I love my hometown of Springfield, MO. I suspect that many people feel similar, and I guess since it’s where I grew up, I am a little biased. BUT, it’s also a really awesome city. AND we’ve got some pretty major claims to fame.
1. It’s where Brad Pitt is from. (!!!!!)
2. It’s the home of Springfield-style (the only style if you ask me) Cashew Chicken.
Anyway, love cashew chicken. Only problem, I don’t really eat chicken. I prefer a mostly plant-based diet for health reasons, and I don’t like to support factory farming for moral reasons. But I still love cashew chicken. So, I decided it was time to find a solution to this life crisis. (OK, maybe it’s not a life “crisis”, but I do sincerely miss this childhood favorite!)
After having a General Tso cauliflower dish while in NYC with Elsie late last year, I realized it would be super simple to swap out the chicken for cauliflower so long as I worked on figuring out an easy homemade version of the sauce. I also decided to bake (rather than fry) the cauliflower and to serve it with brown rice for added nutrition. So although I don’t know if everyone would consider this dish “healthy”, as that word can have so many meanings, it’s certainly a lighter version of a favorite guilty-pleasure dish.
Have I convinced you yet? If not, let me just say, this is seriously SO delicious. It does take a bit of work, but it can still come together in around 30 minutes and is SO WORTH IT. I promise.
1 head of cauliflower
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
2/3 cup bread crumbs (I like Panko here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown rice
For the sauce:
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup vegetable stock
1/3 cup chopped cashews
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the bottom leaves and stem from the cauliflower head and cut into small florets. In a bowl, stir together the flour and milk. In another bowl, place the bread crumbs. Dip the cauliflower pieces in the flour mix, then in the bread crumbs. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and coated in the olive oil. Once you’ve dipped all the cauliflower pieces, bake for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the rice according to the package directions. I cheated and used a rice cooker. 🙂
During the last 10 minutes of the cauliflower cook time, make the sauce. In a small to medium size pot, combine the sesame oil and minced garlic over medium heat. Cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the remaining sauce ingredients: oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, onion powder, red pepper flakes (if using), and cornstarch. Give that a good whisk. Then slowly add the vegetable stock. The mixture may appear very thin at first, but keep cooking over medium heat and it will thicken up (like gravy). Once it reaches the desired thickness, remove from heat. Taste and add salt or more soy if you think it needs it.
Once everything is ready, layer on the rice, baked cauliflower, sauce, cashews, and then green onions. Serve hot.
-If you want to make this 100% vegetarian, be sure to use vegetarian oyster sauce as not all oyster sauce is.
-If you don’t care about keeping this 100% vegetarian, you just want to use cauliflower to get more veggies in your day, then you can also swap out the vegetable stock with chicken stock if you prefer. I’d recommend seeking out something organic and free range if possible if you go this route.
-If you don’t mind fried cauliflower (who would?), maybe try this recipe for General Tso’s Cauliflower. It looks amazing.
Thanks for letting me share a lightened up childhood favorite with you guys. Also, if you try this and like the cauliflower, then you will probably like this Hot Cauliflower Pizza too as the cooking method is very similar. Viva la Springfield! xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions.