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Composed Taco Salad with Ground Cauliflower and Zesty Cashew Dressing

Composed Taco Salad with Ground Cauliflower and Zesty Cashew Dressing

Have you noticed that cauliflower – you know that mushy, bland mass boiled to lifelessness that we grew up with? – is suddenly the break out, go-to vegetable for emerging young chefs as well as home cooks? I won’t go so far as to say cauliflower is the new kale – it will never have that nutritional profile - but people have taken a new look at that stodgy pillar of the frozen vegetable mix and discovered the creative possibilities hidden within. Suddenly cauliflower is being roasted, sliced into “steaks,” breaded as buffalo wings and puréed into silky white pools. See you later, peas and carrots! She is not a bit player any longer. This is like what happens in the movies when the wallflower takes off her glasses, straightens her posture, shows off a little leg and suddenly, va-va-voom! From wallflower to revamped, edgy cauliflower.

Part of the magic of cauliflower is that it has a texture that can have some interesting facets to it, ranging from crispy to smooth depending on how it’s prepared, and it has a very neutral flavor that is a blank canvas waiting to be influenced. In short, cauliflower is game for your experiments.

Here I created cauliflower that is reminiscent of ground beef to use in a salad. This can also be used in moussaka, tacos and any other recipe that normally uses ground beef. This is softer than ground beef – if you want a crispier texture, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil – and is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Pairing it with crunchy lettuce, a creamy, zesty dressing and all the odds-and-ends you might like in your salad, you’ve got something delicious.

Composed Taco Salad with Ground Cauliflower

6 cups or one medium cauliflower, cut into florets
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds (no salt)
2 cups salsa
½ cup tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 teaspoons fennel
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with a Silpat, parchment paper or brush lightly with oil.

Pulse the cauliflower about ten times in a food processor, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse together until fully integrated. You may have to stop the machine and remove the mixture from the sides of the food processor a few times with a large spoon. Process until everything is mixed together well and the cauliflower pieces are pebble-sized or smaller.

Spread out on your prepared baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes then move it around with a spatula. Lower the temperature to 350, then bake for 15 minutes, stir again and bake for 15 more minutes.

Zesty Cashew Dressing

1 cup cashews, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes or longer
½ cup water
Juice of ½ lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder

Blend together in a blender or food processor until smooth.

My salad had romaine, avocado, red onion, cucumber, olives and Ground Cauliflower. Some other ideas are shredded carrots, tortilla chips, roasted bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes or basically anything you would like on a salad. Compose and enjoy!

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