The Chef's Take: Brad Farmerie's Cauliflower Cous Cous
When Chef Brad Farmerie opened Public in New York City’s hip Nolita neighborhood in 2003, fresh from a stint at London’s Providores, he was already taking chances with dishes like grilled kangaroo on a coriander falafel with lemon tahini sauce and green pepper relish. Don’t knock it till you've tried it. The dish is like sunshine on a cold, gray day. It became a signature and it is a perfect example of his gift — marrying unorthodox ingredients with layers of contrasting textures and a riot of flavors. It put him on the map as a serious player among New York City’s culinary consigliere.
Since then, Farmerie has developed a reputation as a chef with a fearless global palate who'll work with offal and pork blood (he even penned a piece entitled There Will Be Blood). But in recent years, he's become something of a vegivore. "About a year ago I changed some of my wicked ways and I lost about 35 pounds," said Farmerie, who started jogging, scaled back on meat, dairy and gluten, and banned caffeine. "I feel amazing."
Farmerie began to implement changes in his restaurant kitchen that mirrored the changes he had made at home. "I have always wanted to cook the way I eat," he said. This past summer he ran an All Hail the Vegetable tasting menu with dishes like 7-Grain Risotto with Vegetables (quinoa, spelt, barley, amaranth, millet, buckwheat and black rice tossed with seasonal vegetables), Pulled Mushroom Ravioli (a play on pulled short ribs with sun-dried tomatoes, pickled shiitake mushrooms and green garbanzo beans) and this fantastic Cauliflower Couscous (barely blanched cauliflower buzzed quickly in the food processor, then tossed with fresh herbs, preserved lemon, olives and almonds, and topped with charred carrots, mustard-chili caramel and curry yogurt). "It’s a naturally vegan dish, but it has so much flavor and texture, you don't feel like you're missing anything," said Farmerie. You sure don't.
Cauliflower Couscous with Green Olives and Almonds
1/4 cup sliced green olives (such as picholine, Cerignola or Castelvetrano)
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. In a separate large bowl, build an ice bath.
While the water is heating, place some of the cauliflower florets in a food processor. Working in batches, pulse until the cauliflower has broken down into coarse pieces about the same size as couscous.
Transfer the cauliflower to a large fine-mesh strainer and carefully submerge into boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer the cauliflower (still in the strainer) to the ice bath until completely cool; remove and drain well. Place the cauliflower onto a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl.
Add the almonds, cilantro, parsley, olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and olives to the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Season with salt and serve.
Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.