Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

20170409_184906Will and I have a shared Google Doc called “Will it Buffalo?” It has three columns: To Buffalo, Have Buffaloed, and Did it Buffalo? Everything in “Have Buffaloed,” did indeed Buffalo, including wings, salad, pizza, and now this mac and cheese. Items in the “To Buffalo” column include lasagna, enchiladas, sandwich, pot pie, tacos, and veggie burgers (other suggestions welcome).

I should probably explore other vegetable and Buffalo pairings beyond just cauliflower, but it is a perfect neutral vehicle. My love of cauliflower in mac and cheese is not new either, and I just barely adapted the sauce from this cauliflower arugula bleu mac and cheese for this recipe. Considering the amount of cheese in this I don’t think it quite qualifies as healthy, but half a pound of pasta is stretched with a full head of cauliflower to make six satisfying servings. It definitely counts as a comfort food, but one that is slightly more redeeming than others.

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like macaroni, fusilli, or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 5 ounces of sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the cauliflower into small florets that mirror the size of your pasta. Toss in the oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then spread onto 2 baking sheets (so there is enough room for them to brown and not just steam). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing and switching the pans once.

Put the water on for the pasta, and start your sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it is starting to bubble, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking while the flour and butter cook for about 3 minutes, until it smells a little nutty. Slowly add in the milk, whisking in between additions (or while someone else pours, if you have an extra set of hands). When all the milk is added let it cook over medium heat (or slightly lower if it starts to bubble a lot) for 5 minutes. The sauce should be visibly thicker at this point. Add in the cheddar cheese and hot sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the salt and ground pepper and turn off the heat.

When your cooking water is boiling, salt it and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 minutes, and drain. In the pasta pot combine the pasta, roasted cauliflower,  and the Buffalo cheese sauce and mix it all up.

Grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with the crumbled bleu cheese. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.

I have also assembled the mac and cheese up to the point it is ready to be baked and then refrigerated it. In that case take it out of the fridge for about an hour and preheat your oven to 375F. Then bake for about 30 minutes until the bleu cheese is melted and it is heated through.

 

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersIt’s a good thing my sausage order didn’t come in this week. I planned on making this orecchiette with sausage and pesto, or maybe my eternal favorite, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Without good sausage, neither seemed appealing, so instead I turned to the half a cauliflower in the fridge. Pesto still seemed like a good idea, but I used the perfectly serviceable greens already in the house (kale and parsley) in place of basil.

What resulted was the fastest dinner I’ve made all week (exactly 45 minutes). Pasta with nicely charred cauliflower and pesto that hits all the right notes of salt, grassy herbs, and richness from the pine nuts and olive oil. I keep pine nuts in my freezer for when pesto cravings strike (and to make this salad topping – so good!), and throw them straight from there into the food processor.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersPasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Serves 6. Inspired by Two Red Bowls, pesto recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food.

  • ½ a large cauliflower, or 1 whole smaller one (I used half a giant one, that clocked in at 26 oz worth after the stem was removed)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette, because it was either that or lasagna noodles from the pantry. Another short pasta like penne, zitti, or fusilli would be great.)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (or more if you want)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the cauliflower into small florets about the size of your pasta. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on 2 baking sheets. This may seem like one extra pan to clean (and it is), but it is needed for truly crisped and not just steamed cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, and then toss it. If your pieces are very small check again after 5 minutes. Mine were about an inch long and done after 10 more minutes.

When you put the cauliflower in the over, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

While your water is coming up to temp, make your pesto. Using a food processor start the blade running and drop in the garlic. When you stop hearing it bounce around it will be fully chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the salt, kale, parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until they are uniformly combined, then run the machine and stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.

When your water boils add the pasta and cook according to the directions for your particular shape (or, set the timer for 7 minutes and taste every minute after for done-ness). Before draining the pasta reserve a small cup-full of the water. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add in the roasted cauliflower, pesto, and two tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir to combine, and if it seems a little dry add another tablespoon of water.

Serve with a bit of extra parm grated on top and a sprinkle of parsley.

