Moving to Dallas, Texas was one of top ten experiences I had up until I was in my twenties. I know, I know, I mention it often on many of my posts, and I have to, because after all, it was a land where I experienced Tex-Mex, great dim sum, Vietnamese pho, and my first banh mi. In a nutshell, it opened my world to great ethnic comfort food, and some really great long-lasting friends.
I lived in East Dallas for the most part of my stay in Texas, and I am glad I did. It was surrounded by diversity, arts, and everything in between. My friend Adam and I lived in an apartment complex for some time, and it was embedded in a fairly large Hispanic district. We were somewhat on the edge of the troubled area of town, but after all, we were probably all troubled at the time, trying to figure out where we belonged in life, and if we were on the right track in our career.
With that said, there was a restaurant that was across the street, and a true Mexican restaurant. I say that only because the wait staff spoke no English, and the menu was something out of this world. I do not recall a salsa on the table, like you would expect in most Americanized-Mexican restaurants (of which I can no longer tolerate), but I do remember a killer carrot, jalapeno, and cauliflower salad served at the table. At first I was hesitant to even try the stuff. I mean, come on, I expect baskets of chips and salsa when I go to a “Mexican” restaurant. So this was a surprise, and a great one at that, so much that I would go there by myself, make attempts at speaking their language (took nine years of Spanish), and loving this small bowl of pickled vegetables.
- 6 carrots, skin removed, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 6 cloves of garlic, rough chop
- 4 fresh jalapeno peppers, stem removed, sliced 1/2 thick
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 3/4 cup of water
- 7 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp canola oil
Begin by preparing all of your ingredients as this goes fairly quickly. Heat a large skillet on medium, to high heat. Toss in the carrots, jalapenos, garlic, and cauliflower. Stir and cook for about 6 minutes. Add in the salt, pepper, vinegar, and water, and continue to cook, reducing the heat just a bit, for about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add in the bay leaves, mix, and let cool.
Add everything into a bowl, or Tupperware dish, and let this sit overnight, or up to several weeks. When you are ready to serve, spoon out the mixture, removing the bay leaves, and add as a side. Fork the vegetables and eat them. Add a piece or two to a chip. Mix in your rice. You figure it out, because instead of asking for a second basket of chips, you might ask for a refreshing and delicious bowl of veggies. The coolness, and the pickling of the vegetables will really surprise folks at the table, and let them know that there is more to be served than the regular chips and salsa.