I never really liked cauliflower until I tried it roasted. Turns out that a little love from the oven goes a much longer way on my taste buds than dunking cauliflower in boiling water ever did. I should have known this, but thankfully, I figured it out eventually.
However, even if roasted cauliflower flavored with a little Dijon and some Parmesan had not done it for me, pureed cauliflower bowled me over as a delicious, happens-to-be-healthier alternative to mashed potatoes. At some restaurant awhile back, I remember raving on and on about how wonderful these mashed potatoes tasted, only to realize they were not potatoes but pureed cauliflower. Unlike potatoes, which need a fair amount of butter, cream, sour cream, or cheese to whip up into a creamy, mashed concoction, pureed cauliflower has a naturally creamy texture that sure fooled me. But I can’t say I was tremendously disappointed to find out that the cauliflower puree lacked all these unhealthy add-ins and, instead, was seasoned fairly lightly.
Both roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree require minimal prep work, as you simply chop the head of cauliflower into florets, toss it with some seasonings, and let it sit in the oven for a bit. Once the florets are tender and lightly browned, you can serve them immediately, or blend them up with an immersion blender or food processor to create a thick puree. The pureed roasted cauliflower is not just an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes, as mentioned above, but can also be diluted with vegetable stock or water for a wonderfully creamy soup that goes exceedingly well with bacon-wrapped scallops.
Roasted Cauliflower Florets
Sometimes I skip the Dijon, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes, and toss the cauliflower florets in chat masala instead for an Indian twist.
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. ground Parmesan
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Toss cauliflower florets with lemon juice, minced garlic, olive oil, and, if using, Dijon mustard. Pour into baking dish, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake until tender and slightly browned, approximately 35 minutes. Sprinkle immediately with ground Parmesan and, for some added zing, red pepper flakes. Serve hot.
Roasted Cauliflower Puree
Roast cauliflower per recipe above; alternatively, you can boil or steam cauliflower florets until tender when poked with a fork. Using food processor or immersion blender, add 1/4 c. to roasted cauliflower florets, and blend until it forms a smooth puree, adding another 1/4 c. water if needed to aid the blending process. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve in lieu of mashed potatoes, whisk in hot milk or water to make a soup, or use as a healthier thickening agent in a cream or cheese sauce (e.g., mac and cheese, Alfredo sauce).