Monday, April 5, 2010

Cheesy Cauliflower Bake with Crunchy Panko Crumbs - made Lite!

I am not playing tricks on your eyes-- this bubbly, rich cheese sauce is not loaded with as many fat grams as this dish could have.  I can't give you exact calories and fat grams (partly because I'm too lazy to calculate it with a software program), but I can tell you that this dish is flavorful-- and it just might turn a cauliflower hater into a new believer.  I didn't even plan to blog about this recipe, because I created it on a whim.  I made this last week, after a hard day at the office.  One of my favorite fast dinners is to sear a pork tenderloin, roast it in the oven at 425F-- and to make a fast pan sauce of white wine, chicken stock...and maybe even some homemade peach jam.  As a side dish, I make roasted asparagus (with a little olive oil, salt & pepper), which is a favorite in our kitchen Roasted cauliflower is also a family favorite, so that's what I intended to make.   Then, I remembered that I finally found a reduced-fat cheese that was highly recommended by Cook's Illustrated-- and I trust them, wholeheartedly.  I had never heard of Cabot cheese, but I finally found it at Whole Foods.  I've been skeptical of most reduced-fat cheeses, mainly because they have a weird texture.  This night, I decided to see if I could create a cheese sauce that didn't have whole milk or heavy cream and tons of butter...

Lactose free, gluten free... sounds good.

I cut the florets into even pieces.Since I wanted to speed things up, I microwaved them for about 5 minutes-- just enough to partially cook them but not turn them to mush.  You are not going to see my usual step-by-step photos on how I made the sauce, because I wasn't sure what my end result would be-- I just started whisking and adding without a camera nearby.    I decided that I would make a white sauce (equal parts butter and flour, and whole milk). I've taken some brief classes in nutrition (since my son is a diabetic, and it was part of my Esthetics training, years ago). I'm all for the Mediterranean Diet-- in particular Omega-3 fats, which is found in olive oil.  --  I started with 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, and about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Next, I thickened the fat with equal flour and let it cook for a minute or two.  Instead of using whole milk,  I splashed in 1% milk (which is what I drink anyway), and used mostly low-sodium chicken to make the sauce silky smooth.  For seasonings, I added one small minced garlic clove, kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper, and a small pinch of cayenne pepper.  I gave it a taste-- ah, a little Dijon mustard....there!  I have fresh thyme in our herb garden, but I didn't want to leave my sauce. I grabbed a pinch of dried thyme, instead.  Last, I added about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Cabot cheese.  The sauce was thick, perfect and tasted great!  So, I grabbed my camera...

I was starting to have high hopes that I pulled it off.  I decided to moisten some Japanese panko crumbs (which I always have on hand, because I love the crunch of them far better than traditional bread crumbs), and slightly moistened them with a little olive oil.  I topped the partially cooked cauliflower and placed the casserole into a 350F oven, for about 20 minutes.

My taste buds are remembering this dish, at this very moment. Look at that bubbly sauce, would ya?!

NOTE: The topping might have been even more golden, had I broiled it at the end for a minute or so. I also wish I had cut some fresh thyme as a pretty garnish, and to perfume the panko crumbs..next time...

 How I wish I had made double this-- my husband went in for seconds. So did I.  Of all nights, my son showed up and polished off the rest.  He raved about it.   I have plans for this sauce-- I see Mac 'N Cheese with this sauce, with some broccoli and topped by panko crumbs... and we'll have far less guilt eating this, than the traditional stuff loaded with fat grams that are unspeakable!  I know that this side dish is going to be made again, and again.  I hope you can find the Cabot cheese where you live.  It fooled me into thinking it was the real deal for regular cheese.  As always, the printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.








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29 comments:

Bridgett said...

I am having a huge love affair with cauliflower these days but am kind of put off by the full fat cheesy calories! I will be trying this version very soon as it looks heavenly.

Trish said...

