I have never followed a diet successfully, mainly because I enjoy food too much to give it up. I’ve noticed that every diet has the naysayers who point out the flaws of what they see as a passing fad. Yet when a friend explained about Paleo diet, I was intrigued by the notion of going back in time to find healthy options.
A Paleo diet, an abbreviation for Paleolithic diet, is one that closely follows what our Paleolithic/Stone Age/caveman ancestors ate. The present day version of hunting or foraging translates to eating free-range animals and sustainable seafood, and enjoying a rotation of seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
When A. said that she was substituting rice with cauliflower in a recipe for fried rice, I realized that this represented a perfect Paleo concept. I recognized that it would be my biggest challenge since I love rice. A Paleo diet is similar to the low-carbohydrate/high protein diet, but the types of carbohydrates allowed in each are different; In a Paleo diet, carbohydrates from grains, cereals, and legumes are excluded and come primarily from vegetables and fruits. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle that predates our agricultural past also means that dairy is excluded from the diet. While the Paleo diet is good for those with wheat and dairy allergies, the diet is tough for vegetarians to follow. Legumes, a major source of proteins in a vegetarian diet, are not allowed. However, no one can complain about the health benefits of excluding refined sugars and oils, processed foods, and salts.
I can do without refined and processed products, but I wondered how the bland cauliflower taste would stand in for both texture and crunch as a replacement for rice. I substituted cauliflower in an abridged version of my mother’s recipe for aromatic rice pilaf.
Cauliflower – 1 medium, separated into florets (use about 10)
Mixed vegetables (peas, beans, cabbage, carrots) – 1½ cup
Coconut oil – 3 tbsp
Shallot – 1, minced
Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
Ginger – 1-inch, minced
Serrano pepper – 1, minced
Green Cardamom – 3
Whole Cloves – 5
- Put the cauliflower florets in a food processor. Pulse three times, or until the florets are the size of rice grains.
- Heat the oil in a wok or sauté pan.
- Add the minced shallots. Stir until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, Serrano and stir for about a minute.
- Add the cloves and cardamom.
- Add the cauliflower, mixed vegetables, and 3 tbsp water (or stock).
- Lower the heat, cover and cook for about five to eight minutes.
- Remove the whole spices before serving.
I didn’t expect the substitution (cauliflower instead of rice) to work, but its crunch and appearance in the dish was deceptively close. I won’t be giving up rice anytime soon, but every time you encounter the familiar in unexpected new ways, you might just surprise yourself!