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cauliflower “couscous” salad + falling back in

Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funny little disguise. From first glances this looks like a lovely grain salad with some chopped herbs, a bit of seasonal fruit and a sunny yellow curry dressing. But up close it’s a jumble of the teeniest cauliflower florets you could ever imagine mixed up with all of those great things. Neat, huh? I actually love eating cauliflower this way, it’s nice and crisp and kind of tricks me into eating more crucifers, the health all star of the veg world. Typically I roast it, but this dish is just too much fun

September is always a patchwork of undeniably summery days and cool, crisp fall previews around here. My schedule has been kind of wonky and irregular and we’ve been trying to soak up every last bit of enjoyable outdoor time. All of it has been having some unfortunate effects on my food habits. Skipping meals, nibbling on white bread here and there, indulging in sweet things, more coffee than I can usually handle, wine! and on and on. I’m not beating myself up for it at all. I’ve definitely been enjoying it but! I feel like some predictability is in order for my day to day lately.

So! Getting back down to it. I’ve adequately prepared myself in the food department. Lots of veggies, big bowls of grains, batches of soup and even bigger helpings of this non-grain-but-sort-of-grain-like salad in the fridge. Oh, and some Udo’s oil, a fresh jar of chocolate Vega and plenty of herbal tea. Seriously, it’s like a health food store in here!

raw cauliflower couscous with curry vinaigrette, apples, grapes and herbs
inspired by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein’s Raw
serves: 6-8
notes: I just break the florets up by hand and rough chop them, but if you trim most of the stem off, you could probably just blitz them in the food processor and get the same effect. Garam masala is in the salad ingredients because it is traditionally used as a finishing spice.

1.5 tbsp curry powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper
scant 1/2 cup grape seed oil

1 small head cauliflower, leaves trimmed off
2 green onions, white and green parts sliced thin
3 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped fine
1 sprig of mint, leaves chopped fine
1 apple, small dice
1 cup grapes, halved (I used a concord-style grape)
1.5 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp garam masala
salt and pepper

Make the vinaigrette: place the curry powder, white wine vinegar, agave nectar salt and pepper in a blender. Blend that up for two seconds just to dissolve the salt. Add the oil all at once. Turn the blender on again to combine evereything into one homogenous mixture. Set aside.

Make the cauliflower couscous: break the cauliflower into florets. Trim off as much of the stem as you can. Break up the florets as small as you can and chop roughly to make pieces as uniformly sized as possible. Place into a large bowl. Alternatively, you could use the food processor method described above.

Add the vinaigrette, green onions, parsley, mint, apple, grapes, poppy seeds and garam masala to the cauliflower. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

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marywornoff27/09/2011 - 6:29 pm

Please tell me what garam masala is and where can I find it in the grocery store?

Laura27/09/2011 - 6:50 pm

It’s an Indian spice blend! You can buy it in the spice aisle or in the spice section of some bulk food stores. Or you can make your own too! This recipe seems promising:

Anna28/09/2011 - 10:36 pm

The combination is exotic and not overpowering one another. Genius combination!

LIVING LUCID03/10/2011 - 7:49 am

[...] I’d love to try this cauliflower couscous recipe [...]

gangy buffet13/10/2011 - 10:56 pm

Made this tonight! SO good.. I replaced with Red Wine vinegar because I was out of white. Yummy! Will post to my website soon, with a link to yours!

I love your recipes BTW, totally in the style of mine! Would you like to be on my blogroll, Because i’d love to have you there! Let me know!

[...] | cauliflower “couscous” salad + falling back inSep 26, 2011 … Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funny little disguise. From first glances this looks … [...]

happy little life15/08/2012 - 6:33 pm

looks truly amazing!

Nicole13/05/2013 - 9:54 pm

Just made this tonight and it is oh-so-delicious! The spices, herbs and fruit make for a great combination. Thank you!!

Yola28/06/2013 - 2:12 am

I made it yesterday and I love it! It’s so yummy. However, I didn’t like the taste of grapes in the salad (everybody has their own taste ;) ) but so far this is my favourite recepie and I don’t longer miss cooked curry because of your salad ^^ thank you <3

Sarah18/12/2013 - 11:36 pm

Made this salad for dinner- it was very tasty! Thanks for the recipe! Didn’t have a few of the ingredients on hand so just worked with what I had, turned out great!

stuffed squash + harvest

Okay, what I’m about to lay on you here is a bit… Thanksgiving-y. I know that it’s so far away and it’s still summery in spots and you don’t even wanna think about telling the same stories to your relatives over and over… But! This dish is definitely appropriate for everyday celebrating. And it’s so easy. It just takes a teeny bit of planning.

But back to Thanksgiving (yes!). It’s definitely my favourite holiday. I love the sincere appreciation of harvest time and how it brings people together. It’s pretty special. We’re at a peak time where I live: all kinds of squash and vegetables and fruits are available. I’m so thankful for it all. It’s been brisk and mostly grey and well.., I wanted to eat some squash. Stuffed with delicious and maybe just slightly festive things. Not too festive, just a little bit. A taste even.

