Back in the early days when I first moved to California, my friend and coworker Patrick (our resident fermentation fan on the team) brought in a batch of escabeche for the group to try. Although this East Coast girl had never heard of escabeche before, I was absolutely hooked on first try. It’s essentially a blend of pickled cauliflower, peppers, and carrots (some also include onions and radishes) that is a very popular side to your street tacos popular here in California and Mexico. It’s sour, it’s salty, it’s crunchy – it’s everything you need to pair with a plate of fatty, meaty tacos and heavier foods.
Patrick’s version was lacto-fermented, which added a delightful funk to the cauliflower that really resonated with me. It’s a flavor that I’ve honestly been thinking about since I first had it, and finally (3 years later!), I took some time to recreate it.
You may remember that I have been recently gifted with a large sum of cauliflower in my CSA box, which is amazing considering cauliflower is my favorite vegetable and I always have some in my fridge. I roasted my monster head of cauliflower whole, and decided that another cauliflower head was destined for the escabeche. I included carrots and garlic in my ferment, along with a nice amount of dried red chili flakes for spice (I’m shockingly out of hot peppers right now, but one jalapeno would be a delightful substitution). I let mine sit and ferment for about 6 days on the counter, which produced a very active ferment that tastes amazing. Funky, garlic-y, lightly spicy, salty – all these flavors make the resulting cauliflower super crave-able, and also matched the flavor memory of Patrick’s escabeche really well!
Recipe down below, photo up top! This does require some special equipment (some form of fermentation crock or other set up) and time, but it’s a fun little project that is easy to set up with delicious results!
Escabeche (Lacto-Fermented Fermented Cauliflower)
- 1 (smaller) head of cauliflower
- 1-2 carrots (depending on size)
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp crushed red chili pepper
- Sub for sliced hot peppers, add as much as you want for more heat!
- 3 tbsp salt
- 6 cups water
- Chop the cauliflower into individual florets, and cut the bigger florets in halves or quarters to achieve a generally uniform size. Add florets to the fermentation vessel.
- Wash and peel carrots, then cut into ½ inch coins. Add carrots to the fermentation crock.
- Note – the cauliflower will take up a lot of space, so you might need to remove a few florets to make room for more carrots.
- Smash and peel garlic, and add to the fermentation vessel. Add the red chili pepper flakes to the fermentation vessel as well.
- In a separate container, combine water and salt, and mix until the salt is thoroughly dissolved in the water. Once dissolved, fill the fermentation vessel up to the top with the salted water. You will probably have excess salted water, if so, discard extra.
- Add the fermentation weight on top of the veggies, being sure everything is fully submerged in the brine, and assemble the rest of your fermentation vessel.
- Allow to ferment for 5-7 days, until bubbles are appearing in the brine.
- After fermentation, transfer veggies and brine to a large container or jar and store in the fridge to enjoy when desired.