Stop what you’re doing right now and – wherever you live – go search out a CSA or local farm delivery in your area. Ok, that sounded pushy, but really, you’ll thank me later! Here are a few reasons why:
1. You will support small farmers in your community… and your vegetables will be tastier because everything is better in season.
2. You will learn how to become a creative cook, rather than a recipe cook, which means you’ll spend less time and money at the grocery store.
3. You’ll become super impressed with yourself when you first learn how to whip something up out of “nothing.”
4. It’ll feel like Christmas morning when you get something unexpected and amazing like this super bright orange cauliflower.
5. Your husband will be happy that this farm cauliflower inspired the idea for “cheesy” mac… something that wasn’t planned or editorially scheduled, yet somehow manifested itself onto our dinner table.
We made a vegan and cheddar cheese version of this creamy cauliflower sauce… and even Jack admitted that they both turned out pretty darn similar (although don’t tell him I said that). Pictured above is the vegan version, which I slightly un-veganized by adding a little bit of parmesan cheese on top. Whichever way you go – this is a lighter healthier mac thanks to the cauliflower that’s the star of the sauce. (And, of course, you can use regular white cauliflower if that’s what you have).
This vibrant cauliflower comes from Farmhouse Delivery here in Austin.
- 1 big head of cauliflower, chopped (4 cups for the sauce, save the rest to add before baking)
- 12 oz brown rice elbow pasta
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ - 1 cup cashew cream (see recipe below) or sharp cheddar
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- salt & pepper
- pasta water, as needed to thin
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs (or gf panko)
- non-vegan option: sprinkle ¼ - ½ cup parmesan cheese
- super cheesy option: add an extra handful of cheddar under the panko
- ¼ cup chopped chives
- a few pinches of red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cashews, soaked for a few hours (strain soaking water before using)
- ¼ - ½ cup water
- 1 small garlic clove
- ¼ cup minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- salt, to taste
- If you're making the vegan option, start by making your cashew cream. (Strain the soaking water from the cashews). Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Scoop the cream out of the blender and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the 4 cups of cauliflower florets and cook until tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to drain and scoop the cauliflower into a blender. When the cauliflower is out, bring your water back up to a boil and add the pasta.
- Back to your blender - add the dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, to the cauliflower, and puree well. Add about ¾ cups of cashew cream (or cheddar cheese), sherry vinegar, and blend again. Add starchy pasta water, as needed, to thin the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Add more cashew cream if you want).
- When your pasta is al dente, set aside a cup or so of pasta water, then fully drain your pasta and the water out of the large pot. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and stir in the sauce. Add more reserved pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce.
- Pour your pasta into a large baking dish (or a few individual sized dishes). Place the remainder of the cauliflower floretes on top. Top with a sprinkling of panko, parmesan cheese (if using) and a drizzle of olive oil. (optional: make it extra cheesy by adding a layer of sharp cheddar underneath the panko and parmesan)
- Bake until the top is golden and crispy - about 12-20 minutes depending on the size of your dish.
- Remove from oven and top with chives and red pepper flakes.