Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
Even though Buffalo wings had become bar food standards before I turned vegetarian, I’ve never had them. The smells of blue cheese dressing (I can’t stand blue cheese) and Buffalo sauce combined turned me off completely, as did chicken wings in general.

Then 25 years or so after I’d written off Buffalo anything entirely, a recipe for veggie balls in Buffalo sauce, served with ranch dressing instead of the dreaded blue cheese, popped up in my newsfeed. The recipe’s Buffalo sauce had a high butter to hot sauce ratio and I ended up not liking the butter overload and upset stomach that resulted.

Resolved to avoid Buffalo sauce for the rest of my life, I reluctantly decided to try it again after reading rave reviews of the Buffalo “wings” at a newly opened vegan restaurant in St. Paul. Having a few days left of our recent vacation, Pete and I enjoyed a weekday lunch date at J. Selby’s, which as far as I know, is the only vegan St. Paul restaurant. Based on those reviews, we started with the Buffalo “wings,” which were made from cauliflower. So delicious, and we both had to exercise restraint in order to not finish the entire order before our entrées arrived. With vegan meaning no “real” butter, there was neither a butter overload nor an upset stomach—yay!!

"Cheddar" Cauliflower

Battered Cauliflower

At home in my fridge’s crisper was a head of orange, also called cheddar, cauliflower and thoughts of making my own version began to percolate (the color doesn’t change the taste–it’s the same as white cauliflower). After looking at several recipes, I adapted one from the Frank’s RedHot Sauce website, mainly because their hot sauce was supposedly the secret ingredient in the first ever Buffalo Wings to come out of Buffalo, New York.

Baked Cauliflower

This recipe called for less butter than the ill-fated one referred to earlier, and to make it vegan like J. Selby’s, I replaced that butter with a combo of vegan margarine and non-hydrogenated shortening.

White or brown rice flour could be substituted in place of the wheat flour for a gluten-free option. I include a recipe for ranch dipping sauce, but if you want traditional blue cheese, go for it (while I stifle a gag).

Of course, these crispy, spicy, cauliflowery nuggets will make an awesome appetizer at your next party, but they also will stand in just fine in place of dinner while you absent mindedly eat the entire batch you made to test the recipe on a Tuesday night after work. Don’t ask me how I know. Enjoy!

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower

 

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Adapted from this Frank’s RedHot Sauce recipe

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free)

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute rice flour for gluten—free)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 medium head white or orange (also called cheddar) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

½ cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, melted

1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated shortening, such as Spectrum Organic, melted

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Whisk in water and continuing whisking until very smooth. Dump in your cauliflower florets and stir until evenly coated.

Using tongs, move cauliflower pieces to prepared baking sheet, shaking off excess batter into the bowl as you do so (I had some batter left over). Make sure florets are evenly spread out on baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until coating is golden, rotating baking sheet at about the 10-minute mark for even browning.

Meanwhile, mix Frank’s RedHot Sauce together with the melted butter and shortening.

Remove florets from the oven and drizzle with sauce mixture and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, until cauliflower begins to crisp.

Remove cauliflower to a platter and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Makes about 6 appetizer servings.

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, regular or vegan

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)

¼ cup milk of choice (skim, almond, soy, etc.)

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of chives, garlic chives, and parsley)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk yogurt, mayo, milk, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

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Spicy Tortilla Soup

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Sometimes when paging through a not-so-new-to-me cookbook, I’ll stumble across a recipe that sounds so amazingly good it’s hard to believe I haven’t made it before. This is especially surprising when it’s a vegetarian version of a dish that has always sounded tempting on restaurant menus, but wasn’t meatless.

Going through the fabulous Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan, a collection of over 350 recipes chock full of vegan deliciousness, which I’ve had for several years, Tortilla Soup with Mock Duck and Chipotles caught my attention. Chicken tortilla soup started appearing on restaurant menus about the time I became a vegetarian so I’ve never had it. After reading this meatless recipe the other day, it seemed reminiscent of those restaurant versions, so I had to try it and the timing was perfect—just before Super Bowl Sunday—perfect game day fare! Hearty, healthy (but tastes sinful), and oh so yummy. Double or triple the recipe for a Super Bowl crowd. Enjoy!
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Spicy Tortilla Soup

Slightly adapted from Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan 

Six 6-inch corn tortillas

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 10-ounce can mock duck, torn into small bite-sized pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pinch ground cloves

1 quart vegetable stock, homemade if you’ve got it

1 small sweet potato, cubed

1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chipotle chili in spicy adobo sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Garnishes:
Tortilla strips

1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Sliced or diced ripe avocado

Sliced scallions

Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ¼ inch wide strips. Place the tortilla strips in a medium bowl and drizzle with the grapeseed oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and toss until tortilla strips are evenly coated with oil and salt. Place strips on a large baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until the strips are crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove strips to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a stockpot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion and lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mock duck, garlic, cumin and cloves. Stir and let cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the stock, sweet potato, quinoa, chipotle and oregano. Cover and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (if using homemade stock with no salt) or ½ teaspoon of salt if using salted stock. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the quinoa is curled and sweet potato is tender.

Ladle hot soup into bowls and top each with tortilla strips, avocado, scallions and cheddar. Squeeze lime juice, to taste, over soup. Makes about 4 servings.