Cauliflower is totally my favorite vegetable. So it saddens me when it gets shunted off to play
second third fourth fifth fiddle on a crudite platter. Or frozen, thawed all watery, and doused in neon cheese sauce. As my small role in rescuing this cruciferous wonder from such ignoble fates, I present five magical, wonderful things you should do with cauliflower.
1. Roasted Cauliflower, Squash, and Carrots
This is one of the best recipes I ever came up with, thank you very much. It’s enormously easy, but it’s complex and impressive at the same time. Cut up a head of cauliflower, a butternut squash, and 5-6 carrots, so all the pieces are roughly uniform (about the size of…I don’t know…a grape). Toss the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet with a glug of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 450 for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 10 minutes, until everything is browned and softened. Mix in a tablespoon of asiago (or other nutty cheese) and a handful of toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds. It’s fantastic, with the funky cauliflower, sweet squash, and earthy carrots balancing perfectly, and the salty richness of cheese and seeds playing backup. Give it a try!
2. Macaroni & Cheese
The other day, I made Alton Brown’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe, though I gave it a few tweaks. I used half cheddar and half Manchego. I reduced the breadcrumbs on the top. And, most important of all, I tossed a couple cups of roasted cauliflower into the mix. Because why not? It was awesome, for multiple reasons. You get some vegetable into your fatty carb-bomb, so you can tell yourself that it’s healthy. You get the nutty, vegetal, slightly funky flavor of cauliflower both melding with and cutting through the rich cheesiness. You get a nice texture contrast, with the slightly firm cauliflower studded through the soft pasta. It’s like the classic cauliflower-in-cheese-sauce but, like, a zillion times better. In other words: DO IT.
3. Mashed Cauliflower
We don’t eat mashed potatoes at our house anymore. Because why would we when there’s cauliflower? We steam a head of cauliflower, then pop it in the food processor with a tiny bit of butter—or Smart Balance, if we’re feeling particularly virtuous—salt, pepper, and thyme (and a tablespoon of mascarpone or sour cream, if we have them laying around), then give it a whirl. It’s thinner than mashed potatoes, but it actually tastes like something: buttery (with almost no butter), creamy (with almost no dairy) vegetable delightfulness.
Take the leftovers from mashed cauliflower and add them to soup to give a creamy depth and add a nutritive punch to the mix. Or if you’re making a blended soup, toss a few cauliflower florets in to soften before you throw it in the blender. It won’t taste like cauliflower in any weird aggressive way, but it’ll give your soup a lot of complexity. (Especially if you’re making a soup out of squash or carrots or something pretty sweet.) Note: Cauliflower plays especially well in soups with turmeric, so try out a turmeric-spiced carrot and cauliflower soup.
5. Raw, with a Twist
Sure, cauliflower is great for a crudite spread. Cut the head up right, and you have a million florets engineered for dipping in hummus, creamy dips, and more. But try this: chop up a head of cauliflower super small, so you’re essentially dealing with cauliflower pebbles, then toss with balsamic vinaigrette, almonds, thinly sliced fennel bulb, and parsley. Or combine chopped cauliflower, scallions, golden raisins, and a harissa-spiked (possibly but not necessarily preserved) lemon dressing. Or sliced radishes, crumbled blue cheese, champagne vinegar, and olive oil. Or, or, or—the message here is that cauliflower is excellent raw, and not just on a crudite platter.
What did I miss? What’s your favorite way to use cauliflower?
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