Buffalo Air-Fried Cauliflower "Wings"
Yep, I'm posting buffalo cauliflower wings just in time for Summer. Why? I'm obsessed with buffalo wings in the summer months because, before I was vegan, we would grill wings and toss them with spicy finger-licking good sauce. The ease of the grill and the contrast of spicy with cooling veggies as a side; all you need to finish a perfect meal would be ice cold piles of watermelon. So, it's no surprise (to me) that I associate buffalo wing flavors with grilling season.
While my cauliflower wings are not grilled, I add smoked salt (seriously people, if you haven't sought it out by now because it's amazing or you have seen it a bunch in my recipes, you really are missing a great flavor booster)! The smoked salt gives it that little bit of flavor you would have with grilled foods, but I make the delicate cauliflower super crispy in an air-fry method. What could be better than that?
Despite my love for cauliflower and extensive use in many recipes, I haven't done a spotlight featuring this ingredient, so I thought it was about time I feature (in a way) this vegetable and why it's sustainable (or not...see, I'm leaving it open for drama).
Sustainability Spotlight: Did you know that cauliflower requires a high level of magnesium in soil to do well and a pH of 6.5 or greater so are perfect for land that has previously housed tobacco? (www.uky.edu) This is an important note since tobacco crops deplete soil nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium more than other major crops.
Further, a World Health Organization (WHO) report notes that "Tobacco farming is also associated with land degradation and desertification, including soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and productivity and disruption of water cycles. The 2017 WHO report on tobacco and the environment identified 13 countries across the globe where a significant loss of biodiversity associated with tobacco-driven habitat fragmentation and deforestation has occurred." (Tobacco Tactics in partnership with the University of Bath).
Most tobacco production also occurs in countries with low or middle income and many of those low income countries face food insecurity. India, in particular, has a long history of tobacco growth which is grown on millions of hectares of land and produces much of the countries gross domestic production (GDP); India is the second largest exporter and producer of tobacco in the world - producing mostly to Western Europe (IPEF.org).
When the resources used to grow tobacco are over leveraged, the plants start to wilt and die. This leads to reduced ability to harvest the plants and requires more intervention by chemicals or other industrial sources (i.e. - diverting additional water resources or transportation) increasing pollution impacts as well.
But, cauliflower is a vegetable that can break the cycle on tobacco farming impacts by flourishing in fields with depleted resources by tobacco, requiring limited water or chemical (pesticides, herbicides or insecticides) intervention. Many farmers in India have tested growth of cauliflower (among other crops) as a part of their movement away from hookah or tobacco farming (WHO.org). Planting cauliflower in the place of tobacco also increases the availability of food for citizens. And, as India industrializes and leans into its technological support sector, the GDP transfer from tobacco to these other industries and services will organically shift to support less tobacco resources.
Using cauliflower to replenish food supply, soils and reduce the impacts of tobacco farming is a pathway forward for more sustainability. Not to mention world health for humans overall.
So, grab that bumby white orb of goodness from the market and hope that somewhere across the globe someone else is making a similar choice to increase sustainability - both by making this recipe vegan, but also by choosing to support the power of the cauliflower! (and yes, I was waiting the whole blog to say that = ).
1 large head of cauliflower cut into large florets
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1 tsp smoked salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground mustard
2 cups oat milk
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
Buffalo Sauce: Note: this is just enough to coat the pieces; add more (following the ratio) as needed. I like my sauce spicy so I use a 2:1 ratio - you could easily drop it to a 3:1 ratio (3 tbsp vegan butter to 1 tbsp hot sauce). Just remember, you can always add more spice or sauce but if you over spice or drench your wings, there's no going back.
4 tbsp vegan butter (I used Melt brand)
2 tbsp hot sauce (I used a local sauce - Co-op Sauce Chickachickacherry Bomb)
Pre-heat air-fryer (or set oven on convection roast) at 475 degrees F.
Prepare for your cauliflower by setting a cooling rack inside of a jelly roll pan (lipped baking sheet). Spray lightly with cooking spray (optional, but it helps the cauliflower not stick).
Whisk all dry ingredients (flour through ground mustard) in a shallow dish till combined.
Whisk oat milk, vinegar and maple syrup in a second shallow dish till combined.
Dredge cauliflower pieces into the wet mixture and then coat thoroughly in the dry mixture. Shake off any excess and set cauliflower pieces on the prepared cooling rack / baking sheet.
Air fry (or convection roast) your cauliflower for ~28-30 minutes (or until browned and crisp). Note: convection roast is more likely 45-50 minutes.
Once done, remove from oven to cool slightly.
Melt your vegan butter in an extra large bowl (microwave ~30 seconds) and whisk in your hot sauce (adding more hot sauce to butter ratio if you prefer more flavor / spicier sauce).
Add all cauliflower and toss (flick your wrists sharply up and then forward/under to catch the cauliflower) to coat all pieces well.
Serve immediately with carrot stick, celery and your favorite plant-based dip or use in buffalo wraps drizzled with cooling plant-based mayo and filled with crunchy veggies. Oh, and don't forget the ice cold melon!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie