Cooking

Recipes: Transform lean cauliflower into a world of rich, easy dishes

FILE - This June 8, 2015 file photo shows grilled cauliflower steaks with lemon lime feta gremolata in Concord, N.H.  Back in 2013, the question was posed: Is cauliflower the new kale? It's 2015, people who have just discovered baked and roasted cauliflower, mashed cauliflower, cauliflower pasta sauce, cauliflower pizza crust and fancy arrangements of what is a fine food delicately plated in fine restaurants. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File)

FILE – This June 8, 2015 file photo shows grilled cauliflower steaks with lemon lime feta gremolata in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File)

By J.M. Hirsch, AP Food Editor

Truth be told, I was prepared to hate most efforts to transform cauliflower into something it wasn’t. What’s wrong with straight up seasoned and roasted cauliflower? Why do we need to turn it into steaks and cutlets, mash and pizza crusts?

Then I started sampling some of the better versions of these dishes, and I became a reluctant convert. Do they replicate the taste or texture of the real deal? Not at all. But that’s OK, because whatever you call these dishes, many of them taste great in their own right and I’d gladly eat them whether or not you pretend they are something else.

Which is what inspired me to see whether cauliflower could be transformed into a risotto-like dish. I got the idea after testing a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust (not bad!), for which you pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it is reduced to rice-like granules. For pizza, you then combine them with other ingredients to form a “dough.” But why not use them as rice?

In fact, I’m hardly alone in seeing the appeal of this method. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes.

The result of my risotto attempt was delicious. Was it as rich and starchy as a true risotto made with Arborio rice? Of course not. But it still was delicious, in part because the cauliflower granules resemble al dente rice in both form and texture. It also helped that I kept many of the other classic ingredients the same — white wine, chicken broth and Parmesan cheese.

But maybe risotto isn’t your thing. There’s still room for exploring the delicious — and slightly different — side of cauliflower. To help you along, I’ve also included recipes for cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower-walnut “crumbs,” a pickled cauliflower salad and a roasted cauliflower hummus.

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PARMESAN-CASHEW CAULIFLOWER RISOTTO

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows parmesan cashew cauliflower risotto in Concord, N.H. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows parmesan cashew cauliflower risotto in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

1 large cauliflower, stem and leaves trimmed

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup chopped cashews

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Carefully cut the cauliflower into 1-inch chunks, including the core. Working in batches, place the cauliflower chunks and garlic in the processor and pulse until reduced to granules the size of grains of rice. Set aside.

In a very large saute pan over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the onion and cauliflower, stir, then spread in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium, then cook without stirring for 5 minutes. Stir, then spread again over the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.

Return the heat to medium-high, then add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Continue cooking, stirring, until the wine is nearly gone. Add the stock and cream, then cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced. Stir in the cheese, cashews and lemon juice. When the cheese is melted, season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 260 calories from fat (68 percent of total calories); 29 g fat (14 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 360 mg sodium; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 12 g protein.

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CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows cauliflower crust pizza in Concord, N.H. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows cauliflower crust pizza in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 4

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pizza seasoning or Italian herb mixture

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup marinara or pizza sauce

8 ounces fresh mozzarella slices

4 ounces thinly sliced cooked chicken sausage

1/2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 425 F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil, then coat the foil with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse half of the cauliflower pieces into small pieces, roughly the size of grains of rice. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl, then repeat with the remaining cauliflower pieces. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is fully cooked and very tender. Dump out into a clean kitchen towel and let cool for a few minutes.

Gather up the ends of the towel around the cauliflower and twist so that you have a ball of cauliflower in the middle. Continue twisting to squeeze any excess water out of the cauliflower.

In a medium bowl, combine the squeezed cauliflower with the eggs, pizza seasoning, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, then divide the mixture between the prepared baking sheets. Spread into a circle, about 9 inches wide. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Top each crust with the sauce, mozzarella slices, sausage and zucchini. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini and sausage just begin to brown.

Nutrition information per serving: 330 calories; 180 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 180 mg cholesterol; 640 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 23 g protein.

(Recipe by Alison Ladman)

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CAULIFLOWER WALNUT “CRUMBS”

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows cauliflower walnut "crumbs" in Concord, N.H. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows cauliflower walnut “crumbs” in Concord, N.H (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Heat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 2 cups of cauliflower chunks, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary. Process until the mixture is finely chopped and resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread over the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until everything is evenly roasted and lightly browned. Serve over a baked sweet potato, roasted eggplant, or as a topping for a seared pork chop.

(Recipe by Alison Ladman)

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SHAVED PICKLED CAULIFLOWER SALAD

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows shaved pickled cauliflower salad in Concord, N.H. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows shaved pickled cauliflower salad in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Cut half a head of cauliflower in half top to bottom again so that you have 2 quarters. Using a mandoline, slice each quarter into thin slices, discarding any pieces that fall away. In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, then add the cauliflower slices. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and cool to room temperature. Combine with 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1/4 cup golden raisins, and 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese. Serve with greens, roasted chicken, or over warm barley with a drizzle of olive oil.

(Recipe by Alison Ladman)

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER HUMMUS

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows roasted cauliflower humus in Concord, N.H. Transforming finely chopped cauliflower is so popular, grocers now sell bagged minced cauliflower labeled as ready to use in your favorite pizza crust and mashed potato-like recipes. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This Nov. 16, 2015 photo shows roasted cauliflower humus in Concord, N.H.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Cut a medium head of cauliflower into 1- to 2-inch florets. Toss lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and cumin. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425 F for 25 minutes, or until browned and tender. Transfer to a food processor, along with 3 tablespoons roasted tahini and 2 cloves minced garlic. Puree until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper and cumin. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with toasted pita chips or veggie sticks.

(Recipe by Alison Ladman)

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