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Home on the Range: Spicy Cauliflower Walnut "Chorizo"


Published February 16, 2021 at 11:17 a.m.

Vegan "chorizo" made with cauliflower and walnuts - JAYNIE MCCLOSKEY
  • Jaynie McCloskey
  • Vegan "chorizo" made with cauliflower and walnuts
There are an increasing number of fake "meats" on the market, from the Impossible Burger to Beyond Meat's line of sausages and other ground meat substitutes. I understand why people choose these for reasons including health, ethics and the environment. But they're not for me.

While it is beyond the scope of this recipe column to wade into the full debate about the role of meat in our diet and its impact on the planet, I continue to consume a judicious amount of pasture-raised Vermont meat. I have little interest in highly processed pretenders manufactured and shipped from afar.

That said, my antennae are always up for creative ways to use vegetables, legumes and whole grains in ways that help balance meat-centered meals without increasing processed foods.

I've happily discovered that finely chopped button mushroom stems make a "meaty" addition to slow-simmered marina sauce and I'm a big fan of the tiny dark green lentils that cook quickly and retain their shape and texture.
A new cookbook by two Vermonters contributed the most recent epiphany to this effort.

With their Sustainable Kitchen: Recipes and Inspiration for Plant-Based, Planet-Conscious Meals (Herald Press, $32.99), registered dietitian and health coach Heather Wolfe of Bridgewater and Hartland's Jaynie McCloskey, a graphic designer, deliver a beautiful, actionable guidebook to vegetarian eating with an emphasis on  sustainability.

Among the recipes that caught my eye was their spicy cauliflower walnut "chorizo" — the quotation marks are mine. It stood out for its simplicity in both ingredients and steps: a perfect recipe for my housemates to make for me.

My empty nest is currently full again with three twentysomethings working remotely at jobs in Peru and Washington D.C. This is an unexpected treat, but also means more meal planning. The kids — well, young adults — are taking turns cooking, but I'm still leading the organizational charge.

Taco night has always been a family favorite and often features some ground or grilled meat as well as beans and lots of vegetables. I assigned the kids the meal with the cauliflower chorizo as the star and headed into a 90-minute online Spanish class.

Taco night with cauliflower "chorizo" - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Taco night with cauliflower "chorizo"
I emerged to mouthwatering smells and a delicious meal. The verdict on the recipe was all thumbs up. "Very easy and surprisingly good," said my 26-year-old son.

It was good enough that I forgave them for simply opening the can of beans and serving them, cold, in a bowl.

Spicy Cauliflower Walnut Chorizo

Makes 4 cups

  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped (both florets and stems)
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 2 individual chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  1. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until evenly mixed and the cauliflower and walnuts are in small pieces but not pureed. (If using a blender, you many need to add 1 cup of the mixture at a time and transfer each batch to the prepared baking sheet to ensure even texture and prevent overprocessing.)
  3. Flatten the mixture onto the baking sheet until evenly distributed.
  4. Place in cold oven and turn oven to 350 degrees. Start timing and bake for 35 minutes. Stir about halfway through the cooking time for even browning.
Source: Sustainable Kitchen: Recipes and Inspiration for Plant-Based, Planet-Conscious Meals by Heather Wolfe and Jaynie McCloskey (Herald Press, 2020)

If you're interested in hearing more from Wolfe about her approach to planet-friendly cooking, she will speak as part of University of Vermont's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute's spring series on Tuesday, March 23.

Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.