There was a cauliflower. There was a need for comfort food. There was cheese on hand. And drifting around in the sea of paper on the dining room table was a recipe from Mark Bittman that called for a whole cauliflower, in which said cauliflower is puréed to become the sauce for a baked macaroni and cheese.
I liked the sound of it, but as I am incapable of following directions and recipes are usually just suggestions to me, I adapted it.
If you want to see the recipe as I found it, it's here. But what I did is below - it's got more cheese than Bittman's version. It's pretty good, though the girl child took one bite and spat it out, crying "vegetables!". There you have it - I guess this one didn't make it into the Jessica Seinfeld book.
Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
Oil for the baking pan
2 cups water with a spoonful of Penzey’s Ham Base mixed in - or use chicken or vegetable stock
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces
8 ounces pasta
2 cups grated cheddar
1 T. dry mustard
four or five slices of mozzarella
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup or more bread crumbs, preferably homemade
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. If you have one of those pasta pots with an insert, now's the time to use it.
2. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon - or just lift the insert out! Transfer the cauliflower to a blender or food processor. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a good sized bowl.
3. Carefully process the cauliflower with the stock, mustard, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. (You may have to work in batches.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the sauce and the grated cheese to the pasta, toss together, and spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish.
4. Lay the slices of mozzarella on top of the pasta. Mix the parmesan and bread crumbs together and sprinkle over the top. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 30-40 minutes. Serve hot and hope the seven year old likes it.
The principal changes that I made were as follows: I took out the fussy step of boiling a couple of bay leaves, I added more cheese to the mix, I added the mozzarella to the top (because we had it), I left out the nutmeg (only because I forgot), and I used dry mustard instead of prepared (because I wasn't paying attention to the recipe). I also lowered the oven temperature and lengthened the cooking time. Oh, and I made the bread crumbs non-optional - which is ridiculous when you think about it, because what I'm kind of saying here is that EVERYTHING IS OPTIONAL.