There are lots of plant foods you can use to create salad toppings that are, for lack of a better word, “meaty.” Portobello mushrooms are of course the most popular option, along with tofu or tempeh. But vegan cuisine, and the business of meal-sized salad creation on the whole, becomes a lot more interesting when you start thinking outside of the mushroom-tofu box, and start coming up with alternative sources of hearty texture in dishes. A few of my favorite ideas:
-Roasted root vegetables
-Crumbled veggie burger
And now, roasted crucifers are going to be a new “meaty” option for me in big salads. Don’t get me wrong, cauliflower’s not nutrient dense in the same way that lentils or crumbled veggie burgers usually are (not quite as much iron or protein). But it’s got a crispy, satisfying texture that really elevates a salad from a simple vegetable medley to something that feels substantive and special. With the right spice rub–like the incredible one I’m about to share–cauliflower’s destined to be your new salad topper.
This salad has taste, texture, and an incredible array of phytonutrient-rich, colorful plant foods. It’s beautiful to look at, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
Spice Rubbed Cauliflower, Kale, and Pomegranate Salad
- 1 head cauliflower cut into small florets (about 5-6 cups)
- 1/4 cup olive oil divided
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Dash red pepper flakes
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon agave
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 4-5 cups curly kale washed, rinsed, and chopped
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the cauliflower florets with two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large mixing bowl, and then add the chili powder, paprika, coriander, cumin, pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt. Mix until the cauliflower is evenly coated with the spice rub. Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is getting crispy. Turn off the oven and set the cauliflower aside.
- Whisk the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil together with the lemon juice, agave, nutritional yeast, and some salt and pepper to taste for a quick vinaigrette. Massage the vinaigrette into the kale, working until the kale is wilted and evenly coated. Toss in the purple cabbage, pomegranate arils, and the roasted cauliflower. Serve.
And voila. To save a little time, you can roast the cauliflower a day in advance. But if you do that, you’ll of course have to resist the temptation to eat it all before you ever get to the salad!
I’d probably serve this salad with a solid protein source, like some legumes, some tofu or tempeh, or a quinoa pilaf. A side of brown rice or toast would also be a nice complement. No matter what, enjoy this festive and colorful dish!