Let’s go veggie today, with these amazing pita pockets filled with roasted lemon cauliflower, halloumi cheese, and a delicious vegan aioli made with a secret ingredient (note that only the aioli is vegan here).
Let me tell you straight away what’s amazing in this recipe: the veggie part! I know, I know, now I see you thinking “Cauliflower, really?!? Are you kidding me?”. No I’m not, and I will tell you why. The way cauliflowers are cooked in this recipe totally bring them to the next level, and if you never really liked cauliflower before, there is a chance it might change soon!
Here they are actually roasted in the oven together with lemons. Just halve your lemons and lay them face down (don’t squeeze them) on the baking sheet together with the cauliflower florets drizzled with olive oil. Roast for about 40 minutes, removing the lemons half way of the cooking at the same time you stir the cauliflower florets to allow them roast on all their sides.
At this point, we can say the recipe is done. You already did the job, the rest is a piece of cake! All you need to do now is to grill the halloumi cheese on both sides while the oven is still warm, then assemble the pita pocket, filling them with cauliflower florets, halloumi cheese, aoili, fresh cilantro, and drizzle the roasted lemon on top. That’s it. Easy, right?
I had never thought that cauliflowers and roasted lemons would be so good together, until I actually tried them in a similar pita bread served for lunch in a little restaurant I love in Chicago (The Allis). The dish totally blew my mind and it gave me the idea of today’s recipe. A simple sandwich, that tastes amazing and is very fulfilling, in a way that it kind of make you forget that it’s all about veggies inside! Since then, I made the recipe many times as it’s perfect when you don’t feel the energy to cook, it is so simple to make!
The other magic part about this pita sandwich is the vegan aioli. I could have made a classic aioli instead of a vegan one here, since the sandwich involve halloumi cheese anyway, but I thought that some vegan people might enjoy the recipe without the halloumi (and maybe even replace it with a protein substitute of their choice – vegans are so creative in the kitchen!), so I figured a vegan aioli was not a bad idea after all. And also, it was all about experiments here, as this vegan aioli implies a secret ingredient to replace eggs: the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas, that we call “aquafaba”.
There is some magic about this viscous water in which chickpeas have been cooked. It kind of looks like egg whites at first, but you would never think of using it as a replacement for egg whites really. But actually you can! I did it before for a chocolate mousse and it totally blew my mind: the texture is perfect and you don’t feel the taste of chickpeas at all, it is indeed totally neutral in taste (which is not given, as it smells quite bad when still raw). Then just grab your electric mixer and start whisking. It will slowly turn white and the texture will become the exact same one as if you were doing the same with egg whites, with white stiff peeks forming when it’s done and ready to use. Just amazing!
This time I tried a little bit more adventurous experience as I wanted to include the aquafaba in my aioli to make it vegan. I read about it and understood there would be risks of failure and the aquafaba would remain liquid. So I was quite unsure about the result when starting beating. But oh, what a surprise when the aioli suddenly becomes thick, exactly as it is for a classic aioli! It is indeed much, much easier to prepare, as soon as you carefully follow the instructions below. The texture and the taste were just perfect, I think none could have guessed it was actually vegan!
To me, this roasted lemon cauliflower and halloumi pita pocket is always better when slightly warmed up in the oven or in a pan, and served with fresh cilantro. Hope you like the idea and will soon experience a perfect veggie lunch/dinner too!
- 4-6 pita bread
- 4-6 large slices of Halloumi cheese
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- Olive oil, for roasting
- 3 large lemons
- Fresh cilantro
- Salt & pepper
- 3 tbsp aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chickpeas)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp mustard
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil or any other kind of flavorless oil
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) and line two oven-proof trays (one large + one small) with parchment paper or a silpat.
- For the roasted lemon and cauliflower : lay the cauliflower florets out on the large tray and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Halve the lemons and place them face down on the sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until the cauliflower is golden. Halfway through the cooking time, toss the cauliflower and press the lemons over the cauliflower florets.
- Lay the Halloumi cheese slices on the small tray, and grill on both sides until they turn slightly golden (about 5 minutes each side).
- Prepare the vegan aioli: pour the aquafaba, vinegar, mustard and salt into a bowl and blitz for a second with an immersion blender until everything is combined. Keep the immersion blender running constantly and VERY slowly drizzle in the oil, making sure it is fully combined as you go. If you add it too fast, the whole thing will turn liquidy and isn't redeemable. If you find you're getting a bit of oil on the top, stop adding the oil and just blend for a little while before continuing. The mayonnaise will suddenly turn thick. Add in the lemon juice and garlic and mix thoroughly.
- Warm up the pita bread in the oven for a few minutes.
- Garnish each pita pocket with halloumi cheese, roasted lemon cauliflower pockets. Drizzle the vegan aioli and garnish with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!