By Melissa d’Arabian, Associated Press
Cauliflower entered the healthy food scene with a bang a few years ago as clever solution to our low-carb-seeking starch-loving woes. And with good reason: Cauliflower is incredibly versatile and can be used to replace simple carbs in endless recipes — from cauliflower versions of risotto, pizza crust and couscous just to name a few.
While health-conscious folks will likely continue to debate about the benefits and shortfalls of the low-carb-high-fat diets that probably are responsible for mainstreaming these cauliflower swaps, we can all agree that adding more cruciferous vegetables into our diet is a good thing.
Cauliflower is super low in calories — about 25 calories per cup — and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate and some minerals. Because of the fiber and protein, it’s also a filling vegetable, which means if you make a stir-fry using cauliflower instead of rice, you’ll actually be satisfied.
Its mild flavor means it’s an easy substitute for bland starches like rice or pasta, so parents can usually swap out some or all in recipes without kids turning up their nose.
Blending or mashing cauliflower is another excellent strategy — add blended cooked cauliflower to sauces or soups for cream-less creaminess and extra nutrition.
Mashed or pureed cauliflower may be the most celebrated swap of all, giving low-carb eaters an alternative to mashed potatoes. The drawback to many cauliflower puree recipes is two-fold: Often they rely on high quantities of butter or cream for flavor and texture.
Followers of a ketonic or super-low-carb diet may be fine with high-fat, but the resulting calorie counts might scare off the average eater.
The second problem is that a cauliflower puree is looser than true mashed potatoes, which means it’s nearly impossible to make a dent with a gravy ladle that will actually hold up. Mashed potatoes without gravy, especially around the holidays, is quite simply not an option at our house.
My trick is so simple, but it solves both problems: Silken tofu. Just a little bit of firm silken tofu blended up into the puree adds low-cal creaminess (along with a little chicken or vegetable stock) and just enough much-needed thickening to avoid the soupy puree that can easily happen.
With the tofu, you will only need a tiny bit of high-fat goodies like butter and milk (I use half-and-half if I have it — it’s only a few tablespoons) to give a luscious creaminess that the entire family will love. Once you master the basic recipe, feel free to tweak by adding spices such a smoked paprika, herbs or, if you are feeling decadent, top the puree with a little cheese and bacon and make a twice-baked “potato” casserole.
PERFECT WHIPPED CAULIFLOWER PUREE
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 large head of cauliflower (or 2 small heads)
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4 ounces firm lite silken tofu (1/3 of a 12-ounce carton)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or a little more if needed
3 tablespoons half and half (or whole milk or sour cream)
Salt and pepper
Core the cauliflower and cut into florets and boil (or steam) with the garlic until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside. Place the tofu into a food processor and process until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower, garlic, butter, broth and half and half and process until very creamy, about one minute. Add more broth if needed.
Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 57 calories; 21 calories from fat; 2 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 6 mg cholesterol; 131 mg sodium;6 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 4 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”