By Nigel Spence
When I began my quest a few years ago, transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, I had no idea of the many roads I would travel – literally and figuratively, in search of the next best ingredient(s) to power my creative juices. I knew that if I was going to be successful on this path, I had to find ways to keep my palate happy and excited.
I admit, there were a few misses along the way, but as I delved deeper into my ingredient sampling – playing around with various flavors and textures, blending spices and seasonings, following scientific trends to discern the good foods from the bad, I became my own “master of the (h)eart”.
It is important to understand that not all healthy foods advertised are created equally. You should always read the ingredients list when available. Trust me, this was a real “eye opener.” There are so many surprisingly unhealthy ingredients hiding in plain sight in some so-called healthy products. As a result, there are some brands I remain very distant from, especially if their foods contain sugar as the first ingredient since my transition involved lessening my sugar intake. My main source of sugar intake before the transition was of course the ONLY ingredient in the package – white rum! LOL
But nowadays, I am pleased to see so many creative and interesting health foods being made available. In some cases, there is almost no difference between the taste of products made from plants versus animal.
I recently sent my sister a vegan brand of cream cheese and cheddar cheese to sample. I always rely heavily on her feedback as she is not vegan, and she has an amazing palate that is capable of identifying subtle differences in flavor and how best to apply them in the kitchen.
I figured if she endorsed it that would be “one small step for man – one giant leap for vegan-kind”. (LOL)
Well the results are in – she thoroughly enjoyed the sampling. She admitted that the cream cheese did not taste any different from regular cream cheese only that it was lighter, like it was whipped. As for the cheddar – that was a hit! She described it as tasting like a baked macaroni and cheese. This was great news as that is one of her favorite dishes.
On one of my most recent trips to Jamaica, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how creative we have become in the health food sector, offering such a good variety of unique foods and products that can be enjoyed by Vegans and Vegetarians alike with no compromise on taste, or by those who just want to incorporate more healthy habits into their diet.
As I explored the shelves in the supermarket, I felt like a child opening gifts at Christmas. I could hardly wait to unwrap and test them out. I was especially impressed with the various types of flour now being produced – breadfruit, coconut, sweet potato – wow! There is even a vegan turmeric ketchup that truly kicks your favorite dishes up a notch when added.
Gone are the days when eating healthy was considered boring and tasteless. As we become more conscious of our health and the need for better choices in our daily nutrition, it is good to see more companies following the trend and providing more exciting and healthier options for our benefit.
Here is a very simple dish that can be made on a weekday. It utilizes a vegetable that doesn’t get much love at the dinner table—until NOW!
The best part about making this dish is that after the prep is done, you simply pop it in the oven and return an hour later to eat. It can even be prepared in a large toaster oven.
I guarantee you will enjoy it whether you are vegan, vegetarian or like me – “flexitarian” – ha!
Whole Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head of Cauliflower
¼ cup Coconut oil
¼ cup extra virgin Olive oil
2 tablespoons grated vegan Parmesan cheese
1 large sprig fresh Rosemary, leaves removed from stem
3 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon Sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Rinse and dry the head of cauliflower and carefully cut off the green bottom stalks without removing too much of the core. You want the entire head intact for baking. Peel away any remaining green leaves and place in a cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan).
- In a blender add oils, rosemary, garlic vegan parmesan cheese and salt and blend until smooth.
- Flip your cauliflower upside down and pour on most of the flavored oil into the holes between the florets, leaving a couple of tablespoons to drizzle over the finished product. Let the sauce pour down through the core. Place cauliflower core-side up (upside down) in skillet.
- Place skillet in oven and roast for 55 minutes (depending on size of cauliflower) or until a knife easily pierces the core. If you prefer softer cauliflower, then roast for longer. For cauliflower with a little bounce back on the bite, roast for less time.
- Remove from oven and cut lengthwise into large steaks, or cut around the core into individual florets. Collect the juices from the pan and drizzle over the finished product along with the saved uncooked flavored oil.
Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.