Trendy ‘riced’ cauliflower substitutes in healthier versions of everything from pizza crust to fried rice.

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CRUMBLED BITS OF cauliflower used to be considered an unfortunate byproduct to clean off the cutting board. Now the crumbles are the star of the show.

Rather than chopping them into florets, the popular way to use cauliflower is now as “rice,” grain-sized bits used to substitute for actual rice in recipes from curry bowls to rice pudding. It doesn’t stop there; enthusiasts recommend pressing the “rice” into pizza crusts, shaping it into pseudo-bread slices or subbing it out for the mac in mac and cheese.

Riced cauliflower was ranked as a “rising star” in Google’s 2016 Food Trends report — and, as with many trends, its success was fueled by popular diets. Because it’s low in carbohydrates, cauliflower has become a favorite of Paleo-diet diners. Its bland nature, once considered its main drawback, lets it substitute nicely for standard white rice, but it’s lower in calories and higher in fiber.

In itself, creating new shapes for vegetables isn’t that stunning a phenomenon. Just think of similarly low-carb “zoodles,” vegetable noodles that have led to a wave of best-selling cookbooks and spiralizer sales. In cauliflower’s case, though, retailers have embraced it vigorously. When Trader Joe’s first started offering frozen and fresh riced cauliflower, stores could barely keep it in stock. Taylor Farms sells “cauliflower pearls,” available at Kroger stores, among other retailers, while Green Giant recently introduced its own line of riced cauliflower and other riced vegetables.

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Cauliflower is enjoying a rare burst of popularity in all its forms; you’ll see it at restaurants sliced into meaty “steaks” or fried whole as a dramatic entree. Cauliflower rice, by contrast, doesn’t show up on many menus. Chefs tell me that ricing is more labor-intensive than slicing, and it’s also too hard to produce uniform pieces that meet a restaurant’s standards. Beyond that, “steak” sounds more restaurant-worthy than “rice,” and the larger pieces can be seared or browned in more-appetizing ways.

For now, then, your best bet for cauliflower rice is your home kitchen. Even as a carbohydrate queen who didn’t have high expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. I didn’t tell my kids that their “something like fried rice” dinner was actually anchored in a vegetable, and they didn’t notice the difference.

If you can’t find cauliflower rice in stores, or you’d rather make your own, pulse the cauliflower florets into small pieces in a food processor, or grate them into rice-sized bits.

 

Cauliflower Fried ‘Rice’

2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, divided

2/3 cup chopped carrot

1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1 cup sliced green onions

2 garlic cloves, chopped

12 ounces fresh or frozen (unthawed) riced cauliflower

1 egg

1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, cooked (for a vegetarian version, substitute browned cubes of tofu)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce, or more to taste

 

1. Heat 1½ tablespoons sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot, and sauté a few minutes until tender. Add peas, green onions and garlic; sauté one minute. Add cauliflower; sauté two minutes.

2. Clear an open spot in the center of the pan. Add remaining sesame oil to open spot; crack in egg. Stir egg to break up yolk; stir occasionally to lightly scramble. Before egg is completely set, stir it into cauliflower mixture. Add shrimp or tofu to pan; drizzle with soy sauce. Cook one minute or until thoroughly heated and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Slightly adapted from Cookinglight.com