FAUX FRIED “RICE”
By Dennis Linden
This month’s featured recipe is another submission from the kitchen of John Dunham, Melissa’s Procurement Category Manager and the company’s resident foodie -- along with most everyone else in the building! This time John blind-sided me in a very tasty way! As a frequent contributor to this blog over the years, I tapped John for this December holiday edition expecting him to submit a scrumptiously decadent plate of something matching this festive feasting season. Instead, ha-ha, I got a plateful of fake rice that reflects a dietary lifestyle change that he and wife Janet are now following!
“Ten months ago Janet and I decided it was time to really buckle down and do something about all the prescriptions I was on,” John explained. “We found the Gundry diet. Dr. Steven Gundry was the leading heart surgeon at Loma Linda University Medical Center and currently operates his own clinic investigating the impact of diet on health in Santa Barbara. Anyway, we read his book called “The Plant Paradox” and it made all kinds of sense. In a nutshell, the diet is based on no nightshades, soy, white flour, cow’s milk or regular eggs. Instead it’s coconut, cassava and almond flour, Omega 3 eggs, coconut milk, grass fed beef, free range chicken and wild caught fish. All I can say is that I’ve lost 50 lbs., my blood pressure is back to normal and I feel great.
Which brings us back to that fake rice submission. Actually, it is “riced” cauliflower prepared fried rice style, subbing in a few ingredients that fit with John’s Gundry discipline. Namely avocado oil for cooking, Omega-3 fortified eggs and, a delicious discovery for this writer, Coconut Aminos Marinade Seasoning. It is true that cauliflower has become the Duct Tape ingredient for eating healthy these days! You can find all sort of recipes on the ‘net that turn this veggie into a pizza crust, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, bread sticks, potato salad and even cauliflower Buffalo wings, to name just a few! And I must admit that I have tried some of these myself, though most all taste like cauliflower to me. I must say that John’s fried rice works best at both fooling the palate with a similar texture to the real thing as well as being extremely flavorful with the support of a few simple fresh ingredients and a slight tweak to John’s prep instructions that I inadvertently discovered.
That is, while I was impressed with my first tasting hot off the stove, the dish seemed to double in flavor and acquire the perfect crunchy-rice texture after being refrigerated overnight and then reheated – and here’s the tweak -- with a quick second stir-fry in a little more avocado oil back on the stovetop. John says he simply pops any leftovers in the micro for a heathy lunchtime meal. I say he is missing out on that “day after” goodness that we all have experienced with leftover spaghetti! So the next time I make this dish I will purposely prepare it a day ahead just to capture that day-after taste! Granted it takes a little patience to cook something up and then immediately pop it in the ‘frig until tomorrow. Trust me, it is well worth the wait!
While riced cauliflower can easily be bought pre-prepared in most grocery stores, as John says he does, homemade from fresh florets takes maybe two minutes in the food processor and is considerably cheaper. Just chop the cauliflower florets up into bite-size pieces and, using the PULSE mode, run them through the food processor in small batches. Smaller batches will quickly become the right rice-like size all at once. Besides, John, from a health viewpoint that store-bought “rice” is robbing your index finger of all that cardio work involved in pulsing your own!
John’s recipe calls for using avocado oil specifically instead of olive oil and here’s why. Avocado oil is a very healthy cooking oil with a beneficial fatty acid profile, good levels of antioxidants and many other nutritional compounds. It also has a very high smoke point, between 480° - 520°, that makes it a great choice for stir-fries and other high-temperature cooking. Olive oil’s smoke point, by comparison, can vary greatly depending on the grade of the olive oil. Low quality ‘light’ olive oil is generally cited at a highest smoke point of around 430° which may be okay for medium frying. However, extra virgin olive oil, the type we’re told is the healthiest, can have a smoke point as low as 220° which is definitely not suitable for high temperature cooking or pretty much any kind of frying!
The other ingredient that needs a bit of explaining is John’s Coconut Aminos. Coconut Aminos is a liquid condiment similar to soy sauce but made from the fermented sap of a coconut palm tree and sea salt. It's marketed as a lower-sodium alternative to soy sauce, with about 90 milligrams per teaspoon compared to about 290 milligrams in a teaspoon of regular soy sauce. Though sap is a form of sugar, Coconut Aminos contains only 1 gram of sugar per teaspoon because the fermentation process eliminates it, making it a low-glycemic food appropriate for diabetics. A one-teaspoon serving contains only about 5 calories. Having never tried this condiment, I was surprised to find its flavor very soy-sauce-like with plenty of saltiness to satisfy. In fact, this condiment has now replaced my bottle of soy sauce and been adopted as a pantry staple. Thank you, John!
While the produce industry may deal in crops that need sunlight, much of the buying and selling of those harvests are done in the dark hours of the early morning, long before the sun comes up. As the point man responsible for keeping the flow of fresh produce inventories at Melissa’s in sync with the current supply and demand of many different harvested products, John’s workday must begin early.
“My day starts at 3 a.m., daily activities include managing and updating the company’s availability sheet as well as double-checking the daily orders to be filled against current inventories. The most challenging and fun part of my job focuses on staying ahead of the demand for our products by making educated guesses as to what is going to be needed for the next few days. I then must coordinate with growers and/or their sales brokers so that the product can be harvested if necessary, packed and delivered by the next business day. It’s a very time sensitive business, which is why my day must starts so early.”
The flip side of John’s work schedule also gives him the afternoons to enjoy a home life. Now that their two daughters are grown and on their own, that home became a condo at the beach in Southern California. After work John decompresses with long walks on the beach just watching waves crash. During the warm summer months he enjoys getting out on that same water to kayak. Of course, cooking on the weekends with Janet is always a favorite time for both of them. And since those meals have resulted in a loss of 50 pounds lately…please pass that “rice”!
Cauliflower head, florets removed, rough chopped
1-2 fresh Omega-3 fortified eggs, beaten
5 TBS Avocado Oil, divided
2 cups chicken leftovers, sliced or shredded thin 2 Carrots, shredded
2 Celery stalks, diced
1 cup Sno Peas
Coconut Aminos to taste
2 green onion, small diced, both white and green parts
Pulse chopped cauliflower florets in a food processor until the consistency of rice; do in small batches to insure uniformity. Set aside for the final sauté.
Heat 1 TBS of avocado oil in a non-stick fry, then pour in the egg forming a thin layer. Once cooked through, carefully remove from to cutting board and slice into small squares. Set aside for the final sauté.
Prep all the rest of ingredients in advance [mise en place] before starting to stir fry.
Heat 4 TBS of the avocado oil in a large frying pan or wok for 1 minute before adding the chicken, carrots and celery. Stir-fry for approximately 5 minutes, then add the rice-cauliflower, sno peas and egg pieces, mix thoroughly before adding in a generous amount of Coconut Aminos seasoning oil, cook for another minute or two. Lastly, toss the green onions into the hot mixture and serving immediately.