We were having a friend over for dinner a few weeks ago for a simple steak cookout. Usually I opt for ease on these occasions and roast squash or asparagus on the grill while I’m cooking the steaks. This night, however, I had a buzz on to have something a little different, something cheesy and comforting, something more starch like. And for some reason, my thoughts turned to cous cous.
Of course, I wasn’t going to actually have cous cous, since it’s just a granular form of pasta and way too carby a bang for the enjoyment buck in my estimation. Oh no, if I’m going to splurge carb grams on pasta, it will be in Italy and it will be Gnocchi con Quattro Formaggi, not cous cous. But, of course, this was in our back yard, not Italy (sigh) so I set about to get the sensation, the mouth feel, and the savory flavor I was seeking, but make it fit our low carb bill.
The resultant knock off was a knock out and I admit to having become quite addicted to it as a side dish. It works well along side pretty much grilled anything and might even make a passable base on which to put Osso Bucco in lieu of polenta or risotto. You can adjust the recipe to make more or less pretty painlessly. (I’ve made half a recipe with half a cauliflower for just the two of us several times.)
Since I used our old buddy cauliflower, I decided to call the basic prep cauli-cauli in homage to the cous cous that inspired it. Here it is:
Cauli Cauli with Artichoke and Lemon Pesto
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and washed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 recipe Artichoke and Lemon Pesto (below)
1/3 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese
Artichoke and lemon pesto
1 can (approx 14 ounces) artichoke quarters in water, drained
1 large lemon, for juice and zest
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley
1 clove garlic
1/4 to 1/3 cup finely grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
About 1/3 cup olive oil
To make the pesto, place all ingredients except olive oil in the food processor and blend to a smoothish consistency. Stream in the olive oil until you have a soft, but not loose, pesto. You’ll have enough for two batches of cauli cauli or you can use the extra to slather on tomato halves before broiling or dress up grilled fish. Or if you eat a bit of bread, slather on slices of toasted baguette for a delicious bruschetta.
For the cauli cauli
1. Slice the cauliflower head in half, then into slices about 1/2 inch wide.
2. Place the cauliflower into the food processor and pulse to break it up, then process on high to finely chop it to grains about the size of cous cous.
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and saute until limp.
4. Add the processed cauliflower and stir to coat it with the butter and oil. Continue cooking, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked. (You can prepare it to this point, then turn off the heat, cover, and hold it for a half hour or so if needed.)
5. When ready to serve, add 1/2 of the Artichoke and Lemon Pesto recipe and the 1/3 cup of parmiggiano reggiano cheese and mix thoroughly. Heat through over medium heat.
6. Serve immediately.