Cauliflowers are starting to come into season and small pretty heads are showing up in farmers markets. They will only grow bigger and more plentiful and should take us well into late fall. A very versatile vegetable to be sure, and can be an excellent vehicle for an assortment of flavors and textures. But cauliflower also has the ability to give structure and mouth feel to folks who want the satisfaction that higher carb produce, grains and baked items provide without the extra carbs.
For more recipes that use cauliflower as a low carb substitute for our favorite carb-laden dishes, see NYC Foodscape’s January 2015 post, “Use Savory Cauliflower to Make Post-Holiday Low-Carb Resolutions More Satisfying.”
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. And it provides a bit of WOW factor, not to mention a delicious base for the rich leek and mushroom filling
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are ground like meal (Or shred with a cheese grater using fine grate).
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.
In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, cheeses, minced garlic, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
Press mixture evenly into bottom and sides of a greased tart pan or pie dish.
Bake the tart shell for 20-25 minutes or until the crust begins to brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, resIMG_9285erve 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. If using goat cheese, place goat on top before baking
7. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Serve immediately or at room temperature.