Years ago, when I first learned about Mother Earth News I also learned about a book that has since been called a classic. This was the quintessential vegetarian book and cookbook called Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe that also came out in 1971 just like Mother Earth did. This book was a revelation to me. I came from a mid-western family that ate well and varied but meat was served at almost every meal and especially lunch and dinner. I didn’t think anything about it. It was just how people ate. Diet changed all that for me.
I was then and am now deeply committed to following the philosophy behind Diet. I believe we eat much more meat than we need to and that we can get high quality protein from plant sources without going the whole route into veganism. The funny thing is science is finally coming around to the plant-based diet as the most-healthy way of eating and one of the most famous is the Mediterranean way of eating. It’s nice to finally have the world catch up to you! By the way, I am not a vegetarian. I guess you could call me a flexitarian. I’ve heard this name being bandied about recently but to me this means I eat what makes sense to me and my body. All in all, I err on the side of plant-based.
This is one of my most favorite no-meat meals. It is a Mediterranean style dish that was inspired by my readings of Lulu Peyraud’s Lulu’s Provencal Table, Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, and Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cooking.
Roasted Cauliflower and Grain Salad with Feta, Avocado and Olives
Yields 4 salads
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), separated into bite-sized florets
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)
Grain (I use farro but you can use brown rice, cous cous or barley)
- 1 cup quick cooking farro
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (optional)
- 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed (I smash them with the flat of a kitchen knife and get the pit out that way)
- 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (if whole is used, pat off the oil and roughly chop them)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 2 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon) or homemade vinaigrette* to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 avocado, sliced into thin strips
- 4+ handfuls leafy greens (spring greens, spinach, arugula or baby kale)
*I like to use my homemade vinaigrette to dress this instead of lemon juice. You can use lemon juice or any vinaigrette dressing you like.
To roast the cauliflower (I live in a trailer which does not have an oven so I cook my cauliflower in an iron pan on the stove top):
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil, turmeric, curry and black mustard seeds (if using), and salt, and arrange it in an even layer across the pan.
Roast for 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway, until the cauliflower is tender and deeply golden on the edges.
To cook farro (if you're not using farro follow package directions): In a medium saucepan, combine the farro with at least three cups water (enough water to cover the farro by a couple of inches).
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the farro is tender to the bite but still pleasantly chewy. (quick cooking farro will take around 15 minutes; regular farro will take 25 to 40 minutes.)
Drain off the excess water and mix in the olive oil, garlic (if using) and salt. (Tip: I have found that farro cooks easily in a rice cooker.) Set aside.
In a large serving bowl, toss together the roasted cauliflower, cooked farro, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, feta and lemon juice or vinaigrette. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Divide the avocado and greens between four dinner plates. Top with a generous amount of the cauliflower and farro salad. Have vinaigrette or lemon juice on the side in case anyone wants more. Serve promptly.
Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.
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