Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese

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Will Ottolenghi ever stop writing cookbooks?!! That’s rhetorical, of course. I certainly hope he continues, because I was enamored with the four I already owned, before I just had to buy Simple, his most recent, published in 2018. And I’m so happy I did.

I’ve already made many recipes from Simple. It’s that good. And, it doesn’t seem like a repeat of Jerusalem, Plenty and so forth. In fact, I’m not sure I spotted pomegranate seeds in Simple’s food photos!

One extremely intriguing recipe is called mustardy cauliflower cheese. I’ve seen cauliflower cheese recipes before, meh, but when Ottolenghi has one, I pay attention!

From Ottolenghi: This is the ultimate comfort dish, looking for a roast chicken, some sausages, or a pan-fried steak.

Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese
Serves 4
Printable recipe below

1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 green chilies, seeded, finely diced
3/4 teaspoons black mustard seeds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 1/4 ounces aged cheddar, coarsely grated
Salt
1/3 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Steam the cauliflower over boiling water for 5 minutes, until just softening. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the butter into a 9” round casserole pan or oven-proof dish and place over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes, until soft and golden.

Add the cumin, curry powder, mustard powder and chiles and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the mustard seeds, cook for 1 minute, then pour in the cream.

Add 1 1/4 cups of cheddar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens.

Add the cauliflower, stir gently, and simmer for 1 minute before removing from the heat.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs and parsley. Mix, then sprinkle over the cauliflower.

Bake for 8 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cauliflower is hot. Turn the broiler to high and keep the pan underneath for 4 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp.

Keep an eye on it so that it does not burn.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little – just for 5 minutes or so – before serving.

You can imagine what this cauliflower smells like, with the cumin, mustard, and curry spices!

Roast chicken would certainly be the perfect accompaniment. Or sausages.

Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice

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I’m pretty sure you all know that I’m not fond of food trends. I’ve probably mentioned this numerous times. So if something becomes popular and trendy, I completely ignore it.

Sure, I’m old(er) and old-fashioned, but it’s just my personality. I never wore white metallic lipstick in the 60’s, either.

The dumb thing is, sometimes when you’re too stubborn, you can really miss out. Like the bowl trend. Is there one on my blog? No! But they do look lovely.

And in the 80’s, when I really started cooking, I looked down my nose at both sun-dried tomatoes and basil pesto because they were everywhere. I have no idea how many years I lost not indulging in those two fabulous foods. I’ll never forgive myself for that.

Which leads me to… cauliflower rice. Nope.

Then, thanks to the lovely Serena from her blog, Domesticate Me, I saw a recipe that I couldn’t ignore. It was a cauliflower and carrot rice with almonds and golden raisins.

If you don’t know Serena, you must check her blog out and her just-published cookbook, The Dude Diet.

She’s a doll, she’s funny, and she swears. Oh, and she’s a professionally-trained chef. What’s not to love?!! But also, and this is important to me, if I comment, she responds to my comment.

Now this may seem a bit silly, but I will stop following blogs if the authors have no time for me. It’s not that I’m so great, it’s because the best thing about blogging in my four-plus years of doing so, is the interaction. It’s like this virtual, giant group of foodie friends that you get to know around the world.

Plus, on some of those fancy blogs, you can tell that the author responds to nobody’s comment. They’re just too important and busy. I just don’t get that.

Serena has been on her book tour around the U.S., but she is still responding to comments. And I know how much time it takes, because I follow many blogs. It’s just part of the dedication one should have to one’s blog. And Serena’s blog is also one of those fancy ones!

I promised Serena that I would make her “rice” dish because it really sounded lovely. She assured me it would not disappoint.

Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice
Adapted slightly from Domesticate Me!

1 medium head cauliflower, florets only, about 1 lb. 6 ounces
Baby carrots, 8 ounces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped parsley leaves
½ cup golden raisins (I used figs)
½ cup chopped raw almonds (I used hazelnuts)
Lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Add about half of the cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until a “rice” forms. Place in a large bowl, then process the remaining cauliflower.

Process the carrots the same way, and add the riced carrots to the cauliflower.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and carrot rice, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, and a good pinch of salt.

Cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice is just tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.


Fold in the parsley, dried fruits, and toasted nuts. Taste, and add salt if necessary.


I served this “rice” with some grilled chicken that was marinated in a garlic-parsley marinade.

What’s really fun is changing up the dried fruits and nuts according to your taste and the season. Imagine this dish with dried cranberries and pistachios in December!

Dried figs and hazelnuts are really more autumnal, but I had them on hand and I love them.

Okay, so am I glad I finally tried cauliflower rice? Of course! But I really liked what Serena did with the dish, adding carrots, seasoning, and the fruits and nuts. I can also see this as a salad with a vinaigrette, maybe with some orzo, or barley, or just like it is.

