One of the easiest ways to reduce your grocery bill is to eat more fruits and vegetables. In addition to being cheaper than meats, produce is healthier, and a healthier diet can lead to lower medical expenses. One excellent meat substitute is the protein-packed cauliflower, thanks to its versatility, affordability, and nutritional content.
A hearty (and hardy) cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower has been long ignored by the culinary world. Its white color has led many to believe that it is a nutritionally empty food (much like a white potato or white bread), but the truth is that cauliflower is loaded with nutritional benefits. A hundred grams of cauliflower contains only 26 calories, yet offers 10 percent of your daily fiber, 77 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C, plus a hefty dose of protein and vitamin B. Though it’s generally the rule that the more colorful a vegetable is, the healthier it is, cauliflower is the exception to the rule.
As far as vegetables go, yes, cauliflower can be a bit expensive. It can cost $2-$3 for a head of cauliflower, nearly twice the price of its close relative, broccoli. But you can treat a head of cauliflower as you would a whole chicken, which can cost upwards of $10. That’s right, you can roast a whole head of cauliflower like you would a chicken! Bon Appetit recommends brining the cauliflower to infuse flavor, and serving with a whipped goat cheese.
For me, I like to use cauliflower as a replacement for the more unhealthy items. Pureed cauliflower is incredibly versatile – I quickly boil or steam the cauliflower and then put it straight in the food processor. You can thin out this mixture with broth and serve as soup, or add roasted garlic, olive oil, and Greek yogurt for a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. Roasted cauliflower roughly chopped in a food processor can also replace couscous or pasta.
The following soup recipe is based on a Food and Wine recipe, but with substitutions made for easier shopping and a healthier version.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup
1 medium head of cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds)—halved, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch florets
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 375. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the cumin, curry powder and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Season the florets with salt and pepper and roast for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and browned.
In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower, bay leaf, 3 tbsp of olive oil, and water and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat until the liquid is reduced and the cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes. Pick out and discard the bay leaf.
In a blender, puree the soup in two batches until very smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the Greek yogurt. Rewarm it over moderate heat, adding more water for a thinner consistency, if desired. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve hot, with a chive garnish.
For a puree you can keep on hand to use as a cream replacement, do the same thing but leave out the cumin, curry, and bay leaf, and you can vary the water amounts to attain the desired consistency. This puree can be used to replace half of the cream in homemade mac ‘n cheese, for example, or half of the cream in a fettucine alfredo recipe.