In searching for ways to jazz up cauliflower rice, I wanted a less-carb version of the classic Puerto Rican rice and beans. A quick sauté using Puerto Rican sofrito and achiote oil offers an easy, flavorful option. Sofrito is simply a blend of specific herbs, aromatics and peppers that get blended up in a food processor to serve as a cooking base.
Chef Daisy Martinez first opened my eyes to this homemade cooking ingredient on her public access cooking show. You can also watch her make it on Youtube. This unique blend of ingredients can be boiled into a soup or stew, it’s typically sautéed in oil at the beginning of a recipe.
Sautéing these tiny bits of riced cauliflower seems easy enough, but it can go all go wrong if you become impatient. If it’s too deep in the pan, hot air gets trapped and it will steam – turning into a mushy mess. To avoid this, sauté in batches by only working with half of a cauliflower at a time. Be sure to create little numerous pockets of air to allow air to flow, instead of one uniform blanketed layer.
You can certainly sauté your cauliflower rice in any type of oil, but achiote oil delivers a subtle earthy flavor and rich yellow color. Chef Daisy Martinez definitely got me hooked on this ingredient! It takes just 5 minutes to prepare at home, or you can also buy it pre-made. A classic Puerto Rican ingredient I neglected to add is a salty mixture of chopped green olives, capers and pimentos – called alcaparrado (pictured below). If you use this, simply add it as the sofrito is cooking and cut back on any more added salt.
Ingredients for cauliflower rice
This recipe is executed in batches of 2, each batch utilizes 1/2 of the following amounts.
• 1 large head of cauliflower
• 1/4 cup achiote oil
• 1 cup Puerto Rican sofrito (if you have it pre-made and stored from the freezer, let it thaw to room temperature first)
• 1 red onion
• 1 can (15.5 oz.) of any type of beans
• 1 can (8 oz.) of plain tomato sauce
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions for cauliflower rice
1a. If using a food processor:
Cut cauliflower half (stem included) into similar-sized-sized chunks to fit comfortably in a food processor. Pulse cauliflower chunks in a food processor enough times so it resembles your desired size of rice. Some people prefer it really fine, other people like it more chunky … it’s completely up to you!
1b. If using a box grater:
Cut your cauliflower in quarters and grate each quarter using the largest holes over a medium bowl. Be extra careful not to grate your knuckles as your pieces shrink to just a nub.
2. In a wide flat pan, heat 4 tablespoons of achiote oil over medium high heat. The oil should be hot enough for the sofrito to sizzle when added. Stir in ½ cup of sofrito and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and let it cook until the tiny bits begin to brown slightly.
3. Add red onions. Stir in 1/3 cup of beans and 1/4 can of plain tomato sauce. Let this cook for a few minutes until the tomato sauce is well incorporated. This mixture will have cooked down to a somewhat oily, paste-like consistency.
4. Increase the heat to high. Add the riced cauliflower and stir until it has all been thoroughly incorporated. Once evenly coated, spread everything out and let your cauliflower cook unbothered for about 5 minutes, so it begins to brown slightly on the bottom.
5. Using a spatula, roughly flip the cauliflower over in sections to cook evenly on the other side. By now your cauliflower should have a nicely sautéed rice-like consistency.
6. Transfer to a larger serving bowl and repeat the process for the three remaining halved amounts of cauliflower. Add each batch to your serving bowl and enjoy!