Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
I'm not going to lie to you. This dish is not very attractive (It looks just like this one specific thing that I won't mention here or else you will be totally turned off from ever giving it a shot). It is all brown. And blah. Normally I try to avoid such monochrome things, but there are veggies hidden in here (well, one veggie), so I give it a pass. You might want to serve it with something colorful though. Just sayin'.
This is a healthy macaroni and cheese recipe by Mark Bittman (I saw it linked to recently on Carrots 'N Cake). It may not be ooey, gooey, or overly cheese like the mac and cheese that you may love, but it is pretty darn good and the fact that it is good for you? That is also good. Good, good, good. Believe me. I am kind of a mac & cheese snob. My mother used to make the kind that came in a blue box with the thick liquid cheese sauce in a shiny silver packet. At some point, this grossed me out (Adult Laura is proud of you, former tiny self). The first time I ever had mac & cheese I liked was at Michael Jordan's restaurant in Chicago. It was made with real cheese. Nothing from a silver packet. It was good.
Since then, I only eat that fancy old-fashioned mac and cheese. None of that powdered microwave garbage.
Anyway, that had very little to do with this recipe, because it won't make you forget about the gooey cheesey goodness that is gourmet macaroni and cheese. There is no cream, no butter, and a modest amount of cheese. The bulk of the sauce is made up of pureed cauliflower. It tastes fantastic and won't make you feel like you are going to have a heart attack as its creamy, cheesy cousins might. In fact, it makes you feel great, like you are going to live a very long time and you can go off and run a 5K in a few hours. (which is actually what I'm going to go do).
If you're craving mac and cheese, this might not satisfy you. If you are craving a healthy, filling, vegetarian, protein-packed dish, then this is a winner (20 grams of protein if you're curious).
Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Mark Bittman
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
8 oz. whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup cheese (I used gruyere & emmantal, Bittman also suggests sharp cheddar)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup whole grain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat the oven and get a pot of salted water boiling. In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock with the bay leaves for 5 minutes, then remove the bay leaves and set aside.
Cook the cauliflower in the water for 25 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the water. If you haven't read through this recipe well beforehand, you might just get out a colander and dump the cauliflower into it and the water down the drain. Don't do that. Use a spoon or tongs and put it into a food processor. It may be slightly annoying, but then you already have boiling water to cook the pasta in. How nifty. If there is a little bit of cauliflower still floating in the water, don't worry. It's cool.
Cook the pasta for 5 minutes. You can totally dump that in a colander when you're done and rinse it in cold water. Then put it into a greased pan. I used a 7x11 pyrex dish. Bittman suggests a 9 inch square pan. I don't have one of those.
Add the vegetable broth to the cauliflower and process until combined. Then add oil, cheese, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the food processor and pulse a few more times.
Pour the sauce over the macaroni and stir a little. Be careful, the dish will be very full. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and parmesan on top and bake for 20 mintues. If you only have 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, then look into your pantry and the perfect substitue might be staring you in the face.
Makes four very large and very filling servings.