Roasted Cauliflower “Couscous” (AIP, Paleo)
This side dish is a twist on the couscous salad that changed my life. For years, my go-to potluck contribution was a couscous salad, loaded with roasted vegetables, dried fruit, cheese, and nuts. It doesn’t wilt on a buffet and pairs well with barbecued meats and other salads. I made it for my own parties, brought it everywhere, and gave out the recipe (it’s more of a technique than a recipe, really, because you can add whatever you like to it) to many friends. I made it for our neighborhood block party one fateful night in August of 2010, in fact, and ate plenty of it, along with a hot dog on a bun washed down with beer.
I’d been having progressively debilitating health problems before that August night. For a couple of years, I had been battling joint pain, digestive distress, weight gain, water retention, low energy, and depression with physical therapy, exercise, medication, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and diet. To say that I was distressed to find no relief from my symptoms is an understatement. Luckily, I started to keep a careful food journal and noticed that when I ate bread or pasta, my joint pain and low energy would peak. As a cook and recipe writer, I was afraid to give up eating wheat, but after the couscous/hot dog/beer night in 2010, I was in absolute misery.That’s when I stopped eating gluten.
My symptoms improved so quickly, I’ve never looked back. In fact, I progressed to eating no grains and adopting a paleo (whole foods) diet and continued to improve, especially after a diagnosis of hypothyroid confirmed that gluten-free was indeed my path to better health. The last few months (since February) spent following the Autoimmune Protocol/AIP have meant further improvement (especially after an unfortunate experiment with eating non-gluten grains combined with high stress caused a relapse in my hypothyroid symptoms).And so I present this grain-free version of my old potluck stand-by. It doesn’t taste exactly like couscous, but roasting the cauliflower first does give it a wonderful texture and flavor (better than steaming or sauteeing the cauliflower, in my opinion). This version has been every bit as popular with friends and family as the original. See what you think!
Roasted Cauliflower “Couscous”
Note: The beauty of this recipe is in the throw-togetherness of it. None of the measurements need to be exact. I’ve included a base recipe with suggestions for add-ins. Stir in what you like for a combination of crunchy-chewy-salty-sweet and adapt it to whatever vegetables/fruits are in season. Delicious alongside roast chicken, pork, or lamb.
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil, divided
1/2 cup (or more to taste) dried cranberries (or raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots, etc.)
1/2 cup (or more to taste) sliced scallions (and/or garlic scapes)
1/2 cup (or more to taste) finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup (or more to taste) chopped kalamata olives
Zest of 1 lemon (or orange)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon (or orange) juice
Roasted vegetables (zucchini, red onion, winter squash, sweet potato, carrots, asparagus, green beans, kale, kohlrabi)
Raw vegetables (radishes, cucumber, arugula, spinach, celery, avocado, cherry tomatoes)
Roasted nuts (cashews, pepitas, pine nuts)
Crumbled cheese (goat, feta)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange racks in the middle of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place half the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a food processor. Drizzle cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and process until cauliflower is the texture of couscous (pieces are very small and fluffy). Spread cauliflower evenly on one of the baking sheets. Repeat process with remaining cauliflower, oil, salt, and baking sheet.
Put both baking sheets in the oven and bake cauliflower for 15 minutes. Stir cauliflower and reverse sheets when you return them to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes more or until cauliflower is just browning at the edges of the pan.
Scrape cauliflower into a large serving bowl and add cranberries, scallions, parsley, olives, lemon zest, and lemon juice (and any optional add-ins). Season with salt to taste. Serve warm or cool to room temperature.