My goodness...that looks so good. Nearly 10 p.m. and I am getting hungry again just looking at it. Well done, I have all the ingredients and will go out and get the light cheese.. .a perfect dish for these rainy days.

Cristie said...

Cauliflower is not something I'm usually drawn to, but this side dish looks heavenly.

Monica H said...

I don't know why I don't eat cauliflower very much. More like NEVER, but I should. This looks really tasty Deb!

Debinhawaii said...

Perfect dish--I love cauliflower and your lighter sauce is wonderful . Panko is the best! ;-)

Belle on Heels said...

yummy! i adore roasted cauliflower and my parents are big cabot cheese fans, so i will add this to the must-make list.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Looks fabulous and I love the fact that it's a healthier version too. Now I can have more, right?

Bonnie said...

We love cauliflower. I'm glad to know about Cabot cheese. I love their regular cheese.

Levinson and Axelrod said...

Very nice bake. Great Cauliflower recipe. Thanks a lot for sharing your talent.

Joanne said...

Thanks for cluing us into this reduced fat cheese! It's so hard to find one that is good quality.

This dish looks delicious.

Cathy said...

I love this dish! My mom used to make it when I was a child and now it is a favorite with my children and grandchildren. I do like your lighter version...we have to save calories where we can. Now you've done it, my mouth is watering for cauli and cheese sauce.

Kim said...

Cabot makes some of the best cheese around and your cheesy cauliflower bake is proof. It looks absolutely delicious Debby! I could easily eat this for my main course:D

Kathleen said...

I love cauliflower. This looks like an incredible way to serve it! YUM!!!

Velva said...

Cabot cheese is an excellent cheese source. I have no doubt their reduced fat version is high-quality ( I have the same issues about low fat cheeses too).

I really like the cheesy cauliflower. The panko crumbs are always a nice addition as a topping as they are light and crunchy.

TKW said...

I am so making this! It looks great, and I think I can handle cauliflower in a sauce like that!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I'm definitely picking up some of that cheese, going to WF's this afternoon!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Cabot Cheese is located in Northern Vermont, and I was lucky enough to visit there a couple of years ago. It's a large producer that sources from a number of dairies in the state, and they offer a nice selection of various types and ages of cheese.

Dorothy Rimson said...

This must be so nutricious

À LA GRAHAM said...

Love it...I need to pick up some cauliflower when I go to the store tomorrow so I can try this out. Have fun with all your upcoming baking adventures. Maybe your son would be interested in some desserts Fedex'd ;-)
I love to bake but no one around here eats it.

Carla and Michael said...

This recipe looks perfect.Glad you gave us the heads up on Cabot cheese. I have seen it but have always been sceptical. Now I can give it a try. Thanks for another perfect recipe.

Muneeba said...

I was just wondering what to cook with cauliflower ... this is fab! I've seen Cabot cheese in my grocery store, so am gonna buy it next time. Me likey the cheese, u know that ;)

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

I love cauliflower... and that looks amazing! Mmm... cheesy and delicious!

Cherine said...

I love this gratin!!

The Chef In My Head said...

Isn't panko one of the greatest things ever invented?? This looks so so good! ~LeslieMichele

Anonymous said...

It looks good! Do you know what the ingredients are in the cheese that makes it low-fat? Are they "real" foods or something unpronounce-able? Thanks!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Dear Anonymous,
I don't eat "plastic cheese". Cabot Creamery is from Vermont, and top-rated by Cook's Illustrated. It's quality cheese, and I buy mine at Whole Foods...that tells you a lot. I'm very picky about what I feed my family-- which is why I don't buy canned cream soups, frozen fake whipped topping nor processed foods. I hope this answers your question...you can google Cabot Cheese and ask their website your questions. I'm sure they'll be happy to answer in further detail.

Natalie Green said...

Adding this to my wedding buffet!

Candace Karu said...

This is a wonderful recipe that we were excited to share with our friends on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/cabot Thanks for the inspiration and the lightened up version of a delightful dish!

Pam List said...

Wow, that looks perfect.