Arnabit (Fried Cauliflower with Lemon Garlic Sauce)

Arnabit, or fried cauliflower with lemon garlic sauce, is a delicious starter or side dish that is great for any day of the week. Deep frying the cauliflower makes it all nice and melty. A creamy vegetable you say? You better believe it! The sauce also perfectly breaks up all that rich food you’re probably eating this time of year. I’m so excited to share!

20181115 -- Arnabit & Pumpkin Hummus-2.jpg

This dish is usually served as part of mezze, which in so many words or less, means Middle Eastern small plates. These are shared amongst a table often times as appetizers. It’s such a great way to start a meal, diving into an array of dishes, dipping pieces of pita bread while catching up with old friends or family. Arnabit is often times eaten with a tahini sauce, but I grew up eating a version which uses Turkish pepper paste instead of tahini. I included both variations below, so give it a try and see for yourself which you prefer!

20181115 -- Arnabit & Pumpkin Hummus-64.jpg

The method for this dish is pretty simple. Throw a couple heads of cauliflower florets in some preheated oil for about 30 minutes or until the florets are golden and soft. Make the sauce by sautéing about 5 cloves of garlic and then adding Turkish pepper paste, lemon juice and salt to taste. The cauliflower is then tossed in the sauce so it soaks up all that goodness.

You’ll be surprised by how much the cauliflower cooks down. I used 2 heads, and they shrunk down A LOT. I asked my mom how many heads she uses for a party spread, and she said she uses 10. 10 HEADS OF CAULIFLOWER. That much cauliflower yields lots of arnabit, so I don’t recommend it, but if you have more than 2 people, you might want to double the recipe.

Turkish pepper paste can be found in any Middle Eastern grocery store. You can also make your own by roasting 3 red bell peppers and a chili pepper, peeling them and blending with olive oil and salt. Cook the puree on the stove over medium heat until it’s reduced to about half. This keeps in the fridge for weeks! You’ll want some for next week’s recipe too ;).

And without further ado…the recipe!

20181115 -- Arnabit & Pumpkin Hummus-68.jpg

P.S. Something I’m SO HAPPY I purchased when I decided to cook more Middle Eastern food is an electric citrus juicer. Lemon juice is SUCH an important pantry item for this type of cuisine! It’s sometimes literally added by the cupful! I strongly recommend you get one if you don’t have one already.

Arnabit (Fried Cauliflower with Lemon Garlic Sauce)

Serves 2

2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste
1 tsp Turkish pepper paste, found at a Middle Eastern grocery store, or make your own, recipe below*
1/3 c lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Parsley for garnish
Neutral cooking oil, like sunflower

  1. Cover the bottom of a pot with the oil by 2 inches and preheat. You will know the oil is ready when you throw in a piece of bread and it turns golden in about 30 seconds.

  2. Add half the cauliflower and cook until soft and golden-brown, about 30 minutes. Drain the first batch on a paper towel and repeat with second head of cauliflower.

  3. Meanwhile, over medium heat in a medium saucepan, sauté the garlic, being careful not to burn. Add the pepper, lemon juice and salt and remove from heat.

  4. When the cauliflower is finished, add it to the sauce and stir to combine. Adjust salt and lemon. Serve either immediately or within 4 hours at room temperature and garnish with parsley.

*If you’d like to use tahini sauce instead of the lemon juice, garlic and pepper paste sauce, cook the cauliflower as instructed above. Combine 1 garlic with 1/3 c of lemon juice and 1 c tahini. Add a bit of water for desired consistency and drizzle over the cauliflower just before serving. Best served warm.

Turkish Red Pepper Paste

Makes about 1/2 lb

3 red bell peppers
1 chili pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

  1. Start by roasting the peppers over a gas stove or under a broiler until the skin is charred. Immediately transfer them to a plastic bag and seal for about 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers.

  2. Transfer the peppers to a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process until a purée forms.

  3. Set a pan over medium heat and cook the purée until it’s reduced to half, about 30-40 minutes.

  4. Keep the paste in an airtight container in the fridge, up to 2 weeks.