Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Spring Vegetables and Arugula Pesto

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vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pestoIt’s been 36 hours since my birthday. Im doing okay, thanks. 

I have to say, 28 was a shockingly good bday. I woke up rather hungover (unsurprising given my old age and the birthday tequila shots consumed the night before) to the sound of someone repeatedly ringing my buzzer. I soon discovered that it was a delivery of 280 balloons from my overly generous mother, who loves birthday celebrations almost as much as I do.

The balloons were amazing, but somewhat overwhelming in my condition, and I had to retire to bed while Logan tied bunches of them together so that we could move in the apartment without getting tangled in (or strangled by) the strings. As some of the balloons were of the singing variety, this process was quite noisy.

Given the aforementioned hangover, I decided to scrap my best-laid birthday brunch plans. Instead, my besties came over early, and we ate an obscene amount of pizza, followed by Momofuku’s famous birthday cake, crack pie, birthday cake truffles and a couple compost cookies for good measure. There were laughs, hugs, and several dirt naps during the group viewing of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, before everyone waddled home around 6. Then Logan and I ordered chicken fingers (because whatever), my mom came over with presents (!!!), and suddenly, it was bedtime. Like I said, it was a good birthday.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-2Based on Sunday’s freakfest, I did not feel excellent yesterday. After wading through wrapping paper and discarded bags of sour patch kids to pop 280 sagging balloons, I stood in my Birthday Princess graveyard, feeling the usual panic of the comedown setting in. Knowing the only cure was more cowbell water, vegetables, and time, I took some cleansing breaths and made myself a giant Cauliflower Rice Bowl with Spring Vegetables and Arugula Pesto.

It helped. 

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-3This bowl is a serious spring fling for your taste buds, which will be delighted to experience its bright, fresh flavors after winter’s comfort food barrage. It’s feel good food in the truest sense of the word, and I’m very excited by its magic.

First, let’s discuss the wonders of cauliflower “rice.” If you’re not familiar, relax. It’s just cauliflower florets pulsed in a food processor until they become small granules (more like couscous than rice, if we’re splitting hairs), and then steamed or sautéed until just tender. I’ve been making cauli rice on the reg now for a couple years (my roommate’s rather enamored with it), and I’m majorly impressed by its versatility. It all started with this chronic fried rice, but I’ve now experimented six ways from Sunday (chipotle and lime! ginger-soy! Parmesan and red pepper!), and each time, I’m blown away by the awesomeness. In fact, I actually prefer it to real rice, and I’m not just saying that to sell you. Swear on Beyoncé.

For this bowl, I kept things super basic, cooking the rice with nothing more than a good pinch of kosher salt, some fresh ground pepper and a bit of lemon zest. The flavor is simple and clean in the best possible way, and it’s the ideal base for this spring vegetable sitch…

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-4Asparagus and sugar snap peas, HALLELUJAH. I couldn’t have been more psyched by the influx of spring-y produce at the market yesterday (in my haste to fill my basket I caused a pea avalanche and came dangerously close to toppling several asparagus towers), and these green wonders are two of my favorites. Quickly sautéed with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, the crisp-tender nature of these veggies is perfection on the texture front, and the earthy-sweet flavor combo really can’t be beat.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-5Last but not least, we need to address the gloriousness of arugula pesto. Peppery, with a hint of basil sweetness and plenty of citrus zip, this stuff is the absolute tits. Be very generous with it in your bowls, friends, then use any excess to jazz up everything from raw vegetables to scrambled eggs. It’s 100% green gold. 

And please don’t forget to garnish your bowl with sliced radishes and chopped almonds for a little extra spice and crunch. A sprinkling of hemps seeds doesn’t hurt either. 

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-6I won’t bore you with a laundry list of this bowl’s nutritional benefits, so let’s just say there are many, and they are great. I’m talking fiber, antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins/minerals out the yin-yang, peeps, and I swear you’ll feel significantly smarter and prettier after eating it. It also happens to be vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and Dude Diet-friendly in the extreme, so make a bowl for everyone you know.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-7p.s. I obviously support doing you when it comes to building your dream bowl, so by all means, get creative. Try fava beans, sweet peas or broccoli, add your favorite herbs and seasonings to your cauliflower rice, experiment with different nuts and seeds, or swap out pesto for your favorite dressing (I plan to do yogurt-tahini on my leftovers). Godspeed. 

Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Spring Vegetables and Arugula Pesto: (Makes 2 large bowls)

1 small head cauliflower, florets removed
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ bunch thin asparagus, woody stems removed and sliced into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 cup sugar snap peas, stems and strings removed, halved crosswise on a diagonal.
3 baby radishes, thinly sliced
¼ cup almonds, chopped
2 teaspoons hemp seeds (optional)
For the arugula pesto:
1 packed cup arugula
6 basil leaves
1/3 cup raw almonds
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup good quality olive oil

Preparing your Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Spring Vegetables and Arugula Pesto:

-Let’s start with the pesto. Place all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor and process, scraping down the sides if necessary, until well combined and relatively smooth. (If it’s too thick add a little more olive oil!) Set aside until ready to use.

vegan-arugula-almond-pesto-Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-step-2Pulse until the cauliflower is broken down into small granules. (It will look like couscous.)

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-step-3-Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cauliflower “rice,” a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring regularly, until tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Divide the cauliflower among two bowls and briefly set aside.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-step-4-Go ahead and wipe out the cauliflower pan to use for your green vegetables. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the snap peas and asparagus, a good pinch of kosher salt and few grinds of pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, shaking the pan periodically, until the vegetables are just tender.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-step-1-Top each cauliflower rice bowl with half of the green vegetables. Garnish with sliced radishes, chopped almonds and hemp seeds (if using) and plenty of arugula pesto.

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-9Obviously, feel free to get as creative as you like with your bowl design. So many possibilities!

vegan-cauliflower-rice-bowl-with-arugula-pesto-10So fresh and so clean!

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  1. susie815 on April 10, 2015 at 11:15 am

    no thank you for the inspiration, will let you know this weekend if I can make mine look as pretty:) love healthy eating, cauliflower is so awesome these days, I buy 3 pounds a week of bagged cut up, I use so much for dinner instead of potatoes and or rice, love it for pizza crust and even for tortillas:) so much better for us:)

  2. susie815 on April 9, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    this looks and sounds amazing, I am so making this, this weekend

    • Serena_Wolf on April 10, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Thanks, Susie! Hope you dig it as much as I do.

  3. Sean Smith on March 25, 2015 at 12:27 am

    This is a great idea for using cauliflower. I’m glad you had a good birthday. As I get older, I am loving how much more memorable they can be when surrounded by loved ones. It’s been fun following you through this birthday.

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