Before I went off gluten, one of my backcountry staples was couscous, a coarsely-ground pasta made from durum wheat. Typically used as a side dish or a base for stir fry, couscous is lighter-textured and faster-cooking than regular pasta or the other traditional camping favorite, bulghur wheat.
I wanted an AIP/Paleo-friendly side dish to serve with a stir-fry type meal on the trail, so I decided to experiment with a popular AIP staple – commonly called ‘cauliflower rice’ – to come up with a backcountry substitute. And it came out great! I like to call it cauliflower couscous instead of rice, because the ‘grains’ come out fairly small, and it has a soft, light texture like couscous. This cauliflower couscous is easy to make, dries to a really low volume, and rehydrates quickly. Cauliflower is a great source of dietary fiber, Vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium and Manganese.
If you’re not a fan of cauliflower (I wasn’t!), I’d still suggest giving this a try. Make some at home first (follow the recipe below and eat it right out of the pan); you may be pleasantly surprised how great it tastes! This couscous is great under a stir fry or as a side dish, and adds great nutritional value to your meal. This is a basic recipe; get creative with your favorite veggies and herbs, and let me know how yours turns out!
Savory Cauliflower Couscous for the Trail
Makes eight 1/2-cup servings when rehydrated (before dehydrating, the servings measure at 1 cup – it’s fluffier right out of the saute pan).
2 heads cauliflower, chopped into 2-inch pieces (each head measures about 4 cups)
2 large carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium zucchinis, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 teaspoons coconut oil or your favorite sauteeing oil, split in half
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste, split in half
1 teaspoon black pepper, to taste, split in half (omit for AIP)
4 Tbs coconut aminos, split in half (if you can’t eat coconut, just leave it out and add an extra teaspoon of salt and some of your favorite herbs)
Depending on the volume of your food processor, you may have to do this prep in batches.
1. Place the chopped carrot in a food processor, and run till it’s in rice-sized pieces (you can do all the processing in high powered blender in smaller batches; it may not come out as evenly-sized).
2. Remove from processor.
3. Put the zucchini and cauliflower in the processor, and run till everything is the size of rice.
4. Remove from processor.
5. Combine the cauliflower, zucchini and carrot in a large bowl, and mix well with a spoon or spatula.
6. Split the mix in half.
7. Split the oil, salt and aminos in half.
8. In a large saute pan, heat half the coconut oil on medium-high heat till melted. If you have two such pans, use them both to save time (unless you have one really huge saute pan and equally large burner with even heat, I suggest cooking the mix in halves, to ensure more even browning).
9. Add half the mixture to the pan/s, along with half the salt and half the aminos, and/or any herbs you feel inspired to add.
10. Saute until the mix is just browned, stirring occasionally to keep it from burning. Don’t overcook it.
11. Transfer the mix into a large mixing bowl.
12. Repeat the process with the other half of the ingredients.
13. Let the mix cool enough so touching it won’t burn your hands.
14. Separate the mix into four equal parts.
1. Dehydrator: Lay a sheet of parchment paper out on each of four 14”x14” dehydrator trays, or use fruit leather sheets on the trays. If using a square dehydrator (here’s the one I use), cut the parchment paper long enough to curl both edges under so it catches and holds when you slide it in the dehydrator. This will keep it from blowing on top of the mix and sticking to it. If you have a round dehydrator, use the fruit leather trays that came with it, or cut the parchment paper to fit.
Oven: Lay out parchment paper on three or four full-size cookie sheets.
2. Spread the mix out as thin as you can, making sure there are no clumps. If you find any large pieces of cauliflower, remove them.
3. Dehydrate at 135°F for 6 to 10 hours, until the mix is crunchy and dry. Time will depend on the moisture left in your sauteed mix, relative humidity, efficiency of your dehydrator or oven, etc. As the mix dries, check occasionally to break up any clumps.
4. Let cool completely.
5. Separate into serving-size portions (1 dried serving = 1/4 cup), and package in ziplocs.*
6. Label with date, ingredients and serving size (really – in a month you’ll forget how much each baggie serves).
7. Store in a cool, dark place; the freezer assures the longest shelf life.
*Alternate storage method: When I make a big batch like this, I measure its total volume, do the math on how much each serving measures up to, package it all up in a large glass jar, and clearly label the jar with how many servings are contained and the measured volume of each serving. Then as I do trips, I just measure out how many servings I want by volume, package them in ziplocs with serving sizes on them, edit the jar label, and toss it back in the freezer.
1. To rehydrate, combine each 1/4 cup dry mix (1 serving) with 1/4 cup plus 1TBS hot treated water. The water should barely cover the mix.
2. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure all parts get rehydrated.
3. Heat to serve or put in the pan with a dish that’s warming up.
Don’t forget to print out or write down the directions for preparation in camp!
- To rehydrate, combine each ¼ cup dry mix (1 serving) with ¼ cup plus 1TBS hot treated water. The water should barely cover the mix.
- Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure all parts get rehydrated.
- Heat to serve or put in the pan with a dish that’s warming up.