I generally avoid free food samples in Manhattan, because ew. The city is so crowded and dirty. How many hundreds of fingers have grazed that chunk of cookie or cube of cheese before mine? But a few months ago, a new cafe called The Juice Shop opened up right downstairs from my office. Most of the restaurants in our area (near Penn Station) are fast food places like Subway or Dunkin’ Donuts, or pizza slice shops, or gross bars. So The Juice Shop, with it’s green smoothies, raw salads, and kale bowls is a sight for sore eyes.
Often around lunchtime, an employee is standing outside with a tray of samples, and I can never resist. Their food is so good! If only it wasn’t also so expensive! Seriously, we’re talking $9 for a green juice, $7 for a latte, and $10 for an acai bowl. So last week, I snatched a take-out menu for “research” and got started creating my own versions of some of their dishes.
First up with this raw cauliflower couscous salad with a za’atar-spiked lemon vinaigrette. I’ve been reading about cauliflower rice and cauliflower couscous for a while now, but I was skeptical–to say the least. How good could a bowl of raw cauliflower be? Even if it looked like delicious couscous, wouldn’t I take one bite and know the truth?
The answer, surprisingly, is no. When you grate up cauliflower into tiny bits, toss it with delicious ingredients, and douse it with a zippy dressing, it tastes exactly like a crunchy whole grain.
This salad is basically a raw take on tabbouli, with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and tons of fresh parsley. You could add diced red onion if you want (I was planning to, but forgot at the last minute–oops).
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made of sumac, sesame seeds, and herbs. You should be able to find it for a few dollars at Whole Foods. If you can’t, or don’t want to buy it, substitute some toasted sesame seeds and a pinch of dried thyme and dried oregano.
One of the best things about this recipe is that it only takes 10 minutes to throw together. It makes a really impressive weeknight side dish, and it pairs well with simple entrees like roast chicken or fish. You could also bulk it up with some cubes of tofu or feta, or tuck it into a pita slathered with hummus.
Raw Cauliflower Couscous Salad with Za'atar
This salad is raw, vegan, gluten-free and paleo. It's also extremely delicious! If you don't have za'atar, don't worry. Substitute a teaspoon each of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, and dried oregano. This salad keeps very well. Leftovers are great the next day.
For the salad
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1/2 English cucumber about 2 cups, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives quartered
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup diced red onion optional
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon za'atar
- Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the cauliflower into large chunks. Working in batches, pulse them in the food processor until it is broken down into couscous-sized bits. (If some large pieces remain, just remove and discard them.) Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and stir in the cucumber, tomatoes, olives, parsley, and onion (if using).
In a small jar with a lid (like an old jam jar) combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and za'atar. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Seal the jar and shake to blend. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.