So I made a stuffing for some garlic-roasted acorn squash with wheat berries, a few veggies, some herbs, spices, dried fruit and toasted nuts. There’s a lot of flexibility with this recipe though! You can use any kind of rice, farro, millet, different vegetables and spices, leave out the dried fruit, maybe add some chopped olives etc; whatever you fancy. I was going for that sage-y, hearty, traditional stuffing-flavour thing and it worked out beautifully.

stuffed acorn squash with pine nuts, sour cherries and sage
serves: 2
notes: Roasting the squash with the garlic clove underneath is totally optional but so, so tasty. I try not to use frou-frou and buzz-y terms here, but it totally aromatizes it to high level, game-changer deliciousness (I’m sorry, really).

1 acorn squash
2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
salt and pepper

1/2 cup wheat berries, soaked for at least a couple hours
1 tbsp grape seed oil
2 shallots, small dice (or 1 small-medium cooking onion)
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and small dice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground coriander
3 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped up fine
1 sprig sage, leaves chopped up fine
splash of white wine (alternatively you can squeeze a bit of lemon at the end or use a bit of white wine vinegar at the end too)
3/4 cup vegetable stock (or water)
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, chopped up roughly
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I just slide them into the oven for a bit while the squash is cooking)
3 sprigs parsley, leaves chopped fine

Start the grains: strain the wheat berries and place them in a small sauce pan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until they are still a bit chewy (they will absorb more liquid later when making the stuffing). Drain if necessary.

Cook the squash: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. season the inside with salt and pepper. Place the smashed garlic cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet with a good amount of space in between. Put the seasoned squash halves over the garlic cloves so that the squash form upside down bowls over the garlic cloves. Place in the oven and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape a bit of the cooked squash flesh out. It should amount to about a 1/4 cup. Set it all aside.

Make the stuffing: heat the oil over medium and add the shallots. Cook until they begin to soften (4 minutes), add carrots, celery and the bay leaf. When the carrots and celery have softened up a teeny bit (about 4-5 minutes), add ground coriander, thyme, sage and dried cherries. Add the splash of white wine and stir the mixture around, scraping any bits off the bottom.

Add the drained wheat berries to the saute pan and stir to coat them in the mixture. Add the vegetable stock and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the squash flesh you scraped out earlier and stir it around, incorporating it into the mixture (this will act like glue for the stuffing). Add the parsley and pine nuts, reserving a bit of both to garnish with at the end. Take off the heat.

On the same lined baking sheet, fill the squash halves with the stuffing as much as you can (there may be some leftover). Slide them into the oven to heat through completely. Garnish with remaining pine nuts and parsley, serve.

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Kelsey (Happyolks)22/09/2011 - 10:28 am

The squash needs no words. Can’t wait for fall here :)
p.s totally random, but pretty nail polish! love me a good shade of grey :)

Laura22/09/2011 - 2:13 pm

The shade is “case study” by essie. They have the best not-so-totally-girly colour selection!

Russell van Kraayenburg22/09/2011 - 6:47 pm

This is such a beautiful presentation. I love the recipe too!

Ashlae22/09/2011 - 11:06 pm

I saw a similar version on the new food documentary Forks Over Knives and am sooooo happy I found a recipe – cannot wait to make these!

Laura22/09/2011 - 11:34 pm

Gaaaah I haven’t seen it yet! I’ve heard so many great things though. Hope you like the squash :)

My Fudo23/09/2011 - 11:57 pm

That’s a wonderful stuffed squash. I better take all required recipes to prepare this tonight. ‘Think we’ll gonna love it.

chad26/09/2011 - 1:26 pm

that looks excellent, love the dried fruit addition and how can you beat pine nuts!

Megan27/09/2011 - 11:31 am

This looks so beautiful and tasty. I’d love to try a gluten-free version with quinoa cooked in a little vegetable broth.

Thanks for the inspiration :)

- Megan

[...] from The First Mess‘ Stuffed Acorn Squash with Pine Nuts, Sour Cherries and Sage [...]

Stuffed Acorn Squash «28/10/2011 - 10:02 am

[...] Stuffed Acorn Squash adapted from The First Mess [...]

Emily05/11/2011 - 10:28 am

Made this last night for dinner. It came out amazing. My whole family loved it especially my two year old. I think this will become a standby in the winter months to come. yum.

Laura05/11/2011 - 11:32 am

Your 2 year old liked it? That’s amazing! Glad to hear :)

[...] missed. We stuffed ourselves and felt properly festive about it. The main dish was this amazing stuffed squash from The First Mess. I think the dried cherries really made the stuffing. This squash may very well be making a [...]

[...] Stuffed Acorn Squash adapted from The First Mess [...]

Jo10/12/2011 - 4:16 pm

Looks delicious. Would love for you to share this with us over at

Melina28/12/2011 - 1:30 am

I made this tonight with a few substitutions golden raisins instead of dried cherries and walnuts for pine nuts. It was amazingly easy and fabulous! I’m glad I made double the stuffing!

[...] Wheat Berry Stuffed Acorn Squash: Filling, fun, and the perfect leftover lunch. So chewy and flavorful! [...]

