Cook's exchange: Cauliflower is a multitasking veggie

May 21, 2014 

Cauliflower's versatilty makes it a vegetable that can be a side dish or part of the entree.

The vegetable also is a great substitute for potatoes for those who are watching their carbohydrate intake. Mashed, cooked cauliflower is hard to distinguish from mashed potatoes.

Reader Sheila Grieco failed to keep a recipe for cauliflower Alfredo and asked if anyone had that recipe.

Thank goodness for readers like Pat Kerstetter of Gautier, Miss. She found not only the Alfredo recipe, but also a baked ziti with cauliflower.

"This healthy cauliflower pasta recipe features a much lower-fat version of the classic Alfredo cream sauce," Kerstetter said. "This spaghetti recipe only has a small splash of cream and instead relies on the cauliflower puree to make the delicious creamy sauce."

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SPAGHETTI ALFREDO

For the topping:

1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

For the pasta:

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large head cauliflower (cored, cut in large pieces)

Water to cover (about 4 cups)

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 (14 ounce) box spaghetti, cooked

and drained

1/2 lemon, juiced

Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is well toasted, and golden-brown. Stir in the thyme; remove from heat, and reserve.

In a medium saucepan, warm the garlic cloves in the olive oil over low heat for a few minutes, or until the cloves begin to bubble. Do not brown the garlic. Add the cauliflower, enough water to cover, dried herbs, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until the cauliflower is soft.

Turn off the heat. Use a stick blender (or standard blender) to puree the mixture into a smooth sauce. If it seems too thick, add a little water or broth, if it's too thin simply simmer until it reduces and thickens up. Then, stir in the cream, and add the Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Cover and reserve.

Boil the spaghetti according to directions and drain well. Return to the pot, add the lemon juice, and pour over the cauliflower sauce. Toss to coat the pasta. Divide into four pasta bowls and serve hot topped with the toasted Parmesan breadcrumbs.

Makes 4 portions; prep time, 15 minutes; cook time, 40 minutes; total time, 55 minutes.

-- Submitted by [SoftReturn]Pat Kerstetter

"This simple white sauce, spiked with robust Parmesan cheese and fragrant nutmeg, makes pasta and cauliflower especially delicious," Kerstetter said.

BAKED ZITI WITH CAULIFLOWER

6 ounces ziti

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup skim milk

1- 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups cauliflower florets, cooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In large pot of boiling water, cook ziti 10-12 minutes, until tender. Drain, discarding liquid; set ziti aside.

Meanwhile, in medium nonstick saucepan, heat oil; add flour. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wire whisk, 3 minutes, until mixture is golden brown. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup of the milk just to a boil; remove from heat.

Add remaining1/4 cup milk to cooled flour mixture, stirring with wire whisk until smooth. Continuing to stir, blend flour mixture into hot milk until smooth; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 4 minutes, until mixture is slightly thickened. Stir in 1 ounce of the cheese, the pepper and nutmeg; remove from heat.

In prepared baking pan, combine cauliflower and ziti. Add milk mixture; toss to combine. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes, until top is golden and sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Divide evenly among 4 plates and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Serving (1/4 of recipe) exchanges:1/4 milk, 1/2 fat, 1- 1/2 vegetables, 1/2 protein, 2 breads, 10 optional calories; 6 points on Weight Watchers.

-- Submitted [SoftReturn]by Pat Kerstetter from "Weight Watchers Slim Ways Hearty Meals"

More pistachio cake

Paul Goll of Florida asked for a good pistachio cake recipe, and the response has been good. Here's another different one from Sue Spinelli of Bradenton.

TWO-TONE CAKE

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 package pistachio pudding mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup orange juice

3/4 cup oil

Mix ingredients well. Divide batter in half. Add 1 cup of Hershey's syrup to 1/2 of the batter.

Pour original mixture into greased and floured cake pan; add Hershey mixture. Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

No frosting needed. A little dusting of powdered sugar adds to presentation

-- Submitted by Sue Spinelli

Gluten-free recipes

"Due to a medical condition, I have to start a gluten-free diet," said Susan from Pass Christian, Miss. "I would appreciate some simple recipes to get started. Also, I would like to know where are some places on the Coast to buy gluten-free products."

Readers, I know some of you have some really tasty gluten-free recipes. Please share.

Also, let me know where you purchase the gluten-free items.

Freezing, canning

Readers, two questions: Do you prepare make-ahead meals and stash them in the freezer?

If so, please share your tips and recipes with me. Secondly, do you can jam and vegetables? Fruits and vegetables are coming out of the gardens now, and readers want to know how you can them and your recipes.

Please send me your ideas and recipes.

Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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