Comfort Me With: Crunchy Cauliflower Casserole


[Photograph: Stephanie Stiavetti]

I'm total a sucker for anything involving a cheesy sauce. And while pasta may be an ideal receptacle, sometimes you have to cut back on your carb intake. What's a girl to do when she's already eaten her weight in wheat this week? Turn to the next best thing: cauliflower.

Cauliflower is a great vegetable because its starchiness mimics carby foods that we love but shouldn't eat so much of: namely, pasta and potatoes. In fact, I'd argue that you can substitute cauliflower in 75% of pasta and potato dishes. Have you ever tried buttered mashed cauliflower? Cauliflower with pesto sauce? Or baked, cheesy cauliflower casserole?

This dish is lovely for many reasons, including its cream and cheese content, but what I love most about this recipe is that it provides a huge helping of comforting richness while still getting in a mega-serving of vegetables. You could just as easily make this dish with macaroni, but cauliflower allows you to skip the pesky food-coma that sets in after indulging.

Southern breaded cauliflower is cheesy and creamy, with a few spices added to make things interesting. If you like, you can leave out the nutmeg and cumin, but they really do take the dish from standard to sensational. You could even add a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon if you like to amp up the sweetness.