Cauliflower with Raisins — Indian-Style

Embrace the raisins in this dish.
Embrace the raisins in this dish.

Admit it, we all have our unusual food predilections.

My husband doesn’t enjoy sour foods, but loves ceviche. He is not fond of raw carrots, but will happily chomp on them if they’re cut into sticks.

Me? I am typically not the biggest fan of coconut. Yet I dream of Tom Douglas’ famed coconut cream pie, and the coconut layer cakes I devoured in South Carolina. Neither am I usually a fan of raisins in baked goods. Yet I somehow adore them in savory dishes.

Go figure.

That’s why the recipe for “Cauliflower with Raisins” stopped me in my tracks in the best of ways.

It’s from the new “6 Spices, 60 Dishes” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy. Ruta Kahate, a veteran cookbook author who own Ruta’s, an Indian cafe in Milwaukee.

Kahate recognizes that the intoxicating array of spices that makes Indian cuisine so exciting can also prove intimidating to a home-cook. With this book, she demonstrates that with only six spices in the pantry — cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds, and asafetida — you can make 60 vibrant and distinct dishes that aren’t taxing.

Turmeric stars in “Silken Eggplant with Coconut” and “Stuffed Anaheim Peppers.” Mustard seeds and asafetida flavor “Sour Mango Dal.” Cayenne adds heat to “Masala Mackerel” and “Mustard Shrimp.”

This cauliflower dish begins with an almost Italian-style technique: soaking black raisins in apple cider vinegar to not only plump them, but add an irresistible wine-y, perky tang.

Cauliflower florets and a chopped carrot get sauteed in a pan, then boosted with caramelized onions, as well as grated fresh ginger, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, and cumin. Chopped fresh tomatoes go into the pan to cook, with their exuding juices bathing everything.

Lastly, the raisins get added, with a pinch of sugar, and cilantro leaves.

Serve it over rice for a delicious vegetarian meal.
Serve it over rice for a delicious vegetarian meal.

The result is one vivacious dish with real personality. The taste is almost like that of a chutney, with the crunchy veggies imbued with sharp acidity, enough sweetness to balance, and a rousing spiciness.

It’s so punchy on the palate that one forkful easily has you reaching for more. Kahate says in the book that she likes to serve this with seared lamb chops. I enjoyed it with grilled salmon and garlic naan.

Even if you usually turn up your nose at raisins, it’s a sure bet you’ll relish each and every one of them in this dish.

A dish that's a powerhouse of flavors.
A dish that’s a powerhouse of flavors.

Cauliflower with Raisins

(Serves 4 to 6)

1/4 cup black raisins

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 medium head cauliflower

1 large carrot

4 tablespoons ghee or canola oil

1 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 cup finely chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup water

Soak the raisins in the vinegar, and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. It’ll take about 30 minutes for the raisins to plump up.

Cut the cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Peel the carrot, halve lengthwise, and then chop crosswise into 1/2-inch half-moons. Heat about half of the ghee in a wok over medium heat and fry the cauliflower florets and carrot pieces together until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining ghee to the wok and cook the onion until brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger, turmeric, and cayenne, and saute for 2 minutes. Now mix in the tomatoes, coriander, and cumin and cook, covered, for 2 minutes more or until saucy.

Uncover and add the soaked raisins, including any remaining vinegar, the cilantro, salt, sugar, and the fried cauliflower and carrot. Toss well. Add the water, mix well, cover, and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm.

From “6 Spices, 60 Dishes” by Ruta Kahate

Another Recipe from Ruta Kahate to Enjoy: A Spicy Bowl of Peas

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