Friday, June 8, 2012

Cauliflower "Cheese" Spread: or Naan Pizza Revisited

There is something so beautiful about dining alfresco.   Authors Note: I realized that I use "beautiful" far too often, even though it always seems to be perfectly appropriate for what I'm attempting to describe.  From hence forth, I'll try harder to use other adjectives...

There is something so divine about dining alfresco.  The fresh air and sunlight make the flavors stronger, enhancing the subtleties, the sweet or tangy or peppery or smokey.  It makes you eat slower, appreciating and enjoying the simple act of sharing a meal, sipping on wine, and conversing.  Even if the background noise is the motorcycle traffic to New Hope rumbling by.  Time seems to slow, you relax, and instead of just eating, you are dining.  You, along with the meal, are transformed - its like a religious experience, or at least, its one of the closest things I've experienced to one.

After Tuesday's Gravity Hill shopping spree, I had a summer squash and that purple head of cauliflower sitting on my counter, just begging to be chopped and cooked and created into something.  As I was driving home from work - windows open, fresh cut grass and barbecue smells blowing through my hair - I knew that tonight was a backyard dinner night.  One of my favorite summer-night outdoor meals is naan pizzas (which happens to the subject of one of my first ever posts).  Naan is the perfect means of highlighting fresh summer produce - its thick enough to handle a pile of vegetables and other toppings, but airy enough that isn't heavy and dense like a traditional pizza dough can be.  Its the ultimate veggie vessel.  So in the end, the decision on what to do with my squash and cauliflower really was a no-brainer.

Normally when I make these pizzas, we use canned pizza sauce and no cheese - or rather, optional cheese for those who partake.  I usually use minimal sauce, mainly because it tends to be too sweet and, well, canned tasting (you know what I'm talking about....don't you?).  Tonight, however, I did two things differently: I skipped the canned sauce and roasted up some grape tomatoes (yes, people, the roasted tomatoes are back!), and I made a cauliflower "cheese" spread.  Now I know what you might be thinking, but trust me.  I've made a ricotta substitute for vegan lasagna before using blended up tofu and cauliflower before, but decided to just use the cauliflower this time and see what happened.  It ended up working pretty well, although I wouldn't necessarily call it a pizza cheese substitute - it had the consistency of hummus, but added the saltiness and creaminess that you'd normally get from cheese.  Topped with roasted tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms with garlic and onions, and fresh basil, and eaten alfresco with a big glass of red wine - divine.  While I do think that the recipe needs a little tweaking, its definitely going to become a staple on my naan pizzas from now on.
Cauliflower "Cheese" Spread
1 head cauliflower florets, chopped
olive oil
non-dairy milk
salt and pepper

+ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place cauliflower florets in a medium baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is soft.
+ Place roasted cauliflower in a food processor.  Add a splash of olive oil.  Blend, then slowly add milk until desired consistency is reached.  Season to taste.  To serve, spread on naan as a base, then add sauce and toppings.

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