Monday, December 24, 2007

Lebanese Cauliflower Rice (Yakhnit al-Qarnabit)

Years ago, back in San Jose, I was friends with a young Palestinian couple, Bill and Renda. I drove Renda home one night and was invited in. Arabic hospitality is legendary, and of course, Renda would not let me leave until I had eaten something. Since we had been talking about food, she gave me a taste of her dinner from the night before: cauliflower rice. Oh my.... I really loved it! Since it was Lent, it was vegan, but it often includes meat, and sometimes is made with wheat instead of rice.

On Sundays, I don't usually cook a large meal, but we pick at leftovers, or sometimes we go out to eat. I was watching figure skating yesterday afternoon, and DD was online chatting with her cousin, but The Ex was getting a little agitated. Turns out he was hungry! When I looked in the fridge, I saw a beautiful head of cauliflower and decided to make cauliflower rice. Here is what I did:

Lenten Cauliflower Rice

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt or to taste (I used Adobo seasoning salt)
1/8 tsp red pepper
2 C long grain white rice
4 C water
1 15 oz can chickpeas
olive oil

In a 5 quart dutch oven, saute the cauliflower over high heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until it is golden. Add in the onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add in the salt, pepper and rice and stir until all the grains of rice are coated with the oil. Continue sauteing the rice for 30 or 40 seconds. Stir in the water and chickpeas, bring to a full simmer, lower heat to just barely simmering, cover and let cook for 20 minutes.

Served with a salad and a piece of fruit, like we did, and you have a complete meal! I just love this rice - I haven't made it in a long, long time but I have a feeling I'll be making it often again! No photo for this one because we were too hungry! Once I started cooking, the delicious aromas made DD and me very, very hungry!

If you want to use meat in this, its traditional to saute about 1 lb of cubed lamb first, then add the cauliflower. I've also used cubes chicken which is really yummy in this. You can use chickpeas with the meat, but most people that I know don't - at least not in this dish. Also if using meat, add in 1/2 - 1 tsp of allspice.

Note: I never use just plain allspice, though many, many excellent Arabic cooks do. I use a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. In a pinch, go ahead and use commercial apple pie spice as a substitute.

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