we give this a quick stir with our measuring spoon to combine the spices, then just set it to the side.
Cauliflower can be a bit of a challenge to dispatch. The easiest way to remove the florets from the head is to take a very sharp paring knife to the root end of the cauliflower. All you need to do is hold the head of cauliflower in your non-dominant hand. With the knife in your dominant hand, insert 1/2″ of the tip of the blade 1″ away from the root. Turn the knife in a clockwise motion to cut the root away from the head.
Using your kung-fu grip, tear out the root and the leaves from the scored head. Discard the leaves and the root.
Now that you can see the florets and their stems clearly, use the same paring knife to cut off the florets. Begin at the underside of the head, closer to where the root was and work in concentric circles- I find that’s easiest. Cut about 1/2″ from the floret’s head to leave a bit of stem on the cauliflower. Deposit your harvest into a large stainless steel bowl. You don’t want to use a plastic, or ceramic, bowl for this- glass or metal is best- you’ll soon see why. Make sure you’re cutting your florets into bite-sized pieces (about the size of a walnut). Nothing’s worse than shoving a big ol’ chunk of cauliflower in one’s grill.
Now it’s time to make the seasoning paste for the cauliflower. Heat a tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pan over med-high heat. Sauté your minced garlic and ginger until they are glossy and translucent. The smell will drive you wild with hunger- brace yourself.
Stir in your dry spice blend from earlier and cook until you smell the spices. This should take no more than a minute.
Add a quarter cup of a tart juice. I had pomegranate juice in the fridge, but you can also use cranberry juice (not cranberry cocktail). I use this to add another level of flavor without sweetening the paste. You can purchase a single serving bottle of the juice as you won’t be using too much. Heat this mixture to a simmer. Remove it from the stove and allow it to cool for about ten minutes.
Pour the paste over the cauliflower in your bowl. THIS is the reason I told you not to use a plastic or ceramic bowl. The turmeric in this paste will stain any, and every, thing it touches.
Use your metal spoon (to avoid staining, remember?), or a pair of tongs, to toss and coat the cauliflower in the paste. Take care to ensure each cauliflower floret is well coated.
Lay out your cauliflower onto a sheet pan lined with foil (which makes clean up easier) in a single layer. The goal of roasting is to get a nice char, and color, on whatever it is you’re roasting. If you have multiple layers, you steam instead of roast, which leaves you with limp, soggy vegetables. I think this is part of the Soldier’s issue with all things vegetarian. Avoid damaging your vegetarian witness, Brothers and Sisters.
Roast for 20-25 minutes. Once the cauliflower is done roasting, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Now, while we wait for the cauliflower to cool, we’re going to finish off our curried cauliflower. In a large pot, or dutch oven, heat a tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Then add diced red onion, as well as the remaining garlic and ginger. Sauté, once again, until translucent- this should take no more than 3 minutes.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot. Don’t be a dork like me. I didn’t think about the fact that these FOOTBALL-shaped objects will want to roll about when I attempt to crush them. A comedic row ensued, the tomatoes won, and I busted out the potato masher to show no mercy. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half prior to adding them to pot. This will then make crushing them easier.
My tomatoes, post potato masher (and post cussing).
Bring this mixture to a simmer to extract as much tomato juice as possible- simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add your spices to the mixture in the pot and give it a quick stir. Just heat the sauce to warm and awaken the flavor in the dried spices.
Carefully, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. *Don’t wash out the pot, we’re going to come back to it* Normally, I would use an immersion blender to do this and avoid the risk of burning myself. Unfortunately, the mixture was so shallow in the pot I used that I was more likely to splatter hot sauce on me using the immersion blender, so…you know. Wanting to avoid burns, I opted for the blender. The most important thing to remember when blending hot ingredients is to vent the lid of the blender to prevent an explosion. Most blenders have a plastic plug in the center of the lid which you can remove. Cover the open hole in the lid with a kitchen towel to prevent splashing and you’re good to go.
