As a lazy cook, I love summer. The farmers markets are exploding with vegetables and fruit — peppers, cucumbers, peas, strawberries, raspberries and melons come racing in all at once. Dinner practically makes itself. With flavors so light and bright, I try and cook as little as possible. That’s where a quick vegetable stir-fry served on cauliflower rice comes in. Cauliflower rice is the perfect base for fresh vegetable medleys, and it doesn’t need to be cooked.
Sure, you can find cauliflower rice at co-ops and grocers, but it’s so very simple to make. All you need is a box grater or a food processor to turn the cauliflower into granules that resemble white rice. Once that happens, the raw cauliflower becomes tender and its brassica flavor turns mild. When quickly sautéed in a little butter or olive oil, it softens but that cauliflower taste is more pronounced and it can be easily overcooked. Either way, cauliflower rice is great for under a curry, filling a burrito, or smothered with spicy black beans. In the heat of the summer, it’s fine in grain salads, especially tabbouleh. The acid in a vinaigrette helps to break down the cauliflower grains. You won’t fool a rice aficionado with cauliflower rice, but it does add more vegetables and variety to the plate.
To top off cauliflower rice, there’s nothing quite as simple as the summer stir-fry. The method requires some chopping, a few seasonings, and a flash in the pan. It’s easiest to have everything prepped in advance because the cooking takes about two minutes. The only trick is to be sure the vegetables are dry, otherwise you’ll be braising them instead, and you want them to stay bright and crisp. Have the cauliflower rice ready and dinner is a snap.
To make cauliflower rice: Take one medium head of cauliflower. Trim off the bottom and discard the green leaves. Break the head into 1-inch florets and add to a food processor in two batches. Pulse until the pieces resemble rice. Alternately, use a box grater, and grate the entire head. This will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days stored in an airtight container. One large head of cauliflower yields 4 to 6 cups of “rice,” or 4 to 6 servings.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
Summer Veggie Stir-Fry
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Vary the vegetables throughout the summer and play with the seasoning to suit your tastes. The vegetables should remain crunchy. See directions for making cauliflower rice in the main story. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. light sesame oil or vegetable oil
• 1 tbsp. dark or toasted sesame oil
• 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
• 2 c. sugar snap peas, tailed and diced
• 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
• 6 green onions, trimmed and diced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
• 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp. soy sauce
• Pinch of red pepper flakes
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 4 to 6 c. cauliflower rice or cooked white rice (see Note)
• 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
• 1/4 c. flaked coconut for garnish, optional
• Lime wedges for garnish
Heat a wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat, add the oils, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the pepper, peas, cucumber, green onions, garlic and ginger. Toss together for about 1 minute.
Add the vinegar and soy sauce and cook for another minute. Season with the red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cauliflower or white rice and garnish with the cilantro, coconut and lime wedges. Nutrition information per serving:
Nutrition information per serving:
Fat 5 g
Sodium 165 mg
Carbohydrates 11 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Total sugars 5 g
Protein 3 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 1 fat.