Every week or so, I get a phone call or text message from my little brother Andrew asking for some kind of cooking advice. His questions have run the gamut from how to roast chiles in his electric oven to what he should make for lunch. I do think one of my favourite phone calls was when he rang me on a Friday night standing in the wine aisle of his local HEB in Brownsville, Texas asking me which bottle he should buy to take to a friend’s pizza night. Unfortunately since I live in Las Vegas, I was unable to know exactly what kind of wine they had on the HEB shelves, but I hope that I helped steer him in the right direction. I love getting these phone calls, and both me and Carlo smile whenever my phone rings at dinner time in Texas and it is Andrew.
Over Christmas, I persuaded Andrew to buy Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian despite his dislike of cookbooks without photos. He has emailed me a couple of times telling me about the different recipes that he has made from the cookbook. Last week he told me that he made this Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds, which he said made for a great lunch.
On Friday, I was stuck with the dilemma of what to eat for lunch and even though I really wanted a Reuben sandwich, I was unwilling to pay $13 (?!?!) for one at the Jewish deli by our house, nor did I want to go to the store to buy all the ingredients to make one at home. Rustling through my fridge, I saw that I had a head of cauliflower from the farmers’ market, so I thought about the email that Andrew had recently sent me.
I got How to Cook Everything Vegetarian off the cookbook shelf and turned to the recipe. Turns out that I had everything else that I needed in the pantry, so I made this for lunch. While it was no meaty Reuben sandwich, I completely agree with Andrew that this makes a tasty, filling, and quick lunch. Even Carlo, who was hesitant about the almonds in the dish, agreed! So it was a successful lunchtime save and saved us a ton of money since we ended up eating at home–Thanks Andrew! This recipe makes enough for 4 lunches at 87 cents per serving.
Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds, from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
1/2 cup whole almonds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, minced
1 small cauliflower, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup couscous
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese as a garnish (optional)
Place a dry deep skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add the almonds and dry cook them, stirring constantly, until they are toasted and fragrant, about a couple of minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside to cool.
Add the olive oil to the pan and then cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and it begins to colour, around 2 minutes. Add the finely chopped cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the cauliflower pieces are coated in the oil and start to pop and stutter in the pan, around 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the couscous and keep stirring until it too is coated in oil and begins to toast, about another 3 to 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the mixture with the smoked paprika and stir everything together. Stir in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan with the lid and turn down the heat to very low. Let the couscous cook for 5 minutes (15 minutes if you are using whole wheat couscous).
While the couscous is cooking, chop the almonds as fine as you can get them. Once cooked, add the almonds and chopped parsley to the couscous and gently fluff it with a fork. Return the lid to the pan and turn off the heat. Let the couscous rest for a minute or so, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately topped with a little bit of grated cheese, although this couscous tastes just as good the next day cold out of the fridge.