Amy17/11/2012 - 9:42 pm

Hosting Thanksgiving and we will be having a vegan guest. This recipe just answered my prayers as to what I am going to fix for her!! Thank you!!

[...] tried out a new recipe tonight – stuffed acorn squash.   Guess what you stuff it with ?  Wheat berries!  I’ve been dying to try wheat berries. [...]

[…] Stuffed: Acorn Squash with Pine Nuts, Sour Cherries & Sage […]

[…] Adapted from The First Mess […]

[…] with Pistachio Pesto, Stuffed Portabellos with Herb Sauce, Butternut Orecchiette with Arugula, Stuffed Squash, Leek and Greens Tart with Cornmeal Crust, Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and and […]

[…] in the winter. The First Mess is one of my favorite food blogs to read and she makes a delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe with Wheat Berries (which can be sprouted before hand and eaten raw in order to soak up their raw […]

[…] stuffed squash + harvest, served with spinach – slightly adapted from the original receipe, but nonethless […]

warm brussels sprouts toss + it’s fall

Can we talk about the weather for a second? How about those cool days and even cooler nights? It’s perfect, right?! We can wear cozy sweaters, drink hot beverages and eat some local brussels sprouts to our hearts content. Everyone wins! Perhaps eating brussels sprouts and winning isn’t an equation you’ve heard of quite yet, but maybe just go with it for a bit. They have plenty of healthy attributes, but I just love their slightly cabbage-y and completely robust flavour.

Worthy of note: This shredding and quick sauteing method is a fantastic way to eat these cruciferous veggies. You can really inject them with lots of flavour that permeates all through that tangle of vibrant, green confetti. They don’t even look like brussels sprouts when all is said and done; just a heap of lovely, warm, deep green shreds with crunchy pecans on top and little bright red flecks of smoky paprika, almost coleslaw-ish.You can mix in other greens too!

I used to make this all the time last winter when I wanted a light, quick and warming lunch. I would hurry home in the bleak city winters, chop up a few things, heat up the pan, toss it all in and finish up with some maple syrup and a splash of apple cider vinegar. I actually started to crave it regularly after a while… Brussels sprouts cravings! How about that.

warm brussels sprouts toss with maple and paprika
serves: 4-5
notes: Keep your eye on the shreds once they turn bright green! Overcooked brussels sprouts in any form are actually the worst. And if you don’t have smoked paprika, use the regular stuff! It will still be delicious.

1 tbsp grape seed or other neutral-flavour oil
1 shallot, halved and sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 lb (454g) of brussels sprouts, trimmed of tough outer leaves, halved and sliced fine/shredded up to the little cores
salt and pepper
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup (or dark agave)
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot and smashed garlic clove. Stir around until fragrant. Add the smoked paprika. Stir the shallots here and there until they are quite soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the shredded brussels sprouts and a splash of water. Stir and lift with tongs quickly until the shreds start to wilt just a bit and the colour has darkened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir again. When the shreds are bright green and a bit limp (takes about 3 minutes), remove from the heat. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine.

Transfer warm mixture to a serving plate and garnish with chopped pecans.

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Genevieve22/09/2011 - 6:59 pm

I just made this for dinner the last two nights in a row (topped with some caramelized tofu). It looked so good in your photos, and it tasted even better – a perfect Fall meal! This is only the second recipe I’ve ever tried with brussel sprouts, and I still can’t get over how good they can be!

Tuesday Linkage27/09/2011 - 4:21 am

[...] wouldn’t be fall without brussel sprouts, and Laura’s warm brussel sprout toss looks absolutely perfect for the cooler days to [...]

Moira23/10/2011 - 8:58 pm

This looks amazing – can’t wait to try it!

[...] greens, we’d beg to differ. Today’s recipe comes from Laura over at The First Mess and makes roughly four to five [...]

Jeanne @ www.saltinthecity.com17/11/2011 - 7:31 pm

This looks too fun to pass up! I’ve been planning to do some Brussels sprouts experimenting in the kitchen these next few days before Thanksgiving…this recipe will now certainly be part of the experimentation and is in the running for a new dish at our table this year.

Laura18/11/2011 - 7:29 am

Brussels sprouts experimentation sounds way too yummy. Have fun :)

[...] salty crust on the outside contrasts the slightly tender leaves within just right. Aside from this method, it’s the only way I can really, sincerely enjoy them. I’ve specified a 1/4 cup [...]

[...] seeing recipes for them all over the place! Here I am, seeing recipe after recipe involving the sprouts.  Bloggers adore [...]

[…] Fennel & Apple Relish or Soy-Braised Kabocha Squash or Dashi Braised Kabocha Squash, Warm Brussels Sprouts, Cider Vinegar, and Maple Salad or Momofuku’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce […]

chris14/01/2014 - 11:04 am

How are you shredding the brussels?

Laura Wright14/01/2014 - 2:47 pm

Hi Chris, I just cut the brussels sprouts in half and then slice the halves finely into shreds.

[…] Warm Brussels Sprouts Toss: view the full recipe and images here […]