Return the blended sauce to the same pot you used to sauté in, and add heavy cream and butter to the sauce. If you want to make this a vegan meal, use coconut milk and oil instead. If you opt to use the coconut replacements, you’ll have a slight change in flavor, but it will still taste freakin’ amazing; so no worries. Stir to incorporate the cream and butter and bring this up to a gentle simmer. Don’t allow the mixture to boil because boiling will cause the cream to curdle.
Add the cooled, roasted cauliflower and stir to coat it in the sauce. Allow the cauliflower to warm over low heat while you steam the basmati rice.
The rice is so easy, it doesn’t require pictures…which is great, because I didn’t take any of it. Bring water, salt, and a touch of oil to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Pour in the basmati rice, stir, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and steam. Remove from the heat, take off the lid, and fluff the rice with a fork- and you’re done. Spoon a portion of the rice onto your plate and top with the warmed cauliflower. Finally, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with some toasty naan bread.
Since I was able to convince the Soldier, I’m pretty confident I can convert you with this recipe, too. Now, even if you think you’re a diehard carnivore, you really ought to give it a try. At least consider it, because it really will change your life (okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but try it). Then go ahead, pin it and share it with your friends…come on now…you can do it!
Oh!! I’ll also keep you posted on whatever becomes of this Armed Force Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. So far, I’ve received tons of media coverage, and a few requests for interviews. I’m looking forward to beginning speaking engagements geared towards my fellow MilSpos, though. Prayers and good thoughts my way, please!
Vegetarian Curried Cauliflower with Steamed Basmati Rice
Yield 6 servings
Make this meal vegan by substituting the heavy cream and butter with coconut milk and oil.
1 heaping tbsp Garam Masala Spice Blend
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground chili powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup garlic, minced (about 2 heads), divided
1/4 cup ginger, minced (1 large root), divided
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup red onion, diced
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp garam masala spice blend
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 1/3 cup water
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups basmati rice
2 tbsp cilantro, to garnish
1/4 cup pomegranate or cocktail juice
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
- In a small bowl, combine the garam masala, ground turmeric, and chili powder. Set aside.
- Heat a tbsp of vegetable oil in a large pan over med-high heat. Sauté the minced garlic and ginger until they are translucent. Stir in the dry spice blend and heat until fragrant- about a minute. Add the pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer. Remove the mixture from the stove and allow it to cool for ten minutes.
- Add the cauliflower florets to a glass or metal bowl. Pour the cooled paste over the cauliflower. Toss to coat the cauliflower in the paste.
- Lay out your cauliflower onto the sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- While the cauliflower cools, prepare the sauce. In a large pot, heat a tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced red onion, as well as the remaining garlic and ginger, and sauté, until translucent- about 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and bring this mixture to a simmer- cook for about 5 minutes. Use the back of your spoon to smash the cherry tomatoes and release their juice while cooking.
- Add your remaining spices to the mixture in the pot and give it a quick stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Carefully, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Remember to vent the lid of the blender to prevent an explosion. Return the blended sauce to the same pot you used to sauté.
- Add the heavy cream and butter to the sauce. Stir to incorporate the cream and butter and bring up to a gentle simmer. Don't allow the mixture to boil because boiling will cause the cream to curdle.
- Add the cooled, roasted cauliflower and stir to combine and coat in the sauce. Allow the cauliflower to warm over low heat while you steam the basmati rice.
- Bring the water, salt, and oil to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Pour in the basmati rice, stir, and cover. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Spoon the rice onto serving platters and top with the warmed cauliflower. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with some toasty naan bread. Enjoy!
So, hopefully, if you're like the Soldier, I can convert you with this recipe. You really ought to give it a try. Think about it, pin it and share it with your friends...you can do it!
Oh!! I'll keep you posted on whatever becomes of this Armed Force Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. With any luck, I'll be soliciting your help again with the Branch Voting on February 20th! Fingers, toes, and legs crossed and prayers and good thoughts my way, please!
In addition to this amazing vegetarian recipe, I also have these that you simply must try: