Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pureed cauliflower -- Awesome ingredient to keep just in case

I can't even believe how long it has been since I've posted. I've been super busy, but that's a conversation for another day. I was having a conversation with the moms today at the dance studio on healthy swaps for food. One of my favorites is pureed cauliflower in place of cream. It adds an awesome rich nuttiness, and since I've also been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, helps with creamy items.

You can work with either frozen or fresh cauliflower. If frozen, all you need to do is defrost, boil, strain, and puree in a blender with chicken broth and a little olive oil. If fresh, cut it up, boil until soft, strain, and puree in a blender with chicken broth and a little olive oil and salt. The trick in either cases is to make sure the cauliflower is really soft, so that it purees well and doesn't get gritty. I have a blender with a heating element directly built into it, so I just boil the cauliflower directly in the blender and then puree. It's a great buy, I highly recommend it: The amount of chicken broth you use is entirely up to you based on what you're using the cauliflower for. If you have a lot of cauliflower, plan on using a lot of chicken broth. You can always use vegetable broth as well if you want to keep vegetarian.

It works as a great side if you puree it thick (not too much chicken broth) like the consistency of mashed potatoes, add salt and pepper, then scoop it into a roasting dish, spritz with cooking spray or drizzle olive oil/butter on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stick in the oven at 425. Once the top has browned, take it out and serve with your favorite meal. You could also top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. This preparation could be used in place of mashed potatoes, like in shepherd's pie. 

On a cold day, you could puree it thin (lots of chicken broth) and make a nice cauliflower bisque! This is where bacon salt would come in handy, as it adds a nice smokiness. Add a lot more chicken broth, some Greek yogurt, and keep simmering on the stove. Add a flavored salt, like seasoned salt, adobo, or my all time favorite, bacon salt. You can chop chives or green onions and add as well. Stir in some grated Parmesan cheese, then serve with a sprinkle of chopped chives and a crusty piece of gluten free bread. If you really want to get fancy, you could cut up some pancetta or proscuitto and crisp it up, then sprinkle on top.

The real potential lies in what you could use it for in other dishes. I love using it for mac 'n cheese! Replacing half of the cream with pureed cauliflower and the other half with Greek yogurt, you end up with a lowfat replacement that honestly tastes better than the real thing. You're ending up with more fiber and more flavor. It is much more filling and no one's noticed the difference so far. It's delicious!

Pureed cauliflower also is great as a soup or gravy thickener. However, you need to make sure the cauliflower is REALLY smooth if you're using it in this capacity. Just stir it into the broth of whatever soup you're making to make it more hearty and stew-like.

The best part is that pureed cauliflower freezes really well. You could puree it relatively thick then freeze it for future purposes -- you could always add more liquid when you defrost. I like to freeze it in bags and lay it flat to save freezer space.

Any other pureed cauliflower ideas out there?