When tasked with coming up with something to bring to a vegan Purim party, my thoughts went immediately to the partial can of coconut milk sitting in the fridge. It enabled a vegan re-imagining of a cauliflower and chickpea salad with yogurt dressing we sometimes make, an idea more or less stolen from one we had at Royal Tavern. The coconut milk inspired a much more Indian take on the dish, and I think the results were pretty tasty.
When it comes to Indian flavors, I sometimes feel like I know the words, but not the music: I know the spices and the basics of toasting them in oil to bring out their flavors, but I don't have confidence in my ability to make a cohesive dish whose flavors really ring true. Luckily this salad exhibited some nice depth of flavor from the spices, richness and body from the coconut, and a spicy kick from the chili, so even if it wasn't authentic, it was enjoyable. Some spiced candied pistachios, included on Lauren's suggestion, provided textural contrast and a slightly sweet counterpoint to the vegetables. Like the best vegetarian and vegan food, you never get the sensation that anything is missing, because it's a dish that lets its ingredients express themselves on their own terms. Here's how to make it:
For the vegetables:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the prepared cauliflower in a large bowl, add about a tablespoon of oil, a generous pinch of salt, and a teaspoon or so of garam masala and toss to coat and combine. Spread the cauliflower out on a cookie sheet, in a single layer if possible, and roast in the oven until the cauliflower is tender, but not browned, stirring occasionally for about 20-25 minutes.
Take the cauliflower out and turn the oven up to 400°. Toss the chickpeas with a touch of oil, a sprinkle of salt, and generous shakes of the cumin and paprika. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chickpeas are almost crisp on the outside, maybe 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime, make the "dressing":
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
8-12 cardamom pods, gently crushed
1/2 tsp ground red chili, or to taste
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger, or 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 can coconut milk, or however much you have lying around
juice of 1/2 lemon
In a pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds, cumin, cardamom and chili. Toast the spices, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, ginger and turmeric, reduce heat to low and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil, then simmer and reduce until fairly thick, about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice after cooking is complete. Remove the cardamom pods if you can, lest they get confused with pistachios once the whole dish is put together.
And while the dressing is reducing, you can make the pistachios:
1/3 C pistachios (shelled)
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Heat all ingredients together in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. As the sugar melts, toss the pan's contents around with a spatula to coat. Let cool and break apart any pistachios that have stuck together.
To serve, mix the cauliflower, chickpeas, and dressing in a bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste, then top with the pistachios and a chopped handful of cilantro. Serve cold or at room temperature.