This is my first official post in the Taco Tuesday Challenge, which if you read my last post explaining the challenge, has nothing to do with tacos. 🙂
For this first culinary themed challenge day, I thought I’d post my recipe for mashed garlic cauliflower “grits,” a fantastically healthy and easy side dish for any dinner. I don’t eat meat, but this would probably pair well with something like the honey pecan encrusted salmon I make for Dear Boyfriend. I’ll eventually post a recipe on that as well! One evening a few days before Christmas, I took a cooking class on a whim. The dishes we were taught ranged from yum to blech. The yummiest of the yum was mashed cauliflower, billed on the syllabus as faux mashed potatoes. (If you’re curious, the blechiest of the blech was spearmint cocoa avocado maple pudding).
I’ve been making the mashed cauliflower as a side dish at least once a week since that class, putting my own spins on it. However, the biggest difference is that the instructor chef used a Ninja food processor, which I’m not about to spend gobs of money on when I’ll rarely use it. So I’ve been making mine with my trusty Kitchenaid stand mixer, and the result is that, instead of getting faux mashed potatoes, the consistency ends up more like faux grits!
First things first, if you’ve never had grits, I’m sorry. This humble Food of the Gods is a maize-based savory porridge popular in the Southern US, of Native American origin. Think polenta, if you’ve had that. Most grits sold in supermarkets are made with hominy, which is maize treated with alkali.
Before I get to my cauliflower recipe, I must in good consciousness issue the following public service announcement for those looking to try actual grits for the first time. Do not ever — I repeat ever — eat instant grits. See, even the cast of My Cousin Vinny agrees:
Back to the recipe. 🙂
I can’t recall all the ingredients the chef instructor added to her dish during the class, but I’ve been using a pretty simple ingredient list for my mashed cauliflower: fresh garlic cloves, sea salt, black pepper, EVOO, Smart Balance lite, half & half, and of course, cauliflower. I may tinker around with it some more, because I think adding some basil and perhaps even some crushed pine nuts would be amazing.
In the background of what I’m describing below, you should bring a decent amount of salted water to a boil, add your cauliflower, cover, bring it back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. In order to be sufficiently mash-able it will need to simmer for, oh say, ten minutes or so.
I highly recommend using fresh cloves of garlic if at all possible. The stuff from a jar is fine in a pinch, so I do always keep some on hand, but it just does not taste the same.
Start by taking apart your cloves and peeling those pesky skins off.
For any larger bulbs, go ahead and chop those up a bit by hand to make things easier on your food processor. Or, chop them all by hand if you like wielding knives. Me? Not so much. Just make sure it is pretty finely chopped.
Transfer the garlic to a mini food processor like this one I snagged at Walmart for literally like $5. It’s tiny, and the blade is not the sharpest, but for the price tag it does the trick for mincing and chopping herbs, spices, nuts, garlic, etc.
While that’s pulsing (30ish seconds), spray your sautéing pan with cooking spray and bring a few drizzles of EVOO to medium-high heat. Transfer your minced garlic to the pan.
Check on your simmering cauliflower and make sure it hasn’t sprouted legs and wandered off. Good.
Now spoon out a tablespoon or so of Smart Balance lite (or butter, whatever) into your stand mixer bowl, and add a few hearty splashes of half & half. This is one of those recipes where measuring really isn’t necessary, because it’s all to taste and texture. I’d estimate I added maybe two to three tablespoons of half & half.
By now your garlic should be browning quite nicely. Shuffle it around a bit with the spatula to cook it evenly. You’ll want it to be ranging in hues from gold to near black when you transfer it to the mixing bowl.
With all of your non-cauliflower ingredients now in the mixing bowl, fix your bowl into place on the stand mixer and turn off the heat on your cauliflower.
Add a few dashes of salt and pepper.
Carefully remove the pot of cauliflower from the stove and drain it thoroughly. Dump it all into the mixing bowl.
Here’s where the faux mashed potatoes versus faux grits distinction comes in. If you were using a high powered food processor, I believe pulsing it for a minute or so would yield the runny, silky consistency of what the chef instructor served us that night.
If you’re using a stand mixer like me, the whisk obviously isn’t going to chop up the cauliflower very much, which is why you will end up with a thicker, grainier texture like grits. I have found that programming the mixer for medium speed for 2 minutes yields very chunky “grits,” while programming it for 4 minutes yields much creamier “grits.” Start with just a minute or two, and you can always mix it more if you want it smoother.
And voilà — You’ve got faux grits! Top them with parsley, grated Parmesan, whatever strikes your fancy!