Cauliflower Couscous with Mint Cashew Pesto
The head chef at Alive +Well’s Elle's Cafe & Coffee, shares an exclusive gluten-free recipe.
Couscous originates in Northern Africa but is now ubiquitous throughout the the Middle East and Mediterranean as a classic staple. The word couscous is a francization of the Arabic word kaskasa, which means “to pound,” referring to the preparation of breaking durum wheat grains into coarse semolina. The semolina flour is moistened to form granules that set with drying and are then boiled to be served like pasta.
Our couscous is made from shaved cauliflower florets, meant to simulate the look of couscous while being nutritious and gluten-free. Cauliflower is an unsung superfood, rich in vitamins, glucosinolates, and antioxidants. It’s a fun and healthy twist on a gluten substitute.
There are a couple ways to do this. You can shave one head of cauliflower on a box grater or gently shave the florets with a knife, adjusting the angle to get the best granules possible. The latter method is more time consuming, but you will have a much more even grade that truly resembles couscous. You can use any type of cauliflower you like; I prefer cheddar cauliflower for the color. White cauliflower can be dyed with turmeric, which has the added bonus of also being great for you.
1. Place shaved cauliflower in a heat safe container.
2. Bring water to a rolling boil and pour over the cauliflower, just enough to cover.
3. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.
4. If you are adding turmeric, add just a little sprinkle at a time while stirring until you achieve the color you like; otherwise, simply drain the cauliflower couscous and cool.
5. For even better results, you can set up the cauliflower in a steamer or colander over a pot of boiling water. Cover and keep at a low simmer for 10 minutes, then remove and cool. This better preserves the flavor and texture of the cauliflower itself.
Mint Cashew Pesto
1½ oz. mint (roughly a large handful or 2 packed cups of leaves)
3 oz. parsley (roughly double the amount of mint)
3 oz. toasted cashews
2 garlic cloves
1½ cups olive oil
Salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a smooth paste.
2. Alternatively, pesto is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, which produces a subtle difference in the quality and the flavor. The food processor heats the pesto slightly and chops the herbs (versus crushing them), which impacts their flavor intensity.
This makes about 1 quart of pesto. Store in the fridge and pull out a few hours before you intend to use it.
Preparation and Variations
The couscous and pesto can simply be mixed together. For one head of cauliflower, you will only need a few spoonfuls of pesto. Toss with ½ cup of golden raisins.
This dish is somewhat reminiscent of a tabouleh. It can be served on top of lettuce or with chopped tomatoes or cucumbers. Add Feta cheese or Kalamata olives.
This is a very versatile dish that can suit any situation. It can be served cold or hot. If serving hot, it’s better to allow the the couscous to cool completely to set, then it can be reheated by sauteing with vegetables, mixing with hot sauces or adding to a hot stew just before serving.
Make sure to check out more delicious gluten-free creations at Alive+Well's Elle's Cafe & Coffee, now open in Bee Cave.