Swapping potatoes for cauliflower

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One of the great things about Facebook is when someone raves about a recipe they’ve recently tried and loved. This happened last week with one of my friends who tried mashed cauliflower. I reached out to her and she gave me the link. Since I don’t have much experience with cauliflower or how to use it creatively, this seemed like a great, simple recipe to try.

I thought using cauliflower instead of potatoes wouldn’t be able to compare to mashed potatoes. I was wrong. Not only did boiling the cauliflower take a lot less time to boil than potatoes would, but the entire recipe took less than 15 minutes. Just make sure you get the cauliflower as dry as possible after taking it out of the boiling water. My friend said she put the cauliflower in a tea towel and wrung it out.

This is a great addition to any meal where you’re short on time.

Ingredients
1 medium head cauliflower
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, sour cream, and pepper until almost smooth.

Garnish with chives, and serve.

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Just add cheese sauce for a cauliflower gratin

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Cauliflower doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own. When I’ve made it in the past, I’ve either roasted it on a baking sheet or steamed it because I rarely feel inspired to do much more with it.

Last week, Curtis Stone posted a recipe for cauliflower gratin, which only required five ingredients, so I thought I’d try it. It’s basically just cauliflower and cheese — the cheese sauce is a roux with grated Gruyère thrown in.

What I most liked about this recipe was that the cauliflower still had texture and flavor — it wasn’t overpowered by the sauce, though it made a lot of sauce for just one head of cauliflower. I could have easily added another half of a head of cauliflower and still had an abundance of sauce. But, this is another nice, simple way to do something more interesting with cauliflower.

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

While the water is heating up, break up the cauliflower into medium to small florets. Cook the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just barely tender but still has a bit of bite. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl of ice water and cool completely. Remove the cauliflower from the ice water and allow to dry completely.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Whisk in the flour to blend well. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes, making sure the mixture doesn’t take on any color. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the flour taste is gone, stirring often and making sure the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, whisking until melted and smooth. If the sauce thickens too much, thin it out with a little more milk. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the cauliflower in an ovenproof dish and drizzle the sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the cauliflower and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown.

Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving.

Giving cauliflower a second chance

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Cauliflower has never been at the top of my list of preferred vegetables. I’ve always seen it as a bland version of broccoli, probably because I never knew what to do with it.

This recipe in Bon Appetít made me want to give it another chance. Cheese makes a lot of things taste better, and this recipe is no exception. While the original recipe didn’t specify what kind of Parmesan to use, choose a harder Parmesan, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, for the best result. Soft Parmesans will just turn gummy, but harder versions will become slightly crispy during the baking process.

There’s a lot to like about this side dish. Roasting the cauliflower brings out the vegetable’s flavor, while the Parmesan adds a little salty, crispy kick to each bite. The roasted garlic is mellow enough to eat with the cauliflower without overpowering the other flavors.

Next time I head to the grocery store, I’ll think twice about passing up the cauliflower.

Ingredientscauliflower2
1 head cauliflower
1 sliced medium onion
4 thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
White or black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut cauliflower into florets; toss on a large rimmed baking sheet with onion, thyme, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 35-40 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Toss to combine. Roast until cauliflower is tender, 10-12 minutes longer.