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese was my gateway to loving cauliflower. Growing up I only experienced it as a raw vegetable left sad and lonely as the last thing eaten on a crudités platter. But in my quest to revisit vegetables I dismissed in my youth I made Jamie Oliver’s Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake and never turned back. It’s no revelation that any vegetable in mac and cheese is lovable, but cauliflower is especially so. Will had been flipping through How To Cook Everything: The Basics and bookmarked the Cauliflower Gratin with Bleu Cheese, which intrigued me but I didn’t have other elements to make it into a meal.  The Jamie Oliver recipe is delicious, but creme fraiche is more expensive and not an ingredient I always have lying around. Marisa from Food in Jars posted a more basic veg mac and cheese last month that inspired me to work on my own basic mac recipe that I can adapt to whatever is in season or in my fridge.

My version has some different steps, including roasting the cauliflower (but if in a rush you could cook it with the pasta like Marisa does). Arugula is not a green I usually have around, and I might have otherwise used kale, chard, or spinach. There was a bit of cheddar sauce leftover from last week’s baked potatoes, and since the new sauce I’m making was essentially the same thing and I didn’t want to let it languish in the fridge I just added it on in. I think with this basic cheese sauce recipe I could make mac and cheese out of just about anything now.

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Food in Jars. Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like fusilli or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled (or 8 ounces of a less intense cheese)
  • 2.5 ounces arugula or another green
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (optional)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the cauliflower into small florets that mirror the size of your pasta. Toss in the oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then spread onto 2 baking sheets (so there is enough room for them to brown and not just steam). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing and switching the pans once.

Put the water on for the pasta, and start your sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it is starting to bubble, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking while the flour and butter cook for about 3 minutes, until it smells a little nutty. Slowly add in the milk, whisking in between additions (or while someone else pours, if you have an extra set of hands).When all the milk is added let it cook over medium heat (or slightly lower if it starts to bubble a lot) for 5 minutes. The sauce should be visibly thicker at this point. Add in the bleu cheese and whisk to combine. Add in the salt and ground pepper and turn off the heat.

When your cooking water is boiling, salt it and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve ½ a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta. Then return the pasta to the pot, add in the roasted cauliflower, the arugula, and the blue cheese sauce and mix it all up. You can stop here and enjoy a stove top mac and cheese with a nice creamy sauce.

To bake, grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.

 

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza with Bleu Cheese and Kale

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza - Vegetal MattersThe beginning of my love for vegetarian delicacies in buffalo sauce can be tracked to these Thug Kitchen buffalo falafel. They opened up my world of buffalo things so far beyond wings. Those falafel were essentially deconstructed to make this recipe for buffalo cauliflower salad (which would also be excellent with the falafel on top if you’re willing to do a bit more work). From there the logical next step is obviously pizza.

We were grocery shopping with a vague plan for dinner and Will had the genius idea for this pizza. The first try I put too much butter in the sauce, which made for a soggier pizza but the flavor was everything we hoped for. This version hits all the right notes, with a spicy (less runny) sauce, creamy cheeses, enough vegetables to make this an acceptable adult dinner, and a fresh bite of onion at the end.

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza with Bleu Cheese and Kale

Serves 6

  • 1  recipe for pizza dough (this recipe makes about 1.5 sheet pans worth of pizza, if your dough recipe makes less then you will have some extra toppings…use them on a salad or in a sandwich!)
  • 1 head of cauliflower (about 2.5 pounds once the leaves and stem are removed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (half a stick)
  • ½ cup cayenne pepper hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • 10 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1.5 ounces chopped kale (from about 3 leaves)
  • 2 minced scallions

Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice the cauliflower in half and cut out the core. Cut the head into 1 inch pieces (bite-sized). Toss the cauliflower in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt, and spread evenly on 1 or 2 baking sheets (you want space between the pieces so they brown). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once, until the cauliflower is soft all the way through and has some charred spots. When the cauliflower comes out of the oven crank up the heat to 500F.

Melt the butter, add the hot sauce, and stir to combine. Spread your pizza dough out on 2 baking sheets (the recipe linked to makes for a very moist dough that I find easiest to spread on a silicone baking mat).

