For most of my life, cauliflower was nothing more than a means to eating hummus and dip when the chips ran out. Simply put, it was broccoli’s pale cousin and if I wasn’t eating it raw, I wasn’t eating it at all. But everything changed when I could no longer eat cheese and all I wanted was macaroni.
To stay within my restrictions and still eat the food I loved, I needed an ingredient that could provide a creamy, milky texture. In a Hail Mary moment, I gave cauliflower a try.
And when steamed, pureed, and spiced with mace, it turns out that this unassuming vegetable becomes a ridiculously good stand-in for cream sauce, as well as an impressive impersonator for a vegan macaroni and cheese.
Since that fateful puree, I’ve come to realize cauliflower’s full potential for transformation. It’s pretty much the Madonna of vegetables. One day it can be sushi rice and the next, mashed potatoes. It makes a killer wheat-free cauliflower pizza crustand a meat-free cauliflower steak. And if you need or want to replace wheat, dairy, or starchy ingredients in your favorite recipes, this vegetable has you covered.
So let me add one more trick to the bunch: cauliflower burgers.
If you want to reduce the amount of meat you eat (or you find yourself with a few unexpected dinner guests and not enough ingredients), just use cauliflower crumbs. Like breadcrumbs or even blue cheese, the addition of cauliflower will reduce the amount of beef you need (savings!) while maintaining that savory, meaty texture and taste (score!).
Simply use your knife or a food processor to finely chop the florets. Then work the cauliflower bits into your meat mixture with herbs and eggs as you normally would. And grill or pan fry according to your favorite burger recipe.
You can also use this same method with meatballs, ragu, or any meat dishes that can benefit from extra bulk.
Another great trick with cauliflower: Whipped Cauliflower with Crème Fraîche
Old Ingredients, New Tricks
As someone who constantly makes over dishes for dietary and health needs, I'm used to using total creative license when it comes to food. And the good news is we already live in a culinary world where zucchinis can be noodles, beets can be chips, and cucumbers can act like baguettes. So over these five days, let me be your guide as we dust off some standard items from the produce aisle and give them a chance to show off a little. It’s an exercise in recipe liberation (not limitations) that will not only lighten up those eating habits but also give new life to old favorites.
So whether you’re trying to ditch the gluten, sugar, or just a pant size this new year, let’s forget about pledging to take on a new diet. And let’s pledge instead to break some rules and teach a handful of old ingredients some new tricks.
(Image credits: Jessica Goldman Foung; Nealey Dozier)