Meatless Monday: Harissa Tortitas de Coliflor (Cauliflower Patties)

For Meatless Monday, a traditional Mexican dish of tortitas de coliflor gets a twist with the addition of a generous amount of spicy Moroccan Mina Harissa Red Pepper Sauce.

I have professed my love of cauliflower many times before. Going all the way to my first year of blogging in 2007 with my cauliflower mash (before using cauliflower for EVERYTHING was even a thing!) to cauliflower tortilla experiments (this one and this one) to my cauliflower chowder and my soon to come cauliflower pizza. Cauliflower can be a great base for so many dishes.

Traditionally, this simple vegetarian Mexican dish is made by boiling (or you can steam) the cauliflower until it’s just fork tender. Then cutting it up into little florets and dipping them in an egg batter like the kind used for chiles rellenos. Then you shallow pan fry them (again, as you would chiles rellenos), make a ranchero sauce and add them back in to soak up the sauce.

My twist on this was to ditch the traditional ranchero sauce and make a fresh salsa using tomatoes, poblano, onion, garlic, and for the heat, adding a generous amount of Mina Harissa Spicy Red Sauce. Is it traditional? No. Is it tasty? Well …

I had just finished blending the salsa when my 86 years young grandmother entered the kitchen from her bedroom to see what I was making, the smells of the roasting veggies and the whir of the blender coaxing her out of her room and away from her telenovelas. She of course, wanted a spoon to taste my salsa (Grams has been making fresh salsas her entire life!).

“Humph! It’s good,” she said before licking the spoon. “Mmm. Tiene un buen sabor,” she said nodding her head. Then she went to the fridge, pulled out a tortilla and proceeded to warm it on the stove. She came back to where I was, spooned tablespoons of it onto her tortilla and then she eyed the cheese I had sitting on a plate near the blender.

“Que clase queso is that?” she asked as she reached for it. “Oaxaca,” I answer. She placed a couple of strips of it onto her salsa laden tortilla, walked over to the microwave, nuked it for a few seconds, grabbed her coffee and went to sit at the table to enjoy her taquito. When she was finished, she came back into the kitchen and asked what was in the salsa because it had such good flavor so I told her how I made it (as I mentally patted myself on the back).

When I was finished shooting, she came back around to give the completed dish a whirl, putting two florets and some sauce on a plate nodding her head the entire time she was eating it.

Yup. Passed the grandma test.

Try this for Meatless Monday. I think you’re gonna love it. Until next time… Happy cooking! xo, ani

Yield: 4 servings

1 medium to large head cauliflower, green leaves removed
2 medium to large roma tomatoes
2 large cloves garlic, skins on 

½ medium onion, cut into two slices
1 poblano (also sold as pasilla) pepper
2 generous teaspoons chicken bouillon (I like this one)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup Mina Harissa Spicy Traditional Moroccan Red Pepper Sauce
3 extra large eggs, room temperature and separated
1½ tablespoons flour 

½ teaspoon sea salt
lard or neutral vegetable oil for frying
½ cup rough chopped Oaxaca cheese, or other string cheese such as mozzarella 

To serve: chopped cilantro, green side salad, avocado slices

Cook the cauliflower: Place whole cauliflower in a small stockpot adding water to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook until just fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and place on a tray or platter lined with paper towels; set aside to cool.

Make the salsa: Heat a cast iron skillet or smooth griddle on medium high. When a drop of water sizzles and dances on the griddle, add the tomatoes, garlic and poblano and char on all sides. As the vegetables char, remove them to a plate while the remaining vegetables cook. The garlic will be the first to be ready to remove while the pepper will take the longest to char.

Pour a ¼ cup of water into a blender. Drop in the tomatoes and blend to liquify. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin into the jar of the blender and add the onion, blending until incorporated. Cut the stem off of the poblano, slice pepper in half and remove the seeds then drop the pepper into the blender. Add the harissa, cumin, bouillon and ⅓ cup more water. Purée until smooth. Set aside.

Prepare the batter: Separate eggs. Place the whites into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a electric hand mixer) and whip the eggs to hard peaks. Scramble the yolks to break up, then add to the whites along with the flour and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Whip until just combined, careful not to deflate the whites.

Fry the florets: Break cauliflower into florets. Heat an 8-inch cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet on medium high heat. When hot, add ½ inch oil. Once the oil is shimmering, holding a floret by it’s “trunk”, swirl it in the egg batter to coat then carefully add it to the hot oil. Repeat with two more florets never having more than three in the skillet so as to not lower the heat of the oil. Using two forks or a small spatula, carefully turn each floret to cook each side to a golden brown color. Remove florets to a paper towel-lined tray or platter to drain. Repeat with remaining florets.

Finish the dish: Add 1 tablespoon oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat to shimmering. Slowly pour in the salsa (careful—it will splatter). Cook salsa, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower, turning the florets to coat in the sauce. Drop in the cheese, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese just starts to melt. Remove lid, garnish with cilantro and serve with a green salad lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil and few slices of avocado.

Disclosure: Cassablanca Foods, the maker of Mina Harissa, is providing some compensation for recipe development. This is the third of eight recipes that I'll be sharing through the end of summer. To help offset the cost of running this blog I sometimes take on sponsored posts but rest assured,  I only work with brands I love and use myself and feel 100% confident in sharing these brands with you. As always, all opinions, photographs and recipes are my own. 
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon for which I receive a small stipend from  to help offset blogging costs should you place an order following the link.