From boosting vegan creamed spinach to making faux bagels and decadent risotto, cauliflower is a shapeshifting superstar.
Even the humblest of vegetables has its time to shine, and the time for cauliflower is now. While broccoli’s wan cousin was relegated to the realm of overcooked-and-swimming-in-a-sea-of-cheese-sauce for decades, over the last little while it has become the secret weapon of choice for people looking to swap out unhealthy ingredients for more salubrious ones. Consider the following:
1. Super creamy vegan creamed spinach
Oh boy. I thought I knew how to make great dairy-free creamed spinach, but now I know that I knew nothing. J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats uses a cauliflower puree – he basically turns it into a perfect béchamel – with other simple, clever ingredients and the result is better than creamed spinach made with real live cream. There’s a video and a recipe; do this, rejoice!
2. Risotto boost
Cauliflower “rice” is definitely a thing, and an easy thing at that. Give raw cauliflower florets a few spins in the food processor or use a box grater until you have rice-sized bits, et voila. The beauty of it is that it takes to rice recipes like nobody’s business. My favorite way to use it is to add it to risotto about halfway through its cooking; I usually make it a 50:50 ratio. It makes the risotto a bit lighter but without sacrificing taste or texture – an unsuspecting vegetable naysayer would likely not even know it is there. As in, it’s a great way to sneak in more vegetables.
3. Vegan saag paneer recipe
J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats does some more magic with cauliflower, this time in the classic Indian dish of creamy spinach with fresh cheese curds. López-Alt, who from hereon shall be referred to as The Cauliflower Whisperer, uses cauliflower puree again for the cream, along with tofu marinated with lemon juice and miso for the cheese. All the delicious details here.
4. Cauliflower everything bagels
Who doesn’t love a good bagel? But the giant ball of dough in the stomach afterwards isn’t for everyone. If you fall into that camp, or are avoiding wheat, or just want to have a more nutritious alternative, then perhaps the cauliflower bagel is for you.
5. Couscous recuse
If you’re looking for less-wheat-more-vegetables, then a no-excuse couscous can be beautifully made with cauliflower standing in for the semolina. Like for the risotto above, use a box grater or food processor and turn florets into crumb-sized bits. Saute said bits in a bit of olive oil with a pinch of salt for about five minutes or until tender but not completely mushy, then use as you would regular couscous.
6. Mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes are great, but I learned a long time ago that they are even greater when they are mashed along with other vegetable friends. Their flavor is made a bit deeper and mixing potatoes with another vegetable that comes with a different nutritional profile is a great way to vary the nutrients in a meal. My favorite addition is celery root for the amazing flavor, but cauliflower really stands out in this application as well. Cook it along with the potatoes until tender – depending on how you cook your potatoes, it will likely need less time. Mash as usual. I like a 50:50 ratio, but start with less if you’re concerned about the dish becoming too far from its starting point. And that said, 100 percent mashed cauliflower is pretty delicious as well.
7. Gluten-free pizza
OK, this recipe does not pretend to be vegan or low-fat, at all, but it is gluten-free! What is great is that it swaps blasé white flour for cauliflower, and I’d say that whenever you can switch refined carbs for a vegetable, it’s a good thing. Chef Buck’s recipe shown in the video below requires two cups of grated cauliflower, one cup of Parmesan cheese and an egg, plus pizza things.