Grain-Free Okayu aka Cauliflower Stew

First off I must say that I was inspired by two things in this post – Gluten Free Girl’s “that persistent hope” on keeping her kitchen organized and La Fuji Mama’s podcast “Miso Hungry”. I’m always looking for ways to smooth out simple processes in the kitchen to make cooking, but more so cleaning up after cooking, more enticing. Especially on days when I am tired or not feeling the best – I don’t want to spend a lot of time on an elaborate meal or cleaning all the dishes afterwards.

What really struck a chord was what Shauna said about prepping vegetables as soon as she returned from the grocery store. Pre-prepped food means you are more likely to use it before it goes bad, saving on food waste and ensuring you’ll have healthy, nutritious meals rather than resorting to fast food or take out.

Cauliflower waiting to be sprayed, scrubbed, and washed

Tuesday night was a perfect illustration of produce prep harmony. My digestion had been off for a few days so I was really craving some soup. Luckily before I left for my weekend trip, I had washed, chopped, and frozen some celery so it wouldn’t go bad. I had also frozen some chicken stock, so I pulled those two out and defrosted them in some gently boiling water while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

My fruit & veggie spray + Hugo Strongleaf

I was craving some soup, and I was inspired by some crab okayu I saw in Hokkaido over the weekend. Okayu is a Japanese rice stew that is often eaten after holiday indulgences to help settle the stomach. I wanted to make a grain-free version, however, because I find grains are actually hard for me to digest when my stomach is upset. So I decided to make a grain-free version with cauliflower “rice” and some simple herbs.  I remembered La Fuji Mama’s recipe for “Nanakusa-Gayu (Seven Herb Soup)” from early January, so I looked that up as a quick reference and went from there. I wanted the comfort of some roasted garlic and chicken broth, nutrition from some leafy greens and celery, and the carby richness of cauliflower toasted in sesame oil. I also had some leftover wakame, which I chopped up and threw in for brine and texture, along with some finishing herbs.

The best part was that after my grocery shopping trip on Monday I had cleaned, washed, dried, and chopped some greens, lettuce, and cabbage, so all I had to do was pull the jars out of the fridge and throw everything else together. I prefer to chop onions the day I use them, but I had everything prepared and ready to go before the garlic had finished roasting.

For the same reason I avoid certain canned goods due to BPA, I don’t use plastic Tupperware anymore. And if you microwave, NEVER use plastic containers! Affairs of Living has a great article on why you should use glass for storing food, so check it out! I keep almost all my food in glass jars (washed out and recycled from my constant sauerkraut purchasing), so I can easily see what I have and pull out and use what I need before it goes bad. I’ve never had a problem transferring glass from fridge to freezer or vice verse – just make sure the contents are completely cooled before they go in the freezer, otherwise the glass will crack!

semi-organized fridge. the top jars all have prepared produce

This dish was even better the next day, and I made it again last night when a friend came over for dinner. The second time I forgot to add the wakame, incidentally I had not prepped it like earlier in the week, but it tasted just fine without it. However I finished the second batch with some roasted broccoli-esque vegetable I decided to try this week. I couldn’t read the kanji for it, so I am not including it in the recipe until I know what it is! But if you are adventurous you could roast some broccolini with the garlic and chop it up and throw it on top. The smell of roasting garlic and toasting cauliflower was incredible, the perfect balance of warmth and richness without being overpowering. You can add more chicken stock if you would like it to be a proper brothy soup, but I prefer wading my spoon through the thicker version below. I’m looking forward to eating the rest today as Chiba prefecture experiences a very rare and very light dusting of snow!

Grain-Free Cauliflower Okayu

Makes 4 servings

3 T olive oil, divided

1 T sesame oil

one head of garlic

one head of cauliflower

one leek or one bunch of spring onions

three long celery stalks, or about 1 cup chopped celery

1 c chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup chopped fresh greens, such as spinach, Japanese endive, or kale

chopped fresh herbs for topping, such as mizuna or parsley

½ c chopped fresh wakame, optional

1 t Herbamare

Chop off a small top section of the garlic head and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 ½ T of olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Chop the cauliflower very finely. You are shooting for rice grain size, but I don’t have the patience so mine tend to be a bit larger. That is ok – the larger sizes will cook thoroughly during the simmering stage. Dice the leek or onions. Heat the remaining 1 ½ T of oil in a large, deep skillet and add the onions and cauliflower. Cook over medium heat, stirring every few minutes but not constantly. You want some of the rice and onion to brown a bit for extra flavor. Saute for about 4 minutes, then add the celery and sesame oil. Continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes or until the cauliflower takes on a nice, deep golden tinge.

Add the chicken broth and turn the heat down to a simmer (medium-low or low if your gas range is particularly feisty like mine). If you are using kale or adult spinach, add it in now and simmer for about 8 minutes. If you are using Japanese endive or a lighter green, let the cauliflower mixture simmer on it’s own for about 5 minutes, then add your leafy greens in the last 3 minutes. You want a total of 8 minutes of simmering, adding the wakame during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Serve topped with roasted garlic and herbs. For extra richness you could drizzle with high quality sesame oil. This okayu is excellent on it’s own, with a side of grilled fish, or with shredded chicken.

massive snowfall in Chiba

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