Put the cauliflower in a bowl and pour ¼ cup of the hot sauce and butter mixture over it. Toss the cauliflower to coat. Spread the remaining hot sauce mixture evenly over the doughs. Then evenly distribute the rest of the items in this order: kale, cauliflower, bleu cheese crumbles, and shredded mozzarella.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottom pulls away from the pan and the cheese is bubbling vigorously. Let cool for a couple minutes, then sprinkle the scallions on top and serve.

Last week I cooked….

This week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

A shorter cooking week than usual due to a long weekend. Easy weeknight meals with lots of produce are still the name of the game, followed by a happy break from the kitchen to taste my way through Brooklyn.

Roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos. The rest of my beautiful purple cauliflower head went into this, plus a zucchini. I was working within the limits of my fridge so instead of the cabbage slaw I topped them with halved cherry tomatoes and chopped cucumber dressed with a little lime and salt, and a yogurt lime crema (pictured above).

Collards with peanut butter. Excellent recipe for the collard beginners, likely to win many converts.

The night before going away for a long weekend is usually a fridge clean out. For this one I crisped some bacon, removed it from the pan and drained off most of the fat. Then sauteed half an onion for a few minutes, followed by a clove of minced garlic and one chopped zucchini. When the zucchini was softened I added in about a can’s worth of cooked beans, returned the bacon to the pan and warmed everything through. Topped with an over easy egg for a little more substance.

Blueberry and cream cheese rye muffins. I loved the added nuttiness of rye flour. The blueberries and cream cheese made for a very moist muffin, great for consumption but not for prolonged storage. I knew they would develop a fuzz by the end of the week, so I froze a few to take on the bus ride. Defrosted overnight, and an excellent pairing with coffee grabbed at the station.

Not something I made, but super important: Absurd Fruit and Vegetable Gadgets and Their Useful Alternatives. Once a group that ate lunch at work brought one of those stupid round wedge and core devices….for a WATERMELON. I’m pretty sure they didn’t actually use it that day and now it’s just sitting in our kitchen in quiet reflection of its uselessness.

 

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas - Vegetal MattersI went to visit a nearby farm stand (Foppema’s, if you happen to live in central MA) this week on a hunt for garlic scapes and green beans. They grow a really impressive array of vegetables and fruits, and I had to do a few laps before deciding what should come home with besides my sought out items. They had a beautiful pile of cauliflower in white, yellow, orange, and then one single, strikingly vibrant purple head. I already had plans for some feta and kale quesadillas for dinner, but as I turned over ideas for my magic cauliflower these charred cauliflower quesadillas came to mind and a hybrid dream was born. (The kale I picked up from a different farm I visited last week for raspberry picking. And did I mention I work on a farm? I may have a problem.) Thus the Vera Bradley of quesadillas in all its purple and green glory was born. I spend so much time anticipating the greatness of summer produce and planning meals, that I sometimes forget how great it is to pick up whatever looks good and see what happens. These quesadillas are seasonal and spontaneous cooking at its finest, and could be easily adapted with whatever must-have farm stand produce or garden bounty end up in your kitchen.

DSC00925 Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas - Vegetal Matters

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas

Serves 4

I really cleaned out the cheese drawer with this one and used a mix of Monteray Jack, Mexican blend, and manchego. If I was buying cheese specifically for this, I would just buy a block of Monterey Jack. You could certainly use any color of cauliflower, but purple is pretty darn fun.

  • 8 oz cauliflower (which was half a medium head for me)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, dividing
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 4 oz kale, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chives or scallions
  • ½ a lime, juiced
  • 2.5 oz feta (about ½ a cup)
  • 8 oz shredded melting cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 10″ flour tortillas

Separate the cauliflower into large pieces (about 1.5-2″) and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. Heat a cast iron (or other heavy) pan over medium high heat. Add cauliflower and the jalapeno to the pan, and char for about 10 minutes. They should be slightly blackened but not soft. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Then chop the cauliflower into ½” pieces and mince the jalapeño.

In the same pan heat the other tablespoon of olive oil and add the kale. Toss to coat in oil, and cover with a lid. After  minute uncover and toss, and then cover for 1 minute more. The kale should be bright green, shiny all over and just cooked through.

If you are serving these all at once, turn on the oven to 200F and place a baking sheet in these before you start the final assembly.

