Years ago, I was attempting to reverse my daughter Valentine’s disdain for cauliflower. She was always my veggie-loving kiddo, so I was stumped by her dislike of one my favorites. Who doesn’t love roasted cauliflower florets, with those crispy caramelized golden edges?
She loved artichoke – pulling apart the leaves and scraping them on her teeth. So, why not create a pull-apart version of cauliflower? I roasted it whole on a lower temperature (about 350 F) for nearly an hour, and then pumped up the heat to 400 F for some browning. I then seasoned the whole head of cauliflower with a little lemon butter or cheese. The idea worked: all four of my kids had fun pulling apart the cauliflower, eating little florets like finger food.
Over the years, cauliflower morphed from dinner table favorite to movie night snack food, right alongside popcorn. The recipe has changed a little: I’ve found that steaming the cauliflower a few minutes first cuts the cook-time in half and the florets are easier to pull apart.
And, I’ve upped my seasoning, for example slathering on a garlicky cheese mixture spiked with just a touch of hot sauce to remind me of the buffalo wings of my college days, when I thought nothing of downing a half-dozen fried wings, skin and all.
With today’s recipe for Cheesy Pull-Apart Whole Cauliflower, the high-cal buttery and cheesy coating packs a garlic punch, even though each serving has relatively little of it, so healthy eating goals stay on track. And while we’re enjoying movie-time or game-time nibbles, it’s nice to know that we’re actually getting a little nutrition in our bodies, too.
CHEESY PULL-APART WHOLE CAULIFLOWER
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 medium head of cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon hot sauce or buffalo sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Turn the cauliflower upside down and gently cut out the bulk of the core, leaving a triangle-shaped indentation at the bottom of the cauliflower. Add an inch of salted water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Place the cauliflower right side up in the pot and cover the pot to steam the cauliflower until tender, but still firm (not mushy), about 7-10 minutes, depending on the size and age of the cauliflower. Test with a slim sharp knife.
Once the cauliflower is done, remove it from the pot and place on paper towels to cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the butter, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, garlic and hot sauce. Blot the cooled cauliflower with paper towels. Coat the outside of the cauliflower with the cheesy mixture, using your hands to coat the whole head. Place the cauliflower on a baking tray lined with foil or parchment. Bake until the cauliflower is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve with forks or as finger food.
Nutrition information per serving: 67 calories; 42 calories from fat; 5 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 7 mg cholesterol; 136 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 2 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”