The holidays can be wreak havoc on any healthy lifestyle, even those who try to eat as many local, clean and whole foods as possible. Yes, it’s partly the sheer excess of fat and calories, but for many, it’s the “carbs” that take the heaviest toll because our holiday meals are often filled with the very things that in quantity will put on those extra pounds: the glut of cookies, party food and high-starch side dishes that accompany holiday events. And while we all want to resolve to cleanse our systems with nothing but greens and healthy fruit for the next 30 days, the sudden detox from rich deliciousness to meager deprivation can be too much for us to sustain and we soon find ourselves longing to continue that addiction to holiday flavor and comfort to carry us through the long days of winter.
Cauliflower can pick up the slack and replace the heavy carbs in many dishes, and give us that satisfaction we often crave in winter. Cauliflower has a versatile texture that we can use to impart some of the mouth feel we look for in tart doughs, potato dishes, breaded and baked goods without worrying about white carb’s impact on our weight and health.
The catch, of course, is that overall satisfaction has to come from somewhere. That usually comes from using cheese to help create the structure that gluten or starch provides in recipes made with flour or potato, or from butter or other fat that provides unctuousness. Vegan cooks might occasionally find some satisfying substitutions for these dairy ingredients, but to be sure, these recipes aren’t intended to reduce the overall calories or use of dairy fat, but rather, on preventing our relapse back into all those extra white carbs we might have indulged on over the holidays. And as a bonus, it’s a very palatable and stealth way to get those vegetables into reluctant kids’ diets.
Here are a few recipe ideas for you to try using cauliflower next time you have a hankering for some hearty carbohydrate-laden dish but don’t want to break any resolutions or go down any more white carb rabbit holes.
For locavores, many of the ingredients, like winter friendly vegetables such as leeks, onions, scallions, and mushrooms, as well as eggs, butter, duck fat, bacon and greek style yogurt, local artisanal cheeses, and of course, locally frozen cauliflower are available at the winter farmers markets and CSAs. It is a bit too early for some of the spring vegetables and herbs, but you can make these same dishes later with even more local ingredients.
Cauliflower “couscous” is ridiculously easy. Basically, all you do is pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor into granules that look like couscous. You can freeze it raw and use it later, or steam or sauté until tender. Here’s the basic recipe:
1 medium cauliflower, chopped
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are ground like meal (Or shred with a cheese grater using fine grate).
2. Heat butter or olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, add cauliflower couscous and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.
3. Add chopped scallions, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Fluff with a fork and serve in a bowl immediately.
Note: You can adapt the recipe like you would any other couscous and add ingredients like mint, parsley or other fresh herbs, almonds, peas, raisins, garbanzo beans, fresh vegetables, curry or Moroccan spice mixes, whatever you like in your couscous.
Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary
When you really want that creamy, comforting feeling of mashed potatoes, this recipe can do the trick.
1 bulb garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets,
½ cup chicken stock (vegetarian alternative: milk or almond milk)
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Chopped rosemary leaves
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice off the top of the garlic bulb and wrap bulb in foil. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
3. Roast garlic bulb for about 35 minutes. Remove garlic cloves from bulb (they should be soft and very easy to remove from skin).
4. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.
5. In a food processor or bowl, blend together roasted garlic, cauliflower, chicken stock, yogurt, melted butter, salt and pepper until smooth and mashed potato-like. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Spread cauliflower mixture into casserole dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and chopped rosemary.
6. Bake mashed cauliflower in the preheated oven until hot and flavors blend, about 15 minutes.
Cauliflower Cheddar Biscuits
It really doesn’t get any more ridiculously decadent than these. Yes, it’s all about the cheese. But again, one thing at a time.
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 medium cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Process almonds in in food processor until it resembles ground meal. Add cauliflower until finely ground. Remove from processor to large bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Spoon into greased 12 cup muffin pan. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Cool for about 5 minutes, loosen edges and remove muffins from pan to rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Leek and Mushroom Tart with Cauliflower Crust
The secret to any good tart is in the crust and for some strange reason, cauliflower makes a wonderful tart crust. It’s surprising how dough-like the cauliflower becomes as you mix it and press it into the tart pan and how much it looks, feels and tastes like a flour crust. Below is a recipe for a Leek and Mushroom Tart, with an alternative recipe for an Asparagus and Bacon Quiche. But you can use the cauliflower crust for any of your favorite tarts, pizzas, savory pies and quiches.
For cauliflower crust:
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets, stems removed
1/2 cup shredded provolone, gouda, or gruyere
2 tablespoons parmesan or romano
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or more to taste.
For tart filling:
4 tablespoons regular olive oil, butter or duck fat
3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/2 inch slices (optional: reserve stems for quick mushroom stock–see instructions below)
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water or optional mushroom stock
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup grated gruyere or other grated cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are ground like meal (Or shred with a cheese grater using fine grate).
3. Steam or microwave cauliflower for about 4-5 minutes or until tender. Allow cauliflower to cool for at least 15 minutes. Then drain in a colander lined with a cheese cloth or kitchen towel to release any excess moisture.
4. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, cheeses, minced garlic, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
5. Press mixture evenly into bottom and sides of a greased tart pan or pie dish.
6. Bake the tart shell for 20-25 minutes or until the crust begins to brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
7. Meanwhile, if you want to make an optional quick mushroom stock, place the shiitake stems in a small sauce pan with about 6 peppercorns and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Strain and return to stove and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup.
8. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or duck fat in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add leeks, fresh thyme and nutmeg, and cook until just softened. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
9. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter or duck fat in same sauté pan over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid. Add white wine, cook until evaporated. Add leeks back to pan. Add mushroom stock or water, deglazing the pan and reduce until liquid is evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from stove. Let leek and mushroom mixture cool to room temperature.
10. Reduce oven temperature to 375. If using cheese, sprinkle half the cheese on the bottom of the prepared cauliflower crust. Spread leek and mushroom mixture on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, if desired. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until bubbly and browning.
11. Serve hot or at room temperature, with a tossed green salad.
Variation: Asparagus and Bacon Quiche
You can use the cauliflower crust for any of your favorite tarts, pizzas, savory pies and quiches. Here’s an alternative recipe for an Asparagus and Bacon Quiche using the cauliflower crust, prepared and precooked as above.
Ingredients for Quiche Filling
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat or olive oil
2 cups onions, julienned
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Optional: 3 oz goat cheese
1. Prepare the cauliflower tart crust as instructed above. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cook bacon in large sauté pan until crispy, drain onto paper towels, reserve at least 2 tablespoons bacon fat for use below, if desired.
3. Sprinkle bacon onto bottom of cooked cauliflower tart crust.
4. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add asparagus pieces, cover, and steam until crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes.
5. Using reserved bacon fat or olive oil, sauté onions until very soft, about 8 minutes, add steamed asparagus and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
6. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Fold in cooked vegetables. Pour into tart pan with bacon.
7. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Serve immediately or at room temperature.