Serena’s actual name for this dish is Cauliflower and Carrot Golden “Rice,” and she serves it in a bowl, but it’s okay, cause I like her. I put mine on a plate. Maybe I can start a plate trend?!!

Baked Cauliflower Risotto

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There is a lovely book written by a food blogger, Yvette van Boven, called “Home-Made Winter.” Photographs are by Oof Verschuren. The book was published in 2012.

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Not surprisingly, they also published “Home-Made Summer” together in 2013, which I also own.

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The whole idea of the summer and winter cookbooks really swept me off my feet, because I am so seasonally oriented. This isn’t just with the case of food. I change everything with the seasons, from my home decor to the lipstick I wear. And I’m not talking holidays. I’m talking seasons. I take them very seriously.

The Winter cookbook is inspired mainly by Yvette’s native land of Ireland; her summer book inspired by her love of adopted France. The recipes run the gamut from breakfast through dessert, plus drinks. There are also some holiday dishes included. The photos are a real delight, especially the ones featuring Yvette herself. She definitely doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Now, you may wonder why I chose this recipe out of Home Made Winter? There are two reasons.

First of all, even though it’s March, spring has not sprung where I live. I’m not running around outside in shorts planting tomato seedlings, and my strawberry plants don’t even look perky. It’s cold.

Secondly, I’ve never baked a risotto, so I decided this was a good time to start!

This recipe is probably not representative of the recipes in Ms. van Boven’s book, but it jumped out at me, not just because the risotto is baked, but because it includes cauliflower and Gruyere.

Baked Risotto with Cauliflower and Gruyere
adapted from Home Made Winter

1 small head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Sauvignon Blanc
2 1/4 cups strong-flavored chicken broth
8 ounces grated Gruyere, or Fontina or even a white cheddar
Bread Crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the cauliflower by removing the core. I usually make about 5 slices into the center of the cauliflower, slicing inward, until it comes out on its own.
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Remove excess leaves, then break up the cauliflower into florets.

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Steam the florets until they’re just tender, about 10 minutes over boiling water. Let cool, then place them on the cutting board and chop them coarsely.
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Heat a 12″ cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them for a few minutes.
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Then stir in the garlic and saute for barely a half of a minute.
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Weigh out the rice. I used arborio, but any risotto rice would work in its place.
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Pour the rice into the onion-garlic mixture.
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Stir well for about one minute. All of the grains of rice should be glistening.
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Then pour in all of the liquid.
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Add the chopped cauliflower.
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Add the grated cheese.
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Bring the liquid to a boil, then carefully place the skillet in the oven. Top with a tight fitting lid, and bake for 25 minutes.

It will look like this when it’s fully baked. Individual oven-proof dishes would have been very pretty for serving purposes, but it would have really been challenging to divide everything equally, when the rice to liquid ratio needs to be correct.

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I actually left the lid on the skillet for another 15 minutes, to insure that the rice was fully cooked. Then I removed the lid from the skillet.

The original recipe called for a large amount of bread crumbs, in my opinion. I just used a couple of tablespoons of my home-made bread crumbs to add some texture. If desired, the breadcrumbs can be mixed with dried herbs, or even fresh parsley, before being sprinkled. I left things plain for the purpose of testing my first baked risotto.
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At this point, the skillet can be placed under the broiler for browning purposes, but I left it as is. Truth be told, I got out my little butane torch for this purpose. It wasn’t working well so I refilled it. I thought I waited long enough, but somehow some butane leaked and the whole thing caught on fire. I screamed and did what any intelligent person would do and threw it on the floor, nearly missing my dog. Fortunately, the flames retarded quickly. It’s good I have a non-flammable floor. But I was more worried about my very inquisitive dog, as well as my one hand that’s now as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Note to self: make sure to ask for a new butane torch for Christmas.

To serve, I sliced a wedge of the baked risotto because I thought it would be pretty, but there just isn’t enough cheese throughout the risotto to keep things stuck together.
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Nonetheless, I served the wedge alongside a fresh tomato salad.
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I must say it was delicious. It helps if you love cauliflower, of course.
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verdict: The top of the baked risotto looks a bit anemic – I think I probably should have taken the time to brown the top. But the looks of it doesn’t reflect the full flavors. However, I’m not really sure what purpose the arborio rice served. I think it could have been any white rice, or even brown rice, given a longer cooking time. But it was fun, and as a side dish it went very well on subsequent days with both steak and chicken. I would call it a rice-cauliflower gratin.

If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that the author doesn’t go into many details, such as pan dimensions, or number of servings. So novice cooks might be a bit challenged. If you want to check out Yvette’s blog first, here it is. She’s adorable, and has published other books than these as well.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

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Sometimes I end up with too many vegetables in my refrigerator. And when that happens, I make soup.

