Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vegan Lemon Tahini Encrusted Baked Cauliflower - An Elegant Presentation

The American Cancer Society recommends eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer. If you actually ate that many low calorie, phytochemical and antioxidant rich foods each day, you would also be going a long way to preventing other diseases as well, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So why are so many people not able to reach these minimum levels even though they totally understand their importance?

One of the reasons, I believe, is that many people just don’t know what to do with them. My son and I had a long discussion about this on his last visit home. He was making this amazing mushroom bourguignon and I told him how incredibly proud of him I was that he could cook such a beautiful meal so effortlessly. Besides creating this incredible vegetarian dish, he appeared to be enjoying himself immensely. We then had this long talk on how many men and women, young and old, don’t really feel that they need to cook. Some even feel that it’s beneath them—that their successful careers have “liberated” them from this horrible chore. He told me that he really respected me for being able to have an important career and still care about cooking my family a healthy meal and teaching my children how to do the same. I have never been paid a greater complement.

I believe there are several factors in play right now that are encouraging people to return to the kitchen, or even find it for the first time. One, it’s a lot cheaper to eat at home. With the state of the economy and so many people out of work, this is a big motivation to cook. Two, it’s safer. I’ve heard of more cases of food poisoning this last year than in the last ten. I just saw a news clip showing an insurgence of rats in New York restaurants as their owners can no longer afford to exterminate. It will take a while to get that visual out of my head. Three, it’s healthier. You can control what and how much you prepare. You can select healthy, organic vegetables, hormone-free meat and dairy and leave out the excess fat and salt usually found in restaurant prepared dishes. Four, it can be fun. You can make it an event with everyone having something to do—chop, decorate the table, making a dessert. My friend Lisa and I still remember many nights of cooking together when we were neighbors—drinking a nice glass of wine while making our favorite chanterelle mushroom risotto. If you live alone, cook a meal for two or even four and enjoy leftovers during the week. Light a candle, pour a glass of sparkling water and enjoy yourself knowing that you are doing something wonderful for your body. It’s important to take the time to do this because it is too easy to fall into a pattern of just eating a bowl of cereal because you don’t want to cook for one. Eventually your health will suffer.

So I want to encourage you to not only cook but get committed to creating meals that will nourish and heal you. Put more and more vegetables on your plate. I will continue to present you with new, delicious and healthy ways to prepare them. In fact, I will dedicate March to “Celebrating the Vegetable”.

Here’s an elegant and unusual way to prepare cauliflower. Rich in the phytochemical, sulforaphane, this cruciferous vegetable has tumor fighting capabilities. It’s also high in dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Potassium and Manganese.


Lemon-Tahini Encrusted Baked Cauliflower
1 medium or large head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons of tahini (I prefer raw, but roasted is fine too)
1/3 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of ½ a lemon, about ½ tablespoon
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (more or less to taste)
1 t of salt (or less depending on taste and dietary restrictions)
¼ cup of water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Keeping the cauliflower whole, remove the leaves and stem and wash under cold water. Steam whole for 22 minutes. While steaming the cauliflower, prepare a lemon-tahini paste with the remainder of the ingredients (you may have to add additional water or flour until you get a good consistency that will stick to the cauliflower). Carefully remove the cauliflower from the steamer and place it on a slightly oiled cookie sheet. Pour the lemon-tahini mixture over the cauliflower and with a butter knife, cover the top and sides as if you were icing a cake. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is firm. Cut into slices with a sharp knife.

Per serving: 113 calories, 4.9 g fat, less than 1 g of saturated fat, 5.3 g protein,
14.8 g carbohydrate and 5 g of fiber.

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