Even though cauliflower appears plain and simple, I’ve always liked it. In simplicity shines its appeal. As a side-dish it compliments more substantial foods, like steaks, chicken, pork. It doesn’t scream out for attention, but certainly adds to a meal with its mild flavor. Some people say it has a sweet nutty flavor, a bit creamy, with undertones of bitterness. However, personally, I’ve never noticed any bitterness. I like its mildness, but too, like other cooks, I like to change up, enhance its flavor with additions of bacon, nuts, seeds, cheese, butter and other foods.
And when paired with zucchini and its bright-green look, it contrasts beautifully with the whiteness (or purple or pale green hue) of the cauliflower and a tasty level of complexity rises when other ingredients join in.
Zucchini is adaptable and fun to cook with, with hundreds of recipes to select from in cookbooks and on the internet, plus cooking something new is fun! This recipe is one of my creations since I often produce an abundant crop of zucchini in my summer garden.
Newly married back in 1973, I purchased a cookbook devoted solely to recipes with zucchini. I pulled idea from that cookbook, and added fresh ones of my own, and thus now have a new repritroie of zucchini recipes with other vegetables, like this one with cauliflower.
INGREDIENTS Serves 3-4
1 large head cauliflower, core removed, broken up in pieces
2 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick in coins, skin left on
1/2 – 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or other good melting cheese like Fontina or Gruyere
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup butter, very soft
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh dill
1 tsp fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste
1 In a large pot of boiling salted water add the cauliflower. Cook on medium low for 10-12 minutes as the vegetable softens until a fork almost pokes through it easily. Remove the cauliflower to a plate, cover it with aluminum foil and keep warm. Keep the water boiling on low and add the zucchini, cook it for 5-6 minutes, until nearly tender, but not mushy and falling apart. Remove to plate-covered paper towels and gently pat dry. Preheat t he oven to 350 degrees.
2 Mash the cauliflower, but not too fine, add it to a large bowl. Add the butter, stir as it mostly melts. Add the cream, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cornstarch. Stir until all is incorporated.
3 Lightly grease with the olive oil, a 10 x 6 casserole dish with nearly two inch high sides or a 9 inch round pan with 2 inch high sides. Spread out about half of the cauliflower. Spread on top of that a layer of the cheese, topping it with salt and pepper. Spread out all the zucchini in an overlapping manner. Add a little more salt and pepper. Spread out the remainder of the cauliflower evenly and top with the remaining cheese.
4 Bake for 25 minutes. Broil on low for only 2-3 minutes as the top turns slightly golden. Once removed from the oven, immediately sprinkle with dill and chives. Cool slightly for ten minutes, serve with a chilled cucumber and tomato salad.
TIPS AND TWEAKS:
- To add meat, after the first layer of cauliflower in step 3, add a thin layer, several slices of deli ham, or sausage or 2 -3 slices of cooked bacon, cut up.
- Instead of garlic powder, press two garlic cloves and stir the particles into the combination in step 2.
- if you don’t have fresh herbs, use half the amount of dried at step 4.
- Before baking at step 4, sprinkle over the dish, a half cup or more of panko breadcrumbs plus a tablespoon of melted butter.
- If you want smother cauliflower, mash them more thoroughly at step 2.
- To lower the caloric count, use low fat milk or skim milk at step 2.