Roasted Cauliflower & Pearl Couscous Casserole

One of the perks of working in the produce industry is attending flagship events like the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Annual Convention & Tradeshow which took place locally here in Vancouver a few weeks ago. I didn’t work the booth this year and instead had the chance to ‘walk the floor’ and observe industry leaders in the fruit and vegetable industry showcase their product, spotlight new offerings and best of all – demo fresh produce from pomegranate arils to sweet chili beets! One of the treasured finds in my “goodie bag” was Romanesco – otherwise known as Roman cauliflower. Besides its striking chartreuse colour, Romanesco has more crunch and a more delicate flavour (slightly nuttier and earthier flavour) than traditional cauliflower. This unusual vegetable was deserving of a distinctively different recipe and I think this one hit the mark. Today I’m thrilled to share this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower & Pearl Couscous Casserole.

How I’d describe this dish if I didn’t have my photographer extraordinaire husband snapping glamour shots of it:

A delicious blend of vegetable candy (aka roasted, caramelized Roman cauliflower and eggplant) and pearl couscous dressed in a tantalizing sweet and savoury sauce (made with crushed garlic, vegan honey and sriracha sauce) and topped with smoked gouda cheese.

Three reasons why you should give this recipe a try:
*Cooking with this chartreuse-hued cauliflower with striking spiraled buds will definitely inspire you to bring your game in the kitchen ☺.
*Put cauliflower and purple wonder (aka eggplant) back in the spotlight! Both of these vegetables tend to be underappreciated but offer incredible flavour! Roman cauliflower becomes nutty and buttery when roasted while eggplant becomes creamy and earthy. Combining these roasted beauties together makes for a delicious medley of vegetable candy.
*The sweetness of  the caramelized roasted veggies and vegan honey is perfectly balanced by the delicate smokey flavour of the gouda-style cheese shreds and hint of heat thanks to the sriracha sauce.

Inquiring minds want to know:
*The most fascinating part of Romanesco is its appearance. Its spiraled buds form a natural approximation of a fractal, meaning each bud in the spiral is composed of a series of smaller buds.

*How do you know if an eggplant is ripe? If an eggplant is squishy or its skin dimples with a little pressure, it’s past its prime. You want to select ripe eggplants with firm, shiny and tight skin. To keep your eggplant fresh experts suggest you keep it stored in the fridge; however eggplants are rather hearty and can just as easily be store on a countertop.
*Often mistaken for a grain (much like quinoa) couscous is a combination of semolina wheat and water making it a variety of pasta. Moroccan couscous is the smallest variety – roughly three times the size of cornmeal – and requires careful attention to the couscous-to-water ratio when cooking as it absorbs water as it cooks. Fluffy couscous is the goal when cooking the Moroccan variety. On the other hand Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous) is larger and pearl-shaped (closer to the size of peppercorns) and cooks in a pot of boiling water as you would orzo pasta.

If you’re looking for other casserole-style recipes check out our:

*BBQ-Style Tofu & Vegetable Fajita Bake

*Roasted Cauliflower & Cheese Bake

*Lentil Mash Pie

Enjoy~

Note: This recipe was made using a Thermomix appliance; however, it can easily be adapted using similar food prep tools (e.g. multi-function processor, immersion blender etc).


Preparation


1/Cook 1 to 1.5 cups Pearl (Israeli) couscous as directed
2/Preheat oven to 400F.

Ingredients


Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 head Roman cauliflower, broken into smaller florets
  • 1 eggplant, skin removed & sliced into ¼-inch pieces

Dressing (Note: Quantities below are based on one batch — two batches are required so plan to have double the ingredients shown)

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled (15g)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (65g)
  • 2 Tbsp vegan honey (40g)
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (<5g)

Assembly

  • Roasted Roman cauliflower & eggplant (with dressing)
  • 1 – 1.5 cups cooked Pearl Couscous
  • 1 block Daiya Smoked Gouda Style Cheese  (200g)

Instructions

Prepare roasted vegetables:

  • 1/Toss Romanesco cauliflower florets and sliced (1/4-inch) eggplant on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
  • 2/Lightly drizzle olive oil over veggies. Add a few pinches of Himalayan pink salt.
  • 3/Bake at 400F for 30 minutes; set aside.
  • 4/Add garlic your Thermomix mixing bowl. Chop 5 sec/Speed 7. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to collect the minced garlic at the base of the bowl.
    Note: Insert the butterfly whisk attachment to your Thermomix mixing blade before Step 5
  • 5/Add olive oil, vegan honey and sriracha sauce to the TM bowl. Whisk 5 min/85C/Speed 1.5.
    Note: Remove the butterfly whisk attachment from your Thermomix mixing blade once Step 5 is complete.
  • 6/Pour prepared dressing over roasted vegetables. Return baking tray to oven and bake at 400F for another 15 minutes (you should start to see caramelization); set aside.
  • 7/While the vegetables finish roasting prepare a second batch of garlic-oil-honey-sriracha dressing in your Thermomix mixing bowl (in other words repeat Steps 4 & 5 above); transfer dressing to a small prep bowl.

Assembly:

  • 8/In a large prep bowl combine the cooked pearl couscous, shredded smoked gouda (175g) and half of the prepared dressing. Stir gently to combine; set aside the mixture. Note: Reserve approx. 25g shredded smoked gouda style cheese and half the prepared dressing (Step 7) for later use.
  • 9/Transfer roasted Romanesco cauliflower and eggplant to the Thermomix mixing bowl. Blend 10 sec/Speed 3; set aside.
  • 10/Assemble the casserole:
    -bottom layer: couscous-gouda-dressing mixture
    -middle layer: roasted cauliflower & eggplant mixture
    -top layer: drizzle reserved dressing over roasted vegetable mixture. Sprinkle reserved smoked gouda cheese over dressing. Drizzle a touch of oil.
    Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Do not substitute Moroccan couscous for Israeli (pearl) couscous in this recipe….you won’t be disappointed with the results!


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