Buffalo Cauliflower Ranch Salad

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If I go out to a restaurant that has both a ranch salad AND a buffalo anything on the menu, you can guarantee that I’m going to get my buffalo mixed up with the ranch and my ranch mixed up with the buffalo. So here is one of my favorite combos in one convenient recipe! I add a little quinoa for crunch and protein. The buffalo cauliflower is baked so that you can maintain your dignity and not have to break out a deep-fryer for a salad (not that I would judge). I prefer cucumbers to celery with my buffalo sauce, but if you’re a “celery-or-bust” type, then go ahead and swap out the cukes for celery, or just use celery as a garnish. This recipe gets a little involved and may seem like it has a million steps, but that’s because it’s like a recipe within a recipe within a recipe. Just remember, you are learning lessons that will last you a lifetime! Like how to batter and bread things, and also how to bake said battered things instead of frying them. You also can just go ahead and serve the cauliflower with ranch dressing as its own little appetizer, or throw it on top of mac and cheese, or just make a big bowl of it and eat it in front of the TV or fireplace. And the ranch dressing is a treasure on its own! So make a triple batch and keep it on hand for any time a bag of baby rainbow carrots is calling out to be dipped.

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Ingredients

For the ranch dressing

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegan mayo, store-bought or homemade
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) unsweetened unflavored almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

For the buffalo cauliflower

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup (240 ml) cold water
  • cups (150 g) breadcrumbs
  • teaspoons rosemary, crushed between your fingers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into large (2-inch/5 cm) florets
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) buffalo hot sauce (like Frank’s RedHot)
  • 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted

For the salad

  • 3 romaine hearts, chopped into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces
  • 1 cup (200 g) cooked, cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup (105 g) cucumber half-moon slices
  • 1 cup (145 g) halved cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup (15 g) fresh dill sprigs, for garnish

Method

  1. Make the dressing: Mix all the ingredients in a mug. Use a fork and stir until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Make the buffalo cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, spray it with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
  3. You’ll need a large bowl for the batter and a big rimmed plate for breading. Put the flour and cornstarch in the bowl. Add about half of the water and stir vigorously with a fork to dissolve. Add the rest of the water, and stir to incorporate. To prepare the breading, mix together the breadcrumbs, rosemary, and salt on the plate. Drizzle in the olive oil and use your fingertips to mix it up well.
  4. Now pull together an assembly line to dip the cauli. From left to right, set out the cauliflower, the batter, the breadcrumb mixture, and lastly the baking sheet. Working one at a time, dip each cauliflower floret into the batter, letting the excess drip off. Transfer to the bowl of breadcrumbs and, using the other (dry) hand, toss to coat completely, pressing the breadcrumbs into the crevices of the floret as you go. Transfer each coated cauliflower to the prepared baking sheet to create a single layer.
  5. Bake the cauliflower for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. The florets should be crisp and varying shades of brown. Taste one to check for doneness; it should be tender with some bite.
  6. While the cauliflower is roasting, mix together the hot sauce and melted coconut oil in a bowl and set aside.
  7. When you’re ready to serve, pour the dressing into a large mixing bowl. Add the romaine, quinoa, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes and toss to coat. Transfer to individual plates. While the cauliflower is still warm, use a large spoon to dip each floret in the hot sauce, drip off the excess, and arrange on top of the salad greens. Serve immediately.