Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Versatile cauliflower adds nutrition, cuts calories in mac & cheese; can sub for mashed potato

A few days ago I had a guest visiting and I made dinner as best as I could in my temporary apartment in uptown New York City. The menu included two small, beautiful grass-fed sirloin steaks, seared then broiled to mid-rare; baked acorn squash with honey and olive oil glaze; salad of field greens, pear and local blue cheese; and, mashed cauliflower.

Yes, there were no potatoes. After boiling the cauliflower until soft, I put it in the blender with a little milk, salt and pepper. I added more as the mixture approached a mashed consistency so that there would be some small but noticeable chunks of cauliflower. Then I popped the mixture into the oven with a little Vermont cheddar on top. Who needs potatoes when you can make something like this? My version was not low-calorie or low-fat, but you could easily reduce the milk or cheese and still have a pretty nice side dish.

For an even more creative way to use cauliflower in otherwise gluttonous dishes, try this recipe from Mark Bittman:

Creamy Cauliflower Mac

Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes

Vegetables are comfort food too, as proved by this recipe, which is sure to please anyone who loves mac-and-cheese. The "secret" is cauliflower's miraculous ability to turn creamy when puréed. If you don't want to wash out a blender or food processor (and don't mind some lumps), use a potato masher to purée the cauliflower in the same pot you cooked it in.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish 
2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water 
2 bay leaves 
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces 
8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat 
1⁄2 cup grated cheese (like sharp cheddar, Gruyère, or Emmental or a combination) 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste 
1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste 
Black pepper 
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1⁄2 cup or more bread crumbs, preferably whole grain and homemade, optional

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.

2. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in the prepared baking dish.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, the cheese, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. (You may have to work in batches.) If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish. (You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.)

4. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and bread crumbs if you're using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe by Mark Bittman, published in The Food Matters Cookbook. Used with permission. For more information, visit


This post was originally published on Doug Levy's other blog,



Posted via email from Doug's posterous

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