Even though I think it's totally wrong to do so, I am calling this cauliflower shawarma because the spice blend used here is hard to describe any other way. And also because this recipe was inspired by a cauliflower shawarma recipe I saw in a recent special issue of Saveur, and if they got away with calling it shawarma, then I am hoping I can too.
Depending on the day, I might tell you that Middle Eastern / Israeli food is the most inspiring to me. On other days it might be Indian, or Japanese .... on some days Italian. But today I am going with Israeli food because falafel is one of my favorite foods of all time, and also because I have not been able to get this vegetarian knock-off schwarma off my mind since I first made it. This blend of spices, and the use of sumac (my new favorite spice), packs such a powerful flavor punch. It's unique, and crazy good. Israeli food sure knows how to makes such great use of spice to enhance a dish.
With the exception of spice blends, I've been on a kick of paring recipes down to just a few ingredients, without sacrificing the taste or other crucial elements of the recipe. So when I knew I wanted something (gf) to stuff this delicious cauliflower into .....I revisited one of my older recipes for a homemade pita. When I looked at the ingredients and steps involved, I wondered if I could make it even easier and leave out some of the ingredients and steps that seemed unnecessary. Then, to take it one step further, I decided to try a slightly more wholesome chickpea flour instead of a gf flour blend. Well, to my surprise, with the very first attempt, out came fluffy, puffy, delicious pita bread ... and with just a few more tweaks, pita bread that was so flavorful ..... my mind was blown.
Since you would be making the extra effort to make this from scratch, then I would suggest eating these warm out of the oven. That's when they are at their best and tastiest. However, even though I am very excited about this pita recipe, I am just as in love with this cauliflower, which can be served all on it's own, with or without the pita. It would make an awesome side dish, or even just a simple dinner for one (or two) with some brown rice and a side of netflix.
cauliflower shawarma + homemade (gf+df) chickpea pita bread
The cauliflower shawarma spice blend was inspired by a recipe of the same name in a recent special issue of Saveur magazine called the Saveur 100. As mentioned, the cauliflower can be served on it's own, without the pita. It would make a great side dish or vegetarian main. On the flip side, this super easy pita recipe can also be made on it's own and stuffed however you like.
about 4-6 pitas, an enough cauliflower to serve 4-6
for the cauliflower shawarma:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of sumac
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of cardamom
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
a couple tablespoons of ghee, or high-heat cooking oil
for the tahini:
1/3 cup of tahini
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon of salt
for the pita:
2 cups of chickpea flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
3/4 cup of filtered water
*some paprika + sesame seeds (or gomasio) + additional salt for garnish
pomegranate seeds, a couple tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, finely chopped parley or cilantro
Mix the tahini and prepare the cauliflower:
- In a small bowl mix together the ingredients for the tahini, taste and adjust any seasoning necessary. Set aside until you're ready to serve.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of the spices and the olive oil for the cauliflower and stir until everything is combined. Add in the cauliflower and toss until it's evenly coated in the spice mixture. Set aside to marinate while you're making the pita.
Make the pita:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400º.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the chickpea flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Then in a smaller bowl, lightly beat the egg and then whisk in the water and the oil. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry while whisking. Whisk it all together just until combined, but do not over-mix.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop 1/2 cup of the batter onto the baking sheet, and then using a spoon or knife, flatten out batter into a round circle. The batter is thick, so it needs a little help spreading thin so you do not end up with super thick pita. The circles should be about 4-6" in diameter and look like pancakes. Add as many as you can to the baking sheet keeping them at least 1/2" apart. My baking sheet usually only fits 2-3 at a time so I do this in two batches.
- Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of salt, paprika, and sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes, until puffed up and cooked through. Set aside until you're ready to serve (but best to serve warm, as they harden quickly once they cool).
Cook the cauliflower:
- Heat a large cast iron over medium-high heat. Add the ghee or cooking oil, and then add the cauliflower. In order to get a good char on the cauliflower, I like to place as many pieces as I can, flattest side down, onto the pan and leave it undisturbed for about 3-4 minutes. Check a piece to see if it's nice and dark brown, and if so then stir to finish cooking the cauliflower on the other sides, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be cooked through, but still have a bite to it (not mushy). Remove from the heat.
Assemble and garnish:
- If serving these with the pita, slice open the pita by using a small knife and cut a slit in the side to open the pita. Then, stuff the pita with the cauliflower, drizzle tahini over top, and finish with the pomegranates, pine nuts, and herbs. Serve immediately, warm.
- If serving as a side dish, transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl, drizzle the tahini over top and finish with the pomegranates, pine nuts, and herbs.