Stonefire Grill Salad Makes Roasted Cauliflower Its Star – Orange County Register
Justin Lopez, head of the menu development team at Stonefire Grill, shows off a chilled grilled cauliflower salad prepared in food columnist Cathy Thomas’ home kitchen.
What happens when a strict vegetarian takes his place at his family’s famous meat-and-potato restaurants? Some great vegetarian reorganizations are evolving, with cauliflower, kale and wild arugula taking center stage alongside established rib, chicken and tri-tip favourites.
Justin Lopez is the son of Mary Harrigan, co-founder of the Stonefire Grill chain. Lopez leads the menu development team for the large family restaurant that includes locations in Fountain Valley and Irvine as well as four locations in Los Angeles. Without abandoning the most popular offerings, he reshaped the menu to include a focus on vegetarian dishes. Sales of new meat-free items have soared and restaurants have found increasing numbers of vegetarians among their loyal customers.
The roasted cauliflower is one of the stars. Roasting transforms cruciferous vegetables into something irresistible and highly versatile, and the external caramelization process produces rounded flavors and a subtle sweetness. Lopez combines tender, but not mushy, browned cauliflower with lemon tahini sauce, a delicious combination that combines smooth sesame paste, fresh citrus juice, and garlic. When served as a salad or as a warm pita filling, it adds spicy cilantro serrano sauce, a playful harissa that can be mild or fiery depending on the amount of chiles added to the mix.
Lopez joined me in my home kitchen to film a video to show the step-by-step setup of Stonefire’s Chilled Roasted Cauliflower Salad. Leftover sauces can be refrigerated and used to augment other roasted vegetables or grain-based dishes. At the restaurant, they also use tahini sauce to dress a coleslaw with golden raisins, red cabbage, cucumber, roasted garbanzo beans and avocado.
Preparing for family work: Lopez grew up in the Conejo Valley (northwest Los Angeles County); When he wasn’t in school, he worked at his family’s restaurants, often in the catering department. After attending the University of San Diego, he earned a master’s degree in Global Media from the London School of Economics and Global Communications from the University of Southern California.
Under the covers: He developed a simple concept that became popular in restaurants. Guests can choose any of the 16 salads on the menu and serve it as a wrap filling.
Small blades: Alfie’s knives are his favorite, 7 3/4-inch knives with plastic handles available in a variety of colors. He says they stay sharp and cut like a razor.
Stonefire Grill Chilled Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Yield: 4 shares
1 large cauliflower floret, whole and washed well
2 to 3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
Tahini and lemon sauce:
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Serrano Coriander Hot Sauce:
1 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, cut into about 2 1/2 inches
1 to 2 fresh serrano peppers, or more to taste, stemmed and sliced
4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head roasted cauliflower, cooled
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, cut into cubes
2 to 3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced or chopped, including the dark green stems
1/2 cup lemon tahini sauce
1 tablespoon Serrano coriander hot sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut a shallow slice from the bottom of the stem so the cauliflower sits flat on the baking sheet; The leaves and most of the stems should remain intact. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to a large, deep pot (such as a pasta cooker) of boiling water over high heat. Submerge the cauliflower and blanch it for about 10 minutes. Next, remove the cauliflower from the water, drain and place on a rimmed baking sheet, side down, to cool for 3 minutes. Pour the oil over the cauliflower and use clean hands to rub the oil over the entire surface. Sprinkle with two pinches of kosher salt. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning as needed for even roasting. If additional browning is needed, turn on the grill and grill until well browned (watch carefully to prevent burning).
2. Prepare the lemon tahini sauce: Mix all the sauce ingredients in a food processor; Process for approximately 1 minute. Sit aside.
3. Prepare the Serrano Cilantro Chili Sauce: Place about a third of the cilantro, plus all of the Serrano chiles, garlic, and kosher salt in a food processor; Process until finely chopped. With the engine running, slowly add half the oil in a thin stream through the feed pipe. Add the rest of the ingredients, little by little, processing between additions. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure all ingredients are well mixed. Mix for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Prepare the salad: Use your hands to cut the cauliflower into small florets. In a large bowl, gently mix all salad ingredients together. Chill for about 1 hour. taste; Add more lemon tahini sauce and/or cilantro hot sauce as needed.
source: Justin Lopez, Stonefire Grill
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