Middle Eastern Spiced Cauliflower with Eggplant

This dish is aromatic and delicious, but it has a lot of steps. It’s easier—for me, at least—to prep the chicken, cauliflower-rice, and vegetables on Day 1, followed by browning the chicken, roasting the vegetables, and cooking the dish on Day 2.

Need to lower the carbs? Skip the cauliflower-rice and save 4.5g of carbs per serving. Vegetarian? Swap canned chickpeas for the chicken and use vegetable broth.

Middle Eastern Spiced Cauliflower with Eggplant
Yield: 4 servings // 233 calories, 14g net carbs

2 pounds cauliflower florets
2 teaspoons baharat spice blend (see recipe, below)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon (smoked cinnamon is lovely, here)
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
2 teaspoons sea salt
1-1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 large eggplant (1-1/4 lbs.), halved lengthwise & cut into 1″ half-moons
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise & sliced into half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced into 1/4″ thick strips
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/3 cups vegetable broth
—To Serve—
Chopped fresh cilantro or mint
Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower florets with baharat (recipe below), turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, salt, and pepper. Stir repeatedly, and well, until the cauliflower is well-covered with spices. Let it sit, unrefrigerated, while prepping the rest of the dish.

Slice vegetables.

Using 3 rimmed baking sheets, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each sheet. Spread it around (I use my hand). Put the eggplant on one rimmed baking sheet, flipping the pieces quickly. (They soak up oil very quickly) Put the zucchini on the second pan; combine the onion and bell pepper on a third pan. Toss the vegetables until they’re well-oiled. Season with salt. Top each baking sheet with several thyme springs. Roast until the vegetables are browned at the edges—flipping them over after 5 minutes—for a total of 10 minutes roasting time (or more if needed). Watch carefully; don’t let burn. Remove the thyme sprigs and set the baking sheets aside.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Swirl to coat bottom of pot. Add the cauliflower florets and cook until brown, about 2 minutes. Lay onions and peppers on top in an even layer.

Carefully pour vegetable broth down the edges of the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with fresh cilantro or mint and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Classic side dishes are chopped preserved lemons, a spicy chutney, or cumin-infused chopped tomatoes and onions.

***

Baharat (my version)
Yield: 1/2 cup (store in airtight jar)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Turkish Aleppo chili pepper (or fresh black pepper)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice