When I visited Morocco, I fell instantly in love with the colorful and vibrant country. It seemed like the Djamma el fna, the central square in Marrakech, never slept. In the evenings the square came alive with fortune tellers, snake charmers, and dancers. Just behind the square were the souks – a maze of streets filled with shops selling everything you could imagine from colorful glazed tangines to scarves to sweets. I visited the spice and olive shops almost everyday, happily sampling and buying citrus marinated olives, saffron, and spices.
I often recreate my Moroccan experience at home by cooking vegetables with Moroccan spices and serving them with couscous. Couscous is a staple in Morocco, and instant couscous can be made in just a few minutes. If you don’t have couscous on hand for this recipe, use rice or quinoa instead.
My choice of vegetable for this dish is cauliflower cut into “steaks.” The thick, meaty cauliflower slices are baked until golden with cumin, coriander and cinnamon. A sharp knife will help you cut the cauliflower easily. If you don’t want to slice the cauliflower into steaks, simply cut it up into florets and toss with the spices and oil before baking.
I love the rich, nutty tahini yogurt sauce that goes with this dish. I often make extra and keep in a jar in the fridge to use as salad dressing, dip for vegetable crudités, sandwich spread, and even pasta sauce. Tahini is a rich, creamy sesame paste popular in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. Look for it in the ethnic food section of your grocery store or at Middle Eastern markets. If you are vegan, leave out the yogurt in this recipe and use almond butter or extra tahini instead.
This recipe is a quick, easy, and healthy way to spice up your weeknight. Feel free to top add some toasted pine nuts or almonds for added crunch, garnish with pomegranate seeds for a beautiful pop of color, or throw in some golden raisins for sweetness.
Moroccan Cauliflower “Steaks” with Caramelized Onion Couscous
For the Cauliflower Steaks
1 small head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon Olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons finely shredded parsley or mint
Cracked black pepper
For the Couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 a large onion, sliced into half moons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup couscous
For the Lemon Tahini Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the cauliflower. Using a sharp knife, slice the stem so that the cauliflower can sit flat. Cut the cauliflower in half from the top down to the core. Make another cut about 1 inch away from the cut side so that you get a 1 inch thick slice of cauliflower. Do the same thing with the other cauliflower half. Save the remaining cauliflower for another recipe.
2. Place the two cauliflower steaks on a non-stick baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil with the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower steaks. Using your fingers, spread the oil and spices on both sides of the cauliflower.
3. Bake in the oven, flipping the cauliflower once midway through the cooking, until both sides are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
4. While the cauliflower is baking, work on the couscous. In a small saucepan, heat the oil or butter and add the onion slices. Cook on medium-low heat until the onion slices are golden. Then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
5. Pour 1 cup water and salt over the onions and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, stir, and turn off heat. Cover the pot. Let it sit for 8 minutes or till all the water has been absorbed. Gently fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chopped parsley or mint on top.
6. To make the yogurt tahini sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl till well combined.
7. To serve, spoon the couscous onto two plates. Place one cauliflower steak on each plate. Serve the yogurt tahini sauce on the side.
Photo credits: Sala Kannan