I remember reading a note about pickles (never thought I’d say that sentence…) from celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian. He mentioned that if his recipe is 99% of the way there, meaning it tastes good but needs an extra kick, 9 out of 10 times he adds pickles. And, not just regular ol' jarred pickles, but pickled anything. Onions, eggs, kimchi, mango, etc. Interesting right? This little tidbit stuck with me, and not just because I am a pickle freak, but because I find it so interesting how diverse and creative a chef’s “secret weapon” can be.
When I first started cooking, I always played it safe. I stuck with flavors that I thought were “meant” for the recipe and rarely experimented past written instructions. However, as I spent more and more time in the kitchen, my confidence has grown, and so has my experimentation side. I mean this sincerely, but it truly is so much fun throwing in random spices and flavors - you get something different every time. When I joined Instagram about a year ago as Dollop of Dani, I became a bit more in tune with the food blogging world, and really started to see the immense creativity that exists within the culinary world. There are so many celebrity chefs, food bloggers, and amateur home cooks that I admire for their pursuit to experiment with their food, and in turn, it urges me too.
While my spice rack is on constant rotation, I, like Geoffrey Zakarian (hah, to think I just compared myself to him…) also have "secret weapons" in the kitchen. When I am recipe testing, or simply cooking dinner for the night, it’s very likely that I have a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or apple cider vinegar ready to go. While not the most exotic of ingredients, I like to think of these as my secret weapons because they are my go to in almost every dish and every cuisine if I need a little something-something. I don’t use both, or either for that matter, in every single thing I make, but if I think my recipe could use a little more oomph, I’ll add one of the two. Whether it’s adding tomato paste to a simple skillet chicken or vegetable curry, or ACV to a salad dressing, roasted veggies, or quinoa bowl - I’m a huge fan of the depth tomato paste will add and the zing you get from the vinegar.
Today’s recipe pay’s homage to my favorite of the vinegar families, apple cider. Aside from it’s numerous health benefits (seriously, if you aren’t already on the ACV bandwagon, hop on board), it’s the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It will transform the simplest of dressings, bring a light punch to any skillet recipe, and makes the perfect pickled veggies. I’ve been pickling veggies for a while now, and always have the best luck with ACV, as it has just the right amount of tart to infused the veggies, but the sweeter side keeps things neutral. I had a ton of leftover celery the other day and really wanted to use it up in a thoughtful way. Oh a whim, I figured, “why not try to pickle them?” Friends, I’m serious when I say, this was the best decision I’ve made in 2017. Hands. Down.
Other than eating them straight out of the jar, I’ve been enjoying them as part of this Buffalo Cauliflower Bowl. I’ve been on a buffalo kick lately, and cauliflower is my go to when it comes to the spicy sauce. This bowl is super easy to make, and can be substituted to fit diet preferences. Double up on veggies, sub greek yogurt for paleo mayo, add some chicken, and remove quinoa for a Paleo version. Hold the ranch drizzle, and sub greek yogurt and butter for vegan friendly options. Or, eat as is. I promise you won’t regret it.
Serving Size - 2 bowls
1/2 large head of cauliflower, stem removed and cut into 1/2 florets
1/4 cup buffalo sauce
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup cooked quinoa, divided (can leave this out and double cabbage / cauliflower for Paleo meal)
*Pickle your veggies a day in advance if you can, but at least 4 hours before. You will need 1 to 1 ratio warm water and apple cider vinegar, depending on how many veggies you are making. I usually get by with 1/2 a cup to 1 cup. Dissolve a tsp of sugar and salt in the water and vinegar mixture, then pour over veggies. Seal in a jar and store in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 415.
Toss cauliflower with oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 15 min.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, melt butter. Whisk in buffalo sauce.
Remove cauliflower and add to bowl with buffalo sauce, toss to combine.
Return cauliflower to baking sheet and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix cabbage with greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and season with salt & pepper.