These Sweet-Tangy Cauliflower Bites Are the Perfect Crowd-Pleasing Snack

In her cookbook ‘Love to Eat,’ food blogger Nicole Keshishian Modic wants you to eat what makes you feel good.

Sweet & Sour Crunchy Cauliflower Bites
Sweet & Sour Crunchy Cauliflower Bites | Photo by Eva Kolenko
Sweet & Sour Crunchy Cauliflower Bites | Photo by Eva Kolenko

With the constant promotion of diet hacks and prioritization of appearance over how we feel, many of us have a fraught relationship with food. As much as food can symbolize cultural preservation and resilience, it can be weaponized, too. That is precisely why food blogger Nicole Keshishian Modic wrote her cookbook Love to Eat.

In her book, Modic encourages people to understand that food is not the enemy. Indeed, it’s this reminder that helped her to heal from her decade-long eating disorder.

“There’s pressure on women to be perfectly put together, and groomed, and dressed decked out to the nines all the time; we can’t have struggles,” says Modic, who runs the food blog Kale Junkie.

Having grown up in a traditional Armenian household in Los Angeles, Modic was surrounded by fad diets and a constant need to be flawless and successful. When she struggled with bullying and isolation as a teenager, she turned to food for solace. What started as a hidden shoebox full of stockpiled candies under her bed led to frequent binges, which culminated in a trip to Weight Watchers with her mother. It was there that Modic learned how to manipulate food into something harmful, and thus her eating disorder commenced.

“We feel like we have to restrict ourselves and certain food groups, like carbs, butter, and dairy, all of these things that were taught to us over the years that we can’t eat,” she says.

Modic spent a majority of her life living under a microscope of her own making. She kept a meticulous food diary, which fed her obsession with and fear of gaining weight. She carried the secret of her eating disorder for years. One day, her husband discovered her binging on a loaf of Ezekiel bread. It was then, finally, that she was able to open up about her eating disorder, and for the first time in years, she felt relief.

During her recovery, she stopped analyzing everything she ate and instead embraced cooking, which led her to start experimenting in the kitchen and developing recipes that made her feel good and content, like her Miso-Tahini Baked Oatmeal, which is now featured in her cookbook.

Love to Eat isn’t only a collection of recipes, but also a book of healing, liberation, and self-love. Following her belief in intuitive eating, Modic doesn’t organize the cookbook by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, the book features chapters that encourage readers to focus on how their body feels, ranging from titles like “Comfort Tastes Good” and “Know Yourself.”

“What your body might crave for breakfast one day is something that you might want for dinner the next day, and that’s okay. Our bodies and our daily needs are always changing.” Modic says. “Just because you grew up a certain way with these prescribed food rules, remember you’re your own person, and you can break that pattern anytime and give your body the nutrients that it needs at any time.”

One of Modic’s favorite recipes in her cookbook is her Sweet & Sour Crunchy Cauliflower Bites, under the “Eat the Damn Kale” section. Doused in soy sauce and covered in sesame seeds and tortilla chips for a satisfying crunch, the bites are ideal for any mood or occasion, whether you’re looking to impress your friends or are snacking on your own.

“This is for people who want to eat more veggies but they don’t want to sacrifice taste,” Modic says. “‘I’m on a mission to convince people that they’re going to love cauliflower and veggies when they eat these.”

Sweet & Sour Crunchy Cauliflower Bites

• 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
• ¾ cup gluten-free all-purpose or regular all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot flour or cornstarch
• ¾ cup nondairy milk of your choice, plus more as needed
• ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
• ½ teaspoon sea salt
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into even-size florets

• ⅓ cup coconut sugar
• ¼ cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
• ¼ cup juice from a can of pineapple chunks
• 1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot flour or cornstarch
• 1 garlic clove, mashed
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger, plus more as needed
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more as needed (optional)
• 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
• Chopped scallions for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone sheet, parchment paper, or greased aluminum foil.
2. To prepare the cauliflower: Place the crushed tortilla chips in a shallow bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, tapioca flour, milk, pepper, salt, and garlic powder, making sure there are no clumps. If the batter is too thick, thin it with some more milk. Toss the cauliflower florets in the batter mixture (you can add them all at once), using a spatula or spoon to coat.
3. Dip the cauliflower piece by piece in the bowl with the crushed chips to coat completely, then place them on the prepared baking sheet one at a time, giving each bite enough space to bake. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.
4. To make the sauce: While the cauliflower is baking, in a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. Taste and add additional seasonings if needed.
5. To finish, dip the bites into the sweet and sour mixture and return them to the baking sheet. Bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, sprinkle the bites with the scallions, and serve immediately.

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Kelsey Allen is an editorial assistant at Thrillist.