Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2 Things To Do With Cauliflower

Cauliflower sort of gets a bad rap I think.

It's not colorful like a pretty salad, all green with spots of red, orange and yellow.
It's just sort of a big blob of white.
It's not sweet like a ripe yellow bell pepper.
It doesn't smell savory like a sauteed onion.
It actually sort of smells bad when you cook it.
It doesn't have the sugary snap of a sweet pea.
Nor does it have the pop of a fresh piece of golden yellow corn.
It's just sort of there.
But that's okay, every vegetable serves its purpose.

Last week in our CSA box I received 2 HUGE heads of cauliflower, and I have to admit I was perplexed.
Do I cut it up and serve it as part of a crudite and hope I get invited to many parties?
Do I steam it and mask it with loads of butter, salt and pepper and pray my kids will eat it?
Do I puree it and sneak it into things a la Deceptively Delicious?
I decided none of those options would do so set out in search of some new cauliflower recipes.

(half of one head of the largest cauliflowers I had ever seen)
The first is an adaptation of a Rachel Ray recipe
Cauliflower Sauce with Rotini Pasta:
1 pound Rotini pasta
1/4 cup EVOO
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and chopped
1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for all vegetarian)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2-3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese, and an extra 1/4 cup for topping
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup crushed croutons for topping

Boil pasta to al dente, drain and reserve 2 ladles of pasta water

White pasta cooks, make sauce by heating a deep skillet over medium heat with the EVOO. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes, then remove. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, then add cauliflower, chicken stock and rosemary. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. Uncover the sauce, add 1-2 ladles of the pasta water and mash the cauliflower with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the pasta, cheese and butter to the cauliflower and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with the extra shredded cheese and crushed croutons.

(Cauliflower Sauce with Rotini Pasta)

The second recipe is a side dish and is from Barefoot In Paris (it calls for Gruyere, so you know right off the bat it's got to be good!)
Cauliflower Gratin:
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5-6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 tsp of salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of an 8x11 baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is browned.

(Cauliflower Gratin)

(Whisking to make a roux)
(creamy sauce after all the goodness of the
nutmeg, pepper and cheeses have been added)

(frozen bread ends and scraps to be thrown
into the food processor to make bread crumbs)
(Do you have one of these? It has changed my life)
(Well only my life as it relates to freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lemon zest)
But seriously this $10 Microplane makes it a snap to zest up citrus peel and grate all sorts of hard cheeses. Say goodbye to that canned Parm or even the pre-grated Parm. Once you go this route you will never go back. I promise.

Both of these cauliflower recipes were fantastic, but especially the Gratin. The cheesy goodness of the sauce was a total surprise. I really didn't expect it to taste so good. And the kids loved both dishes which is saying a lot. Besides my friend Laura's kids, I don't know too many other kids that are gonna do cartwheels over eating some cauliflower.

Let me know if any of you try these dishes and what you thought.


  1. That gratin looked amazing. That is saying something cause califlower is one of the few things I really do not like to eat. But I love the Barefoot cookbooks. And I love gratins, sooo.
    Also I love that bowl with the little blue diamonds on it. Super cute!

  2. That gratin looks wonderful! Thanks for letting me know about it.

  3. Yay for cauliflower! :)
    Love the new banner too mama.

  4. I love your idea of adding bread scraps to a bag to make bread crumbs!


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