Gabe recently suggested we come up with some sort of rating system for our dinners. Not as a way of judging my successes and failures in the kitchen but rather to celebrate the rare times when everyone cleans their plate. Because it is just that; rare.
Each member of the family represents a star or point so if everyone liked the meal we could say it’s a five-star meal. Bonus points for healthy recipes because you know, it’s not too hard to please everyone with pizza – actually even that is a battle (unless it’s the White Pie with Bacon at Delancey – we all agree on our love for that pizza).
Five-star meals are few and far between in our family. Maybe yours too? This person over here doesn’t like onions (and just like that there goes about 90% of what I cook), over here we have the self-proclaimed picky eater who will painstakingly pick out anything green, and this one will not like it unless it’s candy coated or a bowl of rice and beans. Gabe, fortunately is easy to please or he just keeps quiet. Either way I’m okay with it. When he suggested said rating system it was after the surprising victory of a five-star meal with loads of extra bonus points for being extremely healthful (so much green stuff)!
I rarely let my one or two star scores keep me from cooking the food I want or feel my family needs but as I’m sure many of you can relate to, it is tiring cooking for a tough crowd. So we celebrate the meals that leave us all satisfied and I tuck away their cheers and kind words for the many other days when the answer to “what’s for dinner?” is met with grimaces and tears.
Our most recent victory came from Tess Master’s latest book, The Perfect Blend. You guys, I’ll be honest, I am not one to get behind super “healthy” eating. I don’t jump on the new year’s resolution band wagon, I steer clear of paleo, and am never one to shy away from butter. My idea of healthful eating is consuming real food made from real ingredients and if sometimes a few Cool Ranch Doritos get in there – well, it’s not the end of the world. But I found myself folding down the corner of so many recipes in Tess’ book because they are unique, creative and frankly they just sound delicious.
I have never before been tempted to turn cauliflower into rice but the stunning image and long list of colorful ingredients in Tess’ Tricked-Up Tabouli convinced me. Because I’m terrible at following a recipe I didn’t do exactly as she said but I loved the result. I used what I had on hand and followed the idea and served the salad alongside chicken kofta meatballs with a feta and yogurt sauce (I’ll share that recipe soon). Okay and yes, I also made pita. Plates were clean. I knew the meatballs and the pita would be a winner but the salad received glowing praises as well.
The piles of herbs and mix of color and texture lured me in. She added hemp seeds but I didn’t have any on hand, I also think I quadrupled the amount of dill and definitely added the pickle. Next time I’ll throw in chickpeas even though Ivy claims those are her worst enemy bean. Hey, that’s fine, I’m happy with four stars.
From The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters
I’ve kept Tess’ original ingredients as written but as I mentioned I played around with the quantities of things a bit based on what I had in my kitchen (I also didn’t bother seeding the tomatoes or cucumber). I left out the hemp seeds, used less parsley, more dill and didn’t use the allspice.
From Tess: With cauliflower rice stepping in for cracked wheat, the classic Middle Eastern salad goes raw and grain-free. Loaded with hydrating, alkaline ingredients, this version is a cleansing superstar. Its aromatic elements—herbs, allspice, and lemon zest—enliven the sweet fruits and vegetables. The pickles come in with crunch, tanginess, and probiotics; the red pepper flakes stimulate digestion and help flush your system. For the most balanced flavor profile, consume the tabouli as soon as it’s dressed. If you’re not serving it right away, chill the salad and the dressing separately, and combine just when you’re ready to serve.
SERVES 6 TO 8;
DRESSING MAKES 3⁄4 CUP (180ML)
1⁄2 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups (200g) firmly packed finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 4 large bunches)
2 cups (340g) seeded and diced tomato
2 cups (300g) peeled, seeded, and diced English cucumber
1 cup (140g) ribbed, seeded, and diced red bell pepper
1 cup (80g) finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
1⁄2 cup (75g) diced red onion, plus more to taste
1⁄2 cup (20g) firmly packed finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1⁄2 cup (70g) shelled hemp seeds
1 teaspoon natural salt, plus more to taste
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper, plus more to taste
1⁄3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice, plus more to taste
1 1⁄2 cups (270g) cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce/425g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1⁄2 cup (80g) diced dill pickle
1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until finely minced. The cauliflower ‘rice’ will resemble couscous. You should have about 3 cups.
In a large bowl combine the cauliflower, parsley, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion, red onion, mint, dill, and hemp seeds. Add to that any boosters you’d like. I highly recommend the addition of pickle.
Tess suggests: To make the dressing, throw the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, allspice, and the red pepper flake booster into your blender and blast on high for about 30 seconds, until the dressing is emulsified and the garlic has been completely pulverized. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to evenly combine. Add the salt and pepper and tweak the lemon juice, allspice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Instead of using the blender I drizzled the olive oil and lemon juice directly over the bowl of ingredients then simply tossed it all together. I forgot to add the garlic but next time will not make the same mistake. Add the salt and pepper then taste and adjust as needed.
Serve immediately for the best flavor. Leftovers will keep in the fridge but the vegetables will leach water so it’s best to eat it all right away.