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Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower, the Versatile Vegetable 

 

Dec 21, 2018

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I've found Cauliflower to be an under-appreciated vegetable. Recently, I have grown to love this wonderful cruciferous vegetable. It works great as a substitute for potatoes or other starches in my family meals.  I like to make tater tots, "mac" and cheese (see recipe below) or pizza crust out of this amazingly hardy vegetable. 

Cauliflower is a member of the Brassicaceae or Curciferae family which includes, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cress. In case you were wondering what makes a vegetable a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, they grow with four petals that resemble crosses. The early cauliflower plant resembled it's cabbage-like relatives which has been around since 600 BC and had much smaller heads than what we grow today. Cauliflower originated in Asia before being introduced in Europe in the 15th Century and then brought to North America in the 1800's. It became widely grown in America in the 1900's. California's 10 month growing period allows for 89% of the world's cauliflower to be grown here in our state. 

White cauliflower, the most common type, has a white head (or curd) because its florets do not produce chlorophyll. Over the years of cultivation, hybrids and variations have emerged. They can have green, orange, or purple heads depending on the nutrients stored in the florets. 

Orange or "Cheddar" Cauliflower: This variety has extra beta-carotene in the florets which means they have more Vitamin A than other varieties. 

Purple or “Graffiti” Cauliflower: Purple cauliflower has flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, which give it the purple color and may help to regulate blood lipid and sugar levels, as well as help to lower cancer risk.

Green cauliflower or “broccoflower:” The yellow-green color of this variety comes from the cross-pollination of broccoli and cauliflower. It is similar in nutrient value as cauliflower but has some of the chlorophyll of broccoli. 

Romanesco: The origin of this variety is unclear, and it may be more of a relative of cauliflower rather than a variety. The color is similar to that of broccoflower, but the spiral shaped spikes of the head make it very different and unique when compared to either broccoli or cauliflower. 

Cauliflower "Mac" and Cheese 

Ingredients 

  • Kosher salt, as needed, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, plus 1/2 cup for topping the casserole
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  2. Spray the baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
  3. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry. Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  4. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and whisk in the cream cheese and mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper and garlic and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes. Serve.

 

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