Cauliflower. The devil. Oh why do I want you so bad. Must be the goat in me.
Cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy (ouch!) and cauliflower in particular, have been on my “no” list for far too long. In no way is this due to taste preference, quite the contrary actually. In no way is this due to lack of nutritional value either — these guys are loaded. Knowing me, or not, their nutritional density alone, digestively in particular, is reason enough for me (or anyone) to incorporate them on a regular basis. Protection against cancers, reduction in oxidative stress (excess of harmful free radicals in the body – lots more on that later), reduction of and prevention against chronic inflammation (are you kidding?), high omega-3 content, impressive resume of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, it goes on… BUT it’s been well worth it to push them aside, considering the symptoms I experience after consumption. And forget about eating these guys raw, did I mention I’m really trying to practice self-compassion? Either way, bad idea.
SO, why no broccoli?? Unfortunately, I have been blessed (cursed?) with a unique digestive tract, prone to inflammation. This is the primary aspect of Crohn’s disease, and other diseases alike, most notably ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s inflammation is typically in the small intestine though it can be anywhere throughout the GI tract and can affect all layers of the bowel wall, whereas UC only affects the lining of the colon. Regardless, such systems develop sensitivities secondary to the inflammation itself and result in varying levels of digestive difficulty. (If you feel so inclined, just ask me for a mini-lesson on these autoimmune gems, though you may have to help me keep the “mini” part in mind.) Approaching the 10-year anniversary (…party?!) of my original diagnosis, I have come a long way towards recognizing what is and what isn’t beneficial to my system AND to my mind… my mindbody, rather. In many ways I can appreciate my disease for heightening my awareness on all levels. I digress, LOTS more on that later.
So wouldn’t such SUPER vegetables be perfectly apt for someone with such a condition, considering their undeniable beneficial properties? Absolutely. BUT the pain and discomfort associated with eating such vegetables, in all of their extraordinary fibrousness, has been reason enough for me, and many others with similar propensities, to steer clear. Of course you don’t have to have such a disease or whatever to experience said discomforts, I’m sure many of you know just what I’m talking about. (Cue excruciating cramping pain in side gut.) I admit there have been moments when I somehow suffer from memory loss and figure, “Oh, it can’t be that bad,” or “Maybe things have changed,” or always “I’ll be fine.” I’m fine, sure, but have suffered enough in that sense. Chewing a lot helps, another great practice in mindfulness, but it doesn’t quite do the job (we’re aiming for pain-free here, hence SUPERfree). Also the more leafy cruciferous vegetables, such as kale and cabbage, I am usually able to tolerate (de-stemmed, please) especially if sautéed or if raw massaged with oil and vinegar to be broken down a bit. (That would really be a joke – a vegan who doesn’t eat kale. Whoops.)
Anyway, I have found a solution. It takes some work, but it is oh so good.
Blaming the dense fiber network of these plants for the onslaught of digestive discomfort, there are certainly ways to break down that structure enough to be able to happily tolerate such delights, all while maintaining the bulk of their nutritional value. Also, conveniently enough, the following recipes represent different methods of nom-ing grain-free. Yay.
1 head of raw cauliflower
/ PROCESS raw florets of 1 head (or however much you want – volume reduces a bit) of cauliflower in a food processer until you obtain a rice-like texture. It shouldn’t take long.
/ BRING to boil in a large saucepot with enough water to cover the “rice”.
/ COVER and cook for about 5 more minutes.
/ DRAIN liquid off.
» STOP HERE if you don’t want a crust yet, and use the cauliflower rice like you would normal rice. A little sea salt and the tiniest bit of olive oil will do, but you do you (just keep it plant based and organic, please). OH and spring onions, mmm.
Continue on for…
cauliflower rice from ~ 1 head
2+1 T ground flax/chia seeds (the nutty flavor of flax works best for this I think)
½ c coarse cornmeal
4 cloves raw garlic, chopped
handful fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)
hot red pepper flakes
/ COOL the hot “rice” in a container in the freezer for around 10-15 minutes. Don’t actually let it freeze!
/ REMOVE from freezer and transfer to a tea towel.
/ SQUEEZE the excess liquid from the rice over the sink. (Or don’t and make a mess.) Squeeze again.
/ PREHEAT oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
/ MIX 2 T of ground flax/chia seed with about ¼ c lukewarm water. Beat it. Let that sit aside. THIS IS A SEED EGG. Get familiar.
/ ADD remaining tablespoon of ground flax/chia seeds to cauliflower rice in a large bowl.
/ MIX in remaining ingredients and seed egg, you should obtain a dough-like consistency.
/ FORM into a ball and press onto parchment paper in desired shape. The thickness is very important, as it will easily cook unevenly or not all the way through. Approximately ¼ inch thick is ideal, make sure it’s not any thicker in the middle especially, this is assuming you want a little crunchiness.
/ BAKE for 20 minutes.
/ PLACE a second sheet of parchment paper on top of the crust and carefully flip over. Have some grace.
/ PEEL off original piece of parchment and discard.
/ BAKE 15-20 more minutes, or until golden and crispy on the edges. Check the middle for moisture — if still too moist and the edges are plenty browned, cover the edges lightly with tinfoil and bake for several more minutes.
/ TOP however with whatever you please (again, plant-based please, have a little respect) and return to hot oven for 5 or so minutes, just to get it all good.
The version pictured features garden fresh local marinara sauce, oven-roasted parsnips, onions, red peppers, and pepitas, topped with nutritional yeast. Yep.
** Stay tuned for multiple editions of perfect nut-cheeses, including a “parmesan” that may just top the “real” thing. Yeah, I said it.
EAT YOUR BROCCOLI (and cauliflower), B