Toss cauliflower, jalapeño, kale, chives, feta and lime juice in a bowl. Put that same pan back on the heat over medium (no oil necessary) and bring on over your filling, shredded cheese, and tortillas. Place a tortilla in the pan, and allow to head for a minute. Flip it over, sprinkle with an eighth of the cheese, a quarter of the filling, and another eighth of the cheese (so a quarter of the cheese per quesadilla). Place the second tortilla on top, and check the bottom one for char. When it is lightly toasted and the cheese is melting, flip the quesadilla. Cook for another 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat and into the oven if you are keeping them warm.

For serving: I happened to have half a head of red cabbage and some sour cream as well, so I kept the green and purple theme going and went with Smitten Kitchen’s slaw and crema as suggested here. I barely strayed from those recipes, except perhaps with less precise measurements.

 

 

 

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Vegetal Matters - Dijon LentilsThis French lentil recipe by Ina Garten was my first introduction to cooking lentils. I’ve made it many times since that first delicious occurrence, but with quite a few changes. I find that the dressing adds enough flavor to the lentils that cooking them with a turnip that is discarded is unnecessary. Her quantity made just enough for 4 small meals, but I always wanted a little more and leftovers. I’ve made the lentils with roasted sausages, which could be in place of or with the cauliflower and potatoes. Some toasted bread with olive oil alongside is also quite nice, as would be a green salad.

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Serves 8 as a side, 6 as a meal.

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 lb cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 2 cups carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 2 cups onion or leeks  (1 large onion, or 2 large leeks)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the whole grain mustard and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss cauliflower and potatoes in mustard olive oil mixture plus salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

Pick over the lentils for debris and rinse. Bring a pot with the lentils generously covered in water to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, until they just start to soften. Add the onion, and saute for another 5 minutes until both are soft. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or 2 more then turn off the heat.

While the carrot and onion are cooking whisk together the ½ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl mix the sauteed carrot and onion, Dijon dressing, and lentils. Serve with the roasted cauliflower and potatoes on top, with extra vinegar if needed.

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

DSC00791 postThis salad was born out of super bowl leftovers. But there had been enough indulgence watching the game, and redemption was needed. Buffalo wings with bleu cheese, carrots and celery is amazing because it is a perfect spicy/creamy/crunchy combo. I don’t want to eat wings all the time though, so this salad is just the fix. Cauliflower is an excellent hot sauce vehicle, and I borrowed the method from Thug Kitchen’s delicious Buffalo Falafel recipe (CRUSH HUNGER BREATHE FIRE. Cracks me up every time.).

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 4 as full meal salads, 8 as side salads.

The grocery store was out of red cabbage, but that would have been a nice addition for more color and texture. Green cabbage instead of lettuce could make this more of a slaw. Cucumbers are a good add, and if I had some avocado that probably would have gone in as well. You could easily use 4 tablespoons yogurt and leave out the mayonnaise in the dressing.

Buffalo Cauliflower

  • 1 lb cauliflower, split into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon wheat flour
  • ½ cup cayenne hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 teaspoons cider vinegar

Salad

  • 8 cups of lettuce, washed and chopped (about 1 head romaine)
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup of red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large celery stalk, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • ½ ounce crumbled bleu cheese (optional)

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1.5 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (½ a lemon)
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Blend buttermilk, bleu cheese, mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender. If you prefer a chunky dressing, whisk everything but the bleu cheese until smooth, then stir it in. Let the dressing sit for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible, to let the flavors mingle (resist adjusting the seasoning until after the rest).

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the flour, and cook while whisking continuously for 5 minutes. It should smell nutty, but not boil. Add half of the hot sauce and whisk until smooth. It will be very thick. Add the remaining hot sauce, water, and vinegar, and whisk until smooth again. Turn off the heat.

Assemble the salads with lettuce, carrot, celery, red onion, chickpeas and any other veg you’re adding. When the cauliflower is done, toss it in a bowl with the hot sauce until thoroughly coated. Top each salad with ¼ of the cauliflower, and drizzle with dressing and an extra crumble of bleu cheese, if using. Serve with extra hot sauce for those who like a serious kick.