Until recently, cauliflower and I were not on good terms. I would always pass it by at the grocery store and ignore it on restaurant menus. I never really considered it as a viable option for a vegetable. I have to attribute this aversion to the ever-so-familiar and haunting "California vegetable blend" that I was served with school lunches. It tended to be a bland, overcooked, mushy mess—a bad representation of the true potential of cauliflower.
It's a good thing I believe in second chances when it comes to trying foods. It only took 10-plus years, but I decided to give the cruciferous veggie another go…this time with an Indian flair.
Aloo Gobi is an Indian restaurant staple comprising cauliflower and potatoes cooked in spices. It has become one of my favorite vegetarian options on the menu. The cauliflower is tender and flavorful and picks up the beautiful golden yellow color of turmeric, a bright yellow spice with anti-inflammatory properties that is common in Indian cuisine. The key component of turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to reduce inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts, are great additions to the diet because they are high in vitamin C and phytochemicals that may help reduce oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress in the body can cause damage to our cells, which is a risk factor for most types of cancer.
The recipe below is a fusion of two Indian dishes—Aloo Gobi and Chana Masala (chickpeas in a tomato sauce)—that I made up based on what I could find in the pantry. Don't let the long list of ingredients steer you away; half of the ingredients in this dish are spices, and it's incredibly easy to put it all together. It makes for great leftovers too!
It's good to know that cauliflower has made a comeback in my culinary life, because it has so much potential and nutritional benefits to offer.
Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala
Recipe by Karman Meyer, RD, LDN
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
½ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. chili powder
Crushed red pepper, to taste (I used about 1 tsp. — how much you use depends on how hot you like it!)
¼ cup green bell pepper, diced
15 oz. diced canned tomatoes
15 oz. garbanzo beans
¼ cup water
¼ cup vegetable stock
Salt, to taste
Cilantro, for garnish
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic, onion, cauliflower and all spices to skillet, mixing well to coat cauliflower. Sauté on medium heat for five minutes.
- Add bell pepper and sauté for an additional five minutes.
- Add canned tomatoes, beans, water, vegetable stock and salt to skillet and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
- Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.