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Tinker to find your sweet spot

Here’s the truth about sweet-and-sour dishes: One cook’s sweet is another cook’s sour. That is, the balance between the two is highly subjective.

Take lemonade, the most beloved sweet-and-sour beverage that comes to mind. I prefer it on the tart side, with barely enough sugar to take the edge off. My fiance,

Goran Kosanovic/the Washington Post
Serve simple Sweet and Sour Cauliflower over rice.

on the other hand, once said to me, “Who thinks that lemonade should taste like lemon?”

So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I made a recipe for sweet-and-sour cauliflower that called for a half-cup of sugar in the sauce – for a mere four-person serving. I went ahead with it, despite my skepticism, because there was an equal amount of apple-cider vinegar. Sure enough, when the recipe was finished I found it tilted far too much toward the sweet. I doused it with extra vinegar to compensate.

It’s an easy fix, really: I cut the sugar in half. But even more importantly, I added a step: After you whisk together that sauce, please taste. Decide where you are on the sweet-and-sour seesaw and add more sugar or more vinegar (or both) until it’s right – for you.


4 servings

¼ cup sugar, plus more as needed

½ cup apple cider vinegar, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons coconut aminos (may substitute tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup cornstarch

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets (core and stem removed)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Cooked rice, for serving (optional)

4 small red radishes, thinly sliced, for garnish

2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, for garnish

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together the sugar, vinegar, aminos, garlic powder, onion powder, ketchup and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch in a medium bowl until smooth, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Taste, and adjust the sweet/sour balance as desired by adding more sugar or vinegar.

Toss the cauliflower florets with the oil in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the remaining cornstarch and toss until thoroughly coated. Transfer the cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet; roast (middle rack) until the cauliflower starts to lightly brown on the edges, 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn and toss the cauliflower, then add the chickpeas. Roast for 5 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and chickpeas and stir to coat; return to the oven and roast until the sauce thickens and bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes.

Garnish with radishes, scallions and sesame seeds.

PER SERVING: 380 calories, 10 g protein, 59 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 24 g sugar

– Adapted from “Power Vegan Meals: High-Protein Plant-Based Recipes for a Stronger, Healthier You,” by Maya Sozer