A couple weeks ago in the FeedfeedBrooklyn test kitchen, our Community Manager, Sahara, was testing a recipe from Lauren of @rabbitandwolves for Vegan Bang Bang Broccoli Bites. As Food Editor and Chief of Quality Control/Taste Testing Affairs here at Feedfeed, I had no option but to sample a few while she was testing the recipe. All it took was one bite and I was completely hooked. In that very moment, I had a fairly obvious yet extremely important epiphany: raw veggies are good, roasted veggies are better, and breaded-and-fried veggies are simply in a league of their own.
Instead of broccoli, I decided to give cauliflower a moment in the limelight. As I was mulling over what kinds of flavors I wanted to add to the breading mixture, I started to think of my favorite seasonings for chicken wings (I am clearly not a vegan, FYI). Lemon pepper came to mind and I knew that I was destined to add loads of fresh lemon zest and freshly cracked pepper to the breadcrumb situation. When it comes to a dipping sauce, it’s common knowledge that ranch is the superior dressing, so I decided to bring everything together with a sweet tahini ranch that’s bursting with fresh herbs.
As I was thinking about how to bring this lemon pepper vision to life, I had another brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea. As a person who has a serious crush on the airfryer (it’s true and I’m not ashamed to admit it), I sent a batch of these into our trusted airfryer to see how they’d turn out. The result? Delicious. I’ll admit, it’s pretty unfair to taste something that’s been fried in an airfryer right after eating it’s counterpart that was just pulled from a pool of hot, bubbling oil, but I can confirm that this recipe is airfryer approved.
Using almond milk and lemon juice as a buttermilk substitute might seem mildly sacrilegious to anyone that enjoys deep-fried foods, but I can assure you that it certainly does the trick. That said, if keeping these bites vegan is not a priority, then using regular buttermilk instead is totally fine. The bottom line, is that it’s basically impossible to eat just one of these crunchy poppers. They're about to become your new favorite fried snack.
For the Cauliflower Bites
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Make the Cauliflower Bites
In a small bowl, whisk almond milk and juice of 2 lemons. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a separate small bowl, combine flour and cayenne. Set aside.
In a third small bowl, combine panko, breadcrumbs, zest of 2 lemons, black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.
Dredge each cauliflower floret in the almond milk mixture, then flour mixture (tapping off any excess flour), then return to almond milk mixture again and finish in breadcrumb mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet and let florets chill uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sweet tahini ranch: In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients and 2 tablespoons cold water (or more, depending on desired consistency). Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Heat 2-inches oil in a large Dutch oven until a thermometer submerged in oil registers 350°F. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, add breaded florets to oil. Cook until florets are browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. The temperature of the oil should not fall below 325°F. Remove florets from oil with a fine wire mesh ladle; drain in a single layer on paper towels. Season with salt and serve with sweet tahini ranch immediately.