Case in point? I happened to have a lovely head of cauliflower that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I cooked it and made it into a creamy soup. Cauliflower has a lovely flavor that is so good on its own. But I couldn’t stop there with just a creamy cauliflower soup. I wanted it spicy.

So I reached for my handy dandy ancho chile paste. Every so often I make a large batch of it and store it in jars in the freezer. That way I always have some to use in recipes, like this soup. Immediately the soup became something altogether different – flavored with layers of chile peppers and lovely Southwestern spices. Fabulous. And so easy.

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This is what I did, and you can do it, too!

Spicy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets
1 leek, cleaned, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Broth of choice, I used chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk, or any non-dairy substitute
3 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
2 teaspoon ground cumin

Place the cauliflower, leek, celery, and onion in a large stockpot, and cover with water or broth. I use chicken broth powder to make my chicken broth, so I opted to add the powder at the point when I blended the soup. If you use commercial chicken broth, that works just the same.
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Bring everything to a boil, cover the pot, and then simmer until the cauliflower is fully cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
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Place the cooked vegetables in a blender jar, and only add a little of the liquid. You can always add more later if you need to thin the soup.
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Add the evaporated milk. Depending on the size of your blender jar, you might have to blend this soup in two batches, so use about half of the vegetables and half of the evaporated milk for each batch. At this point I also added my chicken broth powder.
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Blend until smooth. Add the ancho chile paste and cumin powder, blend, and taste. You might want salt. If you do, start with just 1 /2 teaspoon. If you make the soup too salty, there’s no turning back!

I needed to add a little more ancho chile paste when I added the cumin, which is why you see more of it. It totaled aobut 3 tablespoons but if you’re unsure of how much to use, start out with just 1 tablespoon. Of course, it also depends how much soup you’re making. Just taste taste taste! It’s your soup, so make it according to your taste!
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Serve the soup hot. I added just a little grated Parmesan for fun.
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Some queso blanco or just plain goat cheese would also be fabulous with this soup.
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Sure, it’s easy to make a cream of cauliflower soup. But go a little crazy for a change! Add some ancho chile paste and spice things up. When I tasted the soup I realized I’d made the chile paste with some chipotle peppers as well as ancho chile peppers. They really added something to this soup.

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Cauliflower Gratin

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Maybe I should take a break making gratins for a while. My last gratin didn’t come out well, the Potato and Salmon one, and this one was sort of a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, they both tasted good. They just didn’t cook properly. And I even followed the directions for both, which I don’t often do.

The funny thing is, the recipe I followed for the cauliflower gratin was out of Bobby Flay’s book, Bar Americain. I bought it because I’ve been to Bar Americain during a trip to New York City with my daughter. She needed to go for an interview, and so of course I tagged along for moral and dining support.

We sadly went to Bar Americain only for drinks, because our dinner reservations that night were at Le Bernardin (incredible!).

But it’s a very large and beautiful restaurant. It reminded me of some of Stephen Pyles’ restaurants – very chic, in a casual way. After seeing the menu, I knew I wanted the cookbook.

Bobby Flay is extremely popular in the U.S. It seems like he’s been around forever, yet he still looks like a man-child! He must have 30 cooking or food-related shows on tv, because it seems he’s always on when I pass through the food channels.

My favorite is still an early show, when he barbecued everything outside on his patio with a view of downtown NYC in the background. He barbecued meats, vegetables, limes for the margaritas, because he always made a pitcher of something alcoholic, and then he’d barbecue peaches for a dessert. He seems nice and easygoing as a person.

But back to this recipe, I’m not sure what went wrong. But here it is as I made it, and anyone who has actually gone to culinary school can perhaps figure out what the problem was.

Cauliflower Gratin

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2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
3 cups whole milk, or more if needed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets, each floret cut into 2 or 3 pieces
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 10-inch baking dish.

Pour the milk into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute; do not let the mixture brown.

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Slowly whisk in the milk, raise the heat to high, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Monterey Jack, half of the goat cheese, and half of the Parmesan cheese.

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Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture seems too thick, thin with a little extra milk.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl, add the cauliflower, and stir well to combine.

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Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remainging goat cheese and Parmesan.

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Slip a rimmed baking sheet underneath and bake until the cauliflower is tender and the top is bubbly and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Garnish with chopped parsley.

Now the only thing I did differently, was because I was too lazy to go into my pantry. My pantry is so full of food stuffs, that it’s difficult even to go get flour. So I substituted Wondra flour for regular flour when I made the roux. I added the warm milk and the sauce looked beautiful, but when I added the cheeses, the sauce curdled. I’ve never seen anything like it. So when the gratin cooked, it become watery. I personally think there should have been some cream in the recipe instead of milk, but I still don’t understand the curdling. Anybody?

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