Ever since I discovered that you can make “rice” from cauliflower (see: cauliflower fried rice), I’ve wanted to try making a risotto out of the stuff. The problem is that the characteristics of cauliflower are pretty much the opposite of rice. When you cook rice, it absorbs liquid and releases starches. These starches are how we develop the beautiful flowing consistency of risotto. Cauliflower, on the other hand, just releases moisture and has no starches to speak of…

So, in order to turn it into something that resembles a risotto, this white cruciferous vegetable is going to need some help. Here, that help is coming in the form of tahini. By mixing tahini (sesame seed paste) with vegetable broth and a few other ingredients, we have a liquid that will thicken the cauliflower rice and add a creamy consistency. I was blown away by how good this is. Not only does the tahini trick work way better than I expected, the flavors are out of this world.

If you’re looking for a lower calorie substitute for classic risotto, this version has all the creamy, comforting flavors of the original with more nutrients and less starches. As an added bonus, this version is easier to make, cooks faster, and doesn’t cause your arm to fall off from constant stirring.

Cauli_Risotto

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (any kind)
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Step One

In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add in a finely-diced mixture of red onion, celery and garlic. Allow this to soften and turn translucent (about 5-6 minutes). Meanwhile…

Step Two

Break up the head of cauliflower into small pieces and add them to a food processor. Quickly pulse about 20 times until you have small bits of cauliflower that resemble rice. This step is important to create the right texture. If the chunks are too big, it won’t feel like rice; if you pulse too long it will end up all soupy. Once it’s the right size, add this cauliflower “rice” into the pan with the celery and onions. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper here as well.

Step Three

In a small saucepan, warm 2 cups of vegetable broth along with 1/4 cup tahini. Stir until the tahini dissolves and then add in 2 cups of sliced mushrooms and the leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary. Let this simmer for 5 minutes while the cauliflower (in the other pan) continues to soften.

Step Four

Pour the mushroom tahini broth into the pan with the cauliflower and stir to combine. Also add in a handful or two of fresh or frozen peas to add some color and texture. Allow this to cook uncovered for another 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly. At this point, you should have a creamy mixture that’s neither too dry or too soupy – just like a good risotto. At the last minute, remove from the heat and add in a squeeze of lemon juice, the leaves from another sprig of rosemary, and more salt & pepper if needed.

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