When cauliflower hits a hot, oil-slicked skillet and is allowed to caramelize, it develops a wonderful savory, nutty flavor that puts it among my favorite vegetables. Since the first time I realized this, I've never been tempted to steam or boil it again.
What I love about this particular recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is the toasted and chopped almonds that are thrown in toward the end of cooking and further emphasize these nutty flavors. A hit of smoked paprika—a wonderful spice to have in the cabinet—give it depth and color.
Granted, this recipe isn't one of those that make you exclaim with pleasure, amazed at the flavor: It's a straightforward, simple dinner, and a bit monochrome. But it's charming in that way. If I weren't cooking from a cookbook with the word "vegetarian" in the title, I might have been tempted to begin this with bacon or use chicken stock. Still, the shaved manchego cheese is a luxurious touch, and it gives everything a needed salty tang.
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot or small red onion, minced
- 1 small head cauliflower, or 1/2 a normal one
- 1 cup couscous
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
Toast the almonds in a deep skillet over medium-high heat for a couple minutes, just until toasted and fragrant. Remove the almonds from the pan, set aside. In the meantime, chop half the cauliflower and break up the other half into bite-size florets.
Return the pan to the heat, add the olive oil and cook the shallot until soft and beginning to color, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the cauliflower until it begins to soften and color, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the couscous and cook another 3-5 minutes, allowing the grains to be well coated and a bit toasted.
Add the smoked paprika, followed by the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn to low heat, cover and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Chop the almonds and add them to the pan along with the parsley and fluff with a fork.
Garnish with grated or shaved Manchego and serve. Feel free to drizzle with olive oil.