Lowly cauliflower is not so lowly anymore.
High in B-vitamins, a similar nutrient called choline, vitamin C and other antioxidants and phytonutrients, along with fiber and protein. Cauliflower offers anti-inflammatory and cancer protection properties, gut health and brain development, among other things.
Still, I suspect that does not entirely account for the recent cauli-craze. I am willing to bet that it is cauliflower’s low calorie and carb count that is responsible for elevating this cruciferous vegetable to celebrity status. It certainly isn’t the aroma, at least not while cooking.
Whether you are plant-based or Paleo—or eschew labels but wouldn’t mind cutting a few calories and carbs—cauliflower plays nicely with others, working well as a substitute for higher carb and calorie foods like potatoes and rice. Widely available as heads, florets, or the wildly popular riced version, cauliflower has a terrific texture whether raw or cooked.
But let’s be honest: it simply does not taste like rice, no matter how much soy sauce you add. On the other hand, bathed in a cornstarch-and-water slurry before being deep fried, drained well, and tossed in Buffalo or sweet chili sauce, it tastes especially delicious for the occasional splurge. But then, maybe anything would.
Following are three recipes I developed to showcase the queen of the crucifers: gnocchi; spoonbread, which was a bit of a delicious accident, as I was attempting to make bread; and “cheese” sauce, an adaptation of a recipe from a well-known plant-based blogger. Making cheese out of cauliflower may not seem quite so counterintuitive if you know that the edible white fleshy part of the vegetable is sometimes referred to as “curd.”
However, if you aren’t much of a cook, just microwave some florets in the bag and process with a modest amount of dairy/non-dairy butter and milk, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and—do not even think about leaving these ingredients out—roasted garlic and lemon zest.
Betsy DiJulio is an award-winning art teacher, practicing artist, vegan cook, and author of The Blooming Platter: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.
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On Instagram: @bloomingplatter
Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
I’m quite sure there little that would not be improved with some of this addicting sauce, perfect in taste and texture. And so easy to boot. It is delicious for dipping, drizzling, or stirring into casseroles and fillings. Or…eaten with a spoon.
4 cups cauliflower florets
4 cups lightly salted water
Juice of ½ medium-large lemon
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons yellow miso paste
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
In a large bowl, combine cauliflower and water. Microwave for about 10 to 15 minutes or until very tender. Alternatively, you may simmer, partially covered, in a large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Transfer cauliflower and about a half cup of the water into the bowl of food processor. Save remaining water. Process until cauliflower forms a thick paste. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl of the processor and process until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer to a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat until desired consistency is reached, adding remaining water a half cup or so at a time. Serve immediately as you would any cheese sauce or reheat as needed. Yeilds approximately 4 cups.
I think I have perfected the lightest, tastiest and most lovely textured gnocchi with only ¼ cup flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. All the rest is pureed cauli and spices.
8 ounces riced, cooked cauliflower, pureed in food processor, and chilled until cold (I steam in bag in microwave), about 3/4 cup
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil or nonstick spray
Bring a medium saucepan filled with salted water to a simmer. Meanwhile, blend all ingredients, except olive oil, together with a fork in medium bowl and refrigerate several hours or overnight until well chilled. On cutting board, roll one-fourth of dough at a time into a rope, ¾-inch in diameter. Slice into 1-inch pieces for a total of 12 to 14. Add to simmering water and cook until gnocchi float. While gnocchi cook, heat olive oil or nonstick spray in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon to skillet and cook a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Serve as desired, 6 to 7 gnocchi per person. I like to place the gnocchi over a bed of lightly sauteed baby spinach with dabs of fruit chutney, berries, pistachios or pine nuts, and a few grates of vegan mozzarella, or serve with sauteed fresh green peas, diced shallot, sliced garlic, white wine, and lemon zest. Yields 2 servings.
If cornbread and a souffle had a love child, it would be spoonbread. My version is low calorie–even with rich plant-based butter—and includes no corn, but somehow has a slightly corny taste. Regardless, it is luscious. You can leave out the garlic and onion powders and serve with maple syrup for breakfast or brunch.
1 pound frozen riced cauliflower, cooked (I use the steam-in-bag type)
1 cup plain nondairy milk (I use unsweetened soy)
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon vegetable-based oil
⅓ cup coconut flour (lends a slightly sweet flavor)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter (I use Miyoko’s)
Optional garnish: escabeche (I enjoy mine with cherry tomato halves, cucumber, peppers, onion, garlic, star anise, and fresh thyme)
Grease an 8″ souffle dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients, except butter, in large food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to prepared dish, drizzle with butter, and bake for 45 minutes for a soft consistency or 50 for a slightly firmer consistency. The dish is spoonable while warm and sliceable once cooled. Yields 4 servings.