Preparing a holiday meal is joyous and generous. With good music playing, spicy aromas filling the room, and friends or family members playing sous-chef and line cooks, the preparations are often as much fun as the meal itself. That fun can be even more relaxing with some prep done beforehand, so here’s a cauliflower side dish prepared in several stages over a couple of days that comes together so easily at the end, you will nearly forget you’ve prepared it!
This Cauliflower-Almond Rice side dish shares many ingredients with a dish called Maqloobeh or Upside Down (find that recipe here). The cardamom gives it a warm and soothing yet exotic flavor. If you don’t have cardamom, ginger will work well too.
The process for this recipe–cooking over a few days– comes from chef Tamar Adler’s lively cookbook An Everlasting Meal. She recommends preparing the herbs as soon as you bring them home from the market, while you’re still excited about the purchase. For this recipe, separate the parsley leaves from the stems. You can save the stems and use them later to make broth (another of Adler’s tips).
Then, while you’re roasting other Easter goodies or baking a nice load of bread, roast the cauliflower, onions and garlic at 400-425 degrees for about an hour. I roasted the cauliflower with peanut oil, which tasted incredible, but whatever oil you have on hand will taste great. Roasting can be done the day before you cook the rice.
You can toast the almonds in small baking dish with little oil. If there’s room in your oven, just pop the almonds in there while the veggies are roasting! However, they will be done much sooner and require more vigilance.
To tell if the cauliflower was done, I took the pans out of the oven and poked each little cauliflower with a fork to see if the fork would slip in easily. I learned from this that my oven does not have very even heat and some florets right next to each other needed different cooking times. Sigh. You can take out the cauliflower, onions and garlic that are done and keep cooking the rest until they are fall-apart tender and have nice brown spots.
- 1 head of Cauliflower, cut into small cauliflower trees
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 T parsley, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup toasted almonds
- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 T butter
- ½ t cardamom
- a few pinches of kosher salt
- about ¼ cup peanut oil or other oil
- Line one or two roasting pans or Pyrex pans with cauliflower in a single layer. Add onion and garlic or roast them in their own pan if you're running out of room.
- Douse all the veggies with oil and stir so they're well coated.
- Roast, checking on everything as needed and stirring the pans' contents once.
- Combine all the roasted veggies into one pan, cover it, stick it in the fridge and forget that you did any work at all.
- When you’re almost ready to serve this dish, cook some rice in chicken broth with butter and a sprinkling of cardamom.
- Pull the cauliflower, onions, garlic, almonds and parsley out of the fridge.
- When the rice is done, put it in a big bowl, season it with salt, and mix in the cauliflower, onion and garlic (it can be cold or room temperature; it will cool the rice down). Top it with almonds and parsley.
With this side dish whipped up so easily, now you’ll have more time to focus on the main dish or dessert, dye some Easter eggs or start an Easter egg hunt.
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