Cauliflower is available as “rice” and finding its way into many foods these days from mashed potatoes to pizza crust since it’s a healthy ingredient and adaptable. Cauliflower can befriend many different flavors but its best friend is thyme and its greatest characteristic is the ability to caramelize so nicely, says chef and caterer Serena Bass, who contributed these recipes to Real Food. It develops a wonderful nutty flavor, and with thyme and a hit of lemon zest, turns from a simple vegetable into a fascinating, and somewhat addictive, spread for crunchy toasts. (Plus, you can make it a day ahead.) Bass likes to serve this spread with a bowl of black olive tapenade nearby so guests can add a little dab if they like, which is a good idea.
There will most likely be plenty of cheesy dips, pizza, chili and other hearty fare atop buffet tables for the big game this weekend. A healthy dollop of dip will be a welcome addition—both for the folks who care about the game and those who really just come for the party.
Cauliflower and Thyme Dip
Makes 4 Cups (About 64 1-tablespoon servings)
2 heads cauliflower (about 12 cups chopped)
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest removed with a peeler
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Grease a 1-quart ovenproof dish with olive oil and set aside.
2. Cut off the base of the cauliflower, discard the leaves and rest the head of the cauliflower on a cutting board. Cut out the heart, leaving only the florets. Cut each floret into bite-sized pieces.
3. Put the florets, oil, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a large deep bowl and toss together well. You want to get the olive oil into all the nooks and crannies.
4. Pour the cauliflower mixture onto an ungreased sheet pan, add 1/2 cup of water, and roast for 35 minutes. Some of the florets will caramelize underneath, which is fine.
5. Test a couple of the larger pieces with a paring knife; they should pierce easily.
6. Remove from the oven and scoop the cooked cauliflower into a food processor.
7. Add the heavy cream and pulse until puréed, about 20 pulses. Pour into the prepared dish and set aside to cool.
8. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before you transport it, about 2 hours out of the fridge.
9. When you arrive at the party, you can either warm the dip in the microwave on medium power for about 2 minutes, or, if there is room in the oven, put it in at 350° to 400°F—or whatever temperature is available—and leave it for 20 minutes. Serve with warm baguette slices or small, one-bite crackers.
Black Olive Tapenade
Makes 1 Cup
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of a food processor and pulse to a rough paste. Adjust seasoning to taste.
2. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. Stir and bring to room temperature before serving.
Tip: Place a teaspoon in the serving bowl for spreading tapenade—it’s much easier than a knife.
Nutrition info (per serving)
• CAULIFLOWER DIP: CALORIES 26 (19 From Fat); FAT 2g (Sat. 0g); CHOL 1mg; SODIUM 79mg; CARB 2g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 1g
• BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE: CALORIES 19 (16 From Fat); FAT 2g (Sat. 0g); CHOL 0mg; SODIUM 68mg; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; PROTEIN 0g