Long the wallflower of the produce bin, cauliflower has found new popularity in recent years as a healthful stand-ins for all sorts of off-limits foods, from steak to pizza. In this recipe, adapted from one in a new cookbook by Emma Laperruque, “Food52 Big Little Recipes,” a head of cauliflower is ground up in a food processor to the consistency of ground beef, coated with a little oil and seasoned liberally with chili powder, then roasted until crispy and browned for a surprisingly meat-like taco filling. Pepper Jack cheese adds richness along with extra spice; a few shreds of lettuce provide just the right cool, crunchy contrast. Keep it as simple as that as the recipe suggests, or feel free to personalize it with tomato, avocado, salsa or whatever you wish. Any leftover roasted, seasoned cauliflower can be stored in the fridge for several days and reheated in the microwave for a quick taco lunch later. Makes 8 tacos.
— Susan Puckett
· 1 large head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds)
· 3 tablespoons neutral oil
· 3 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
· ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
· 8 crunchy corn taco shells
· ¼ head shredded iceberg lettuce (about 1 cup)
· 4 ounces shredded pepper Jack cheese (about 1 cup)
· Halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
· Diced avocado (optional)
· Homemade or prepared salsa for serving (optional)
1. Adjust two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and have ready two large, rimmed baking pans. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Slice off the leaves and bottom of the cauliflower stem and roughly chop the rest. Transfer about a third of the cauliflower pieces to the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture of ground beef — a bit coarser than rice with some slightly larger chunks.
3. Dump it onto one of the sheet pans. Process the remaining cauliflower in two batches and add it to the pan.
4. Add the oil, 3 tablespoons of chili powder (more if you like spicier food), and the ¾ teaspoon of salt, and toss with your hands to evenly coat.
5. Transfer half the mixture to the other sheet pan and spread out evenly in thin, single layers on each to ensure maximum caramelization.
6. Place the pans on the upper and lower oven racks and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until crispy and browned. Remove from the oven, taste for seasoning, and add a little more salt if you like. 7. Dump the roasted cauliflower from one pan onto the other and place the taco shells on the empty pan. Place it in the oven for a minute or two, just long enough to warm them without browning.
7. Fill each shell with the cauliflower mixture, lettuce, cheese and, if you like, a few cherry tomato halves and avocado chunks.
8. Serve with salsa on the side, if desired.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.