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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Comfort Food 101

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver in 2009, and I was sold! I dove head first into eating seasonally and locally, and have not looked back. Admittedly, given that I started in the spring AND I live in Southern California, I got off to a rollicking good start, eating myself silly with smug joy as I chowed through avocados, citrus, berries, tomatoes, corn, loads of spring mix lettuce, tomatillos and so on.

I was so proud as I pushed myself, learning to love kale (before it was the superfood that it is now), collard greens and beets. Everything clipped along smoothly until January, when my CSA basket started containing the same ingredients every week: broccoli, radishes, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, cauliflower. These were fine the first week, and maybe even the second, but it started feeling like a really hard slog by the end of the month, and February wasn't much better. They were all rather colorless and bland, chunky and a lot of work...

Thankfully, all was well again once some early season strawberries started showing up. But I'm sad to say that the phrase "winter vegetables" left a bad taste in my mouth, and I still have to rev up the ol' yes-I-want-to-eat-seasonally-and-locally attitude when days start getting shorter and my beloved berries become off limits because now they're starting to arrive from South America rather than nearby.

HOWEVER... not all is lost. I have learned that it just requires a little more planning to realize that winter vegetables are just as delicious as the rest of the year. Tonight's meal was a perfect example. I wish you could have seen the look on my face after the first bite, the third bite, the last bite, the wipe-the-bowl-with-my-finger bite... This recipe is FANTASTIC. Take it slow and savor every morsel because every bit of it, from the melted cheese to the crunch of the breadcrumb topping to the satisfaction of each cauliflower mouthful, is not to be rushed. Thank you Vegetarian Times -- you did it once again!

Mac-and-Cheese-Style Cauliflower
Serves 8

Get all the creamy, cheesy goodness of mac and cheese—without the high starch content of macaroni. To make your own breadcrumbs, tear firm, fresh bread into pieces and whirl in a food processor or blender until crumbs form.

(Should I admit I made a half batch, but split it between 2 people?!)

1 large head cauliflower (1 ½ lb.), cut into medium florets (8 cups) (I added 4 brussels sprouts too!)
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup nutritional yeast (I added just a half tsp or so of yeast from one of those foil packets of yeast...)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 egg yolks
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (gluten free of course)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets, and boil 5 to 7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid, and set aside.

2. Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk, garlic, and reserved cooking liquid, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, whisking constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and egg yolks until cheese is melted. Fold in cauliflower.

3. Coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread cauliflower mixture in baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spray breadcrumbs with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly and breadcrumbs are crisp and brown.

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