What happens when a strict vegetarian takes his place in his family’s popular meat-and-potatoes restaurants? Some luscious plant-based retooling evolves, with cauliflower, kale and wild arugula taking center stage along with the well-established rib, chicken and tri-tip favorites.
Justin Lopez is the son of Mary Harrigan, the co-founder of Stonefire Grills. Lopez leads the menu development team for the large family eateries that include locations in Fountain Valley and Irvine as well as 4 Los Angeles sites.
Without abandoning the most popular offerings, he reshaped the menu to include a focus on vegetarian dishes. Sales of the new meat-free items soared and the restaurants found a growing numbers of vegetarians and vegans among their loyal clientele.
Roasted cauliflower is one of the stars. See how its done in this short video.
Roasting transforms the cruciferous veg into something irresistible and highly versatile, the exterior caramelization yielding rounded flavors and subtle sweetness.
Lopez teams the browned tender-but-not-mushy cauliflower with Lemon Tahini Sauce, a tasty concoction that combines smooth sesame paste with fresh citrus juice and garlic.
When serving it as a salad or as a warm pita filling, he includes Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce, a perky puree that can be mild or fiery depending on the amount of chilies that are added to the mix.
Leftover sauces can be chilled and used to augment other roasted vegetables or grain-based dishes.
Stonefire’s Chilled Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Yield: 4 servings
1 cauliflower, whole, thoroughly washed
2 to 3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Lemon Tahini Sauce:
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
6 large garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce:
1 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed, stems trimmed about 2 1/2-inches long
1 to 2 fresh Serrano chilies, or more to taste, stems removed, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head roasted cauliflower, cooled
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 to 3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced or chopped, including dark green stalks
1/2 cup Lemon Tahini Sauce
1 tablespoon Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a shallow slice off the bottom of the stalk so that cauliflower will sit flat on baking sheet; leaves and most of the stalk should remain intact. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to large deep pot (such as a pasta cooker) of boiling water on high heat. Submerge cauliflower and boil for approximately 10 minutes. Then, remove cauliflower from water, drain and place on rimmed baking sheet stalk-side-down to cool for 3 minutes. Pour oil atop cauliflower and use clean hands to rub oil over entire surface. Sprinkle on 2 pinches of kosher salt. Roast approximately 30 minutes, turning as needed for even roasting. If additional browning is needed turn on broiler and broil until nicely browned (watch carefully to prevent burning).
2. Prepare Lemon Tahini Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in food processor; process for approximately 1 minute. Set aside.
Prepare Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce: Place about 1/3 of cilantro, plus all of the Serrano chilies, garlic and kosher salt in food processor; process until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add half of oil in thin stream through the feed-tube. Add the remainder of the ingredients, little by little, processing between additions. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Blend for a total of 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Prepare salad: Use hands to tear cauliflower into small florets. In a large bowl gently toss all salad ingredients together. Chill for approximately 1 hour. Taste; add more Lemon Tahini Sauce and/or Spicy Cilantro-Serrano Sauce as needed.
Source: Justin Lopez, Stonefire Grills
…Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …
Sweet and Spicy = Delicious piquant-sweet melon.
Use any ripe melon for this delicious dish. I like to serve this as a first course or as part of a showy buffet.
(Make the syrup in advance if you like, and then drizzle on the melon up to 30 minutes before serving.)
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons seeded and minced serrano chili
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
2 large, ripe cantaloupe
1. In a small saucepan, make a chili syrup by combining the sugar and water over medium-high heat and boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the chili, lime juice, mint, and bell peppers.
2. Cut the melons in half and remove the seeds. Cut into wedges or other interesting shapes and arrange attractively on 8 chilled plates. Drizzle about ½ cup of the chili syrup, or to taste, over all the melon. Reserve the remaining chili syrup for another use.