When we retired to bed last night, the weather predictions were dire–blinding blizzards and high winds so severe, that weather forecasters were entertaining the idea of assigning names to the storms to landmark them, like hurricanes! We awoke to the newscasts of Boston, buried in snow, and Nantucket, beaten by 80 mile an hour winds, shores whipped by high seas, and no power. Dorie Greenspan, a favorite chef and cookbook author, Baking Chez Moi and Around My French Table, , posted a photo of snowdrifts and an icy river in Connecticut, I assume somewhere near her home. We are feeling grateful today.
The winter in our area of the world means some days with lows in the 40s and highs in the low 60s and blue skies and sun. We have an extended growing season, which means plenty of winter vegetables and blooming flowers. I began my day with a brisk, refreshing 5,000 step walk from home to downtown to one of my favorite historic buildings, McNulty Station. McNulty Station was once a railway station, old red brick, with arched Palladian-style windows, now home to a restaurant, loft condos, and office suites. The interior is contemporary now with lots of gleaming wood, skylights and sunny light streaming in through large expanses of windows and glass walls of suites.
Our neighborhood historic preservation committee was meeting with a developer and architect for a proposed new development project in our neighborhood in order to educate them about the character and established patterns and architectural legacy of our historic district in order to shape the project so that it blends nicely, new into old. Interesting talk of mass and scale, pervious and impervious surfaces, fenestrations, window shapes, brackets, dormers, and green space. The negotiations were pleasant and gracious, although we were humorously characterized as “very tough!” The outcome appears to be a “win-win.”
No blizzards, but another chilly day here in the low 60s, so I planned a hearty dinner that began with a recipe that an old friend posted on Facebook. The recipe is for a casserole called Loaded Cauliflower, and it was originally posted on Facebook by Courtney Luper. I have mentioned previously that I am always looking for flavorful recipes with cauliflower as an ingredient, because cauliflower, while a very nutritious cruciferous vegetable is often bland. In addition, I am often searching for recipes where the meat content is minimized, really a flavor or condiment, rather than an entrée. While this is a low carbohydrate recipe, there is substantial fat content. This is blizzard comfort food!
I did make some modifications to the recipe, so if you would like the original, look for it as a November 18 post at www.facebool.com/just1courtney.
Thank you for the inspiration, Courtney!
2 heads of cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
8 strips of your favorite bacon (I used Niman Ranch, uncured, a favorite)
1 large leek, halved, cleaned and sliced
8 ounces mushrooms (I found shitake on sale at my organic market!), cleaned and sliced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup lowfat sour cream
1 cup light mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s mad with olive oil)
2 Tbls Dijon mustard
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice (I used Old Croc, extra sharp cheddar from milk from grass-fed cows, afind at my local organic market. Use what you like)
Extra cheese to grate on top, just a few ounces
Fresh chives, 4-6 Tbls, chopped
Steam the cauliflower until very tender, and then drain and cool.
Cook the bacon on a rack over a baking sheet in a 425 oven until crisp. Cool.
Sauté the leeks, mushrooms and peppers in 2 Tbls olive oil just until softened. Salt and pepper. Cool.
Combine in a large mixing bowl the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, and 1 cup of cheese. Add 4-6 Tbls chopped chives.
Add the leek mixture to the bowl, and then the drained cauliflower. Crumble in the bacon, reserving a few pieces to crumble on top.
Spray a large rectangular casserole, 2 and 1/2 inches deep, with a vegetable oil spray.
Spread the cauliflower in the casserole, sprinkle with additional grated cheese, and reserved crumbled bacon and bake at 425 F for about 20 minutes until bubbling hot and just a bit browned on top of those snowy peaks!
This Loaded Cauliflower Casserole, that am re-branding Snowy Blizzard Casserole, is hearty, hot, creamy, and full of mild onion and cheese flavor punctuated by smoky bacon. We enjoyed it with a chilled Washington State Reisling Wine. This would make a side dish with star quality, although I might decrease the amount of bacon for a side dish. Fully loaded, it would make a decadent addition to a winter holiday meal. Hmmmm, could you see this as a brunch dish, topped with sunny side up eggs?
I wish that I could transport a care package of soup and this casserole to friends and family in the cold, white North!
Please share your thoughts about this casserole, and your experiences if you try the recipe. I hope that you are safe and warm tonight!