Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cauliflower Bake

Hands down, my most useful, and one of my absolute favorite Christmas gifts: the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook by Lauren Ulm. There are soooooo many awesome recipes in this book! I HIGHLY recommend it. I've only had it for a few days and have already tried and loved 2 dishes. Here's one of them: the red and white cauliflower bake. This would make a perfect vegan/veggie Christmas main course.

I edited a few things - originally, I cut back a bit on the nutritional yeast, although the original recipe doesn't actually call for too much more (2 Tbsp), so I may either be on the same page as Ms. Ulm flavor-wise, or maybe I'm developing my vegan taste buds. Either way, this dish is exciting for a number of reasons; here are my 2 main happy surprises with it: 1- I loved the marinara sauce. Usually I don't really like marinara that much, but this one had amazing flavor and still wasn't too tomato-ey, if that makes sense. 2- The white sauce rocked! My husband and I both loved it. It was thick and creamy and actually kind of cheesey tasting. Based on this, I can't wait to try Lauren's version of vegan mac & cheese (another recipe in the book).

Without further ado....

Cauliflower Bake
Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum's Red & White Cauliflower Bake
Serves 6-8

  • 4 cups (1 head) cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
Marinara sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes,* blended (If available in your area, I recommend Muir Glen Organic Stewed Tomatoes)
  • 1/2 veggie bouillon cube
    • 1 package of extra firm tofu
    • 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
    • 1 tsp fresh chopped basil
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1.5 Tbsp nutritional yeast
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • Salt & pepper to taste
    • 2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp water
    White Sauce:
    • 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 Tbsp tahini
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1.5-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
    • 1 cup plain soy or almond milk
    • Salt & pepper to taste
    Garnish, etc
    • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (Italian for extra flavor - I used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 Italian)
    • 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped Italian parsley
    • 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
    • A few cups of fresh spinach or baby greens (if serving the bake on top of greens)
    1. Make the marinara sauce: heat the olive oil, and add in the herbs. Next add the minced garlic, and saute for a minute or two. Then add the blended stewed tomatoes (don't use other canned tomatoes - these have such a good flavor!) and the 1/2 veggie cube, making sure it mixes in well. Keep stirring the sauce occasionally, and let it thicken as you cook it over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, and then turn off heat and set aside.
    2. While the sauce is still thickening, make the nota-ricota: prep the tofu by draining well (press with paper towels to remove excess water from the tofu). Crumble the tofu and place in a bowl. Mix in the rest of the nota-ricotta ingredients. Note- I didn't have individual dried herbs the recipe called for, so using an Italian herb mix here instead works very well. You can use dried basil, majoram, and rosemary instead though. Mix well and set aside.
    3. Chop the cauliflower into small pieces and steam until tender; set aside.
    4. Make the white sauce: melt the vegan butter in a small sauce pan over low heat, and then add the flour, whisking as you go. Add in the tahini, lemon juice, mustard, and yeast, whisking constantly. Next, add the soy or almond milk slowly, stirring constantly. Add salt & pepper to taste, and continue stirring and heating on medium-high until the sauce is pretty thick. 
    5. Assemble the bake! Spray a 1.5-2 quart pan with non-stick spray, and press the tofu-ricotta all along the bottom. Next, mix together the white sauce & steamed cauliflower, and layer this over the nota-ricotta layer. Add the marinara sauce on top (you might have a little extra if you used a full 2 cans of tomatoes, but letting a bit soak into the next layer wouldn't be a bad thing since it's so flavorful and delicious!). Then sprinkle with the bread crumbs to complete the final layer.
    6. Heat at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until the bread crumbs are browned and the bake gets bubbly.
    7. Cool for ~5-10 minutes after baking, and then sprinkle with fresh basil & parsley (optional). Also optional: serve on top of a bed of fresh spinach or baby greens. 

    Yum Yum indeed! This was delicious and hearty without being too heavy. I could taste a little nutritional yeast flavor, but it wasn't overwhelming and actually went well with the other flavors here. I thought it was delicious, and so did 3 friends (2 of whom are full-on meat eaters)! If you are serving to a bunch of meat-eaters, you can always cut the nutritional yeast down to 1 Tbsp for each of the white sauce and tofu-ricotta steps.

    I really liked serving this on a bed of fresh greens (I used a baby spinach mix), since I think it balances it out well. Other good sides here include steamed asparagus or broccoli, Swiss chard or kale, or mushrooms. OR, you could layer some fresh baby spinach into the bake between the nota-riccota and cauliflower layers (which I did the second time I made this for some extra veg!)

    This meal was really easy to make, although it did take about an hour all in. I'm definitely using this recipe as a stand-by meal everyone can love!

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