Thursday, November 4

Cauliflower Gratin and a Trip to San Diego

What a busy couple of weeks we've had!  I hate to be away for so long, but such is life.  It seems like so much has happened lately, but I promise not to bore you with every detail.  I've been a bad blogger too... I haven't had my camera handy, so you'll have to excuse the iphone pictures.

For the first time since we moved to Nashville, we flew back to San Diego for a little getaway.  The trip was a true testament to our age because it was gloriously filled with a wedding AND a baby shower (separate couples!).  And for the first time, I was a tourist in my old stomping grounds.  This fact was not made any less obvious by our rental car.  I was a little embarrassed for us, but not enough to not take the top off and blast the music all the way down the coast.

There was a lot of reminiscing going on that weekend.  It was difficult to imagine that we spent nearly 10 years there.  We soaked up some time at the beach and hit up our favorite eateries.  One of our favorites used to be a coffee shop that sits on the 101 along the coast.  All of my memories at Pannikin are of overcast and windy San Diego mornings and the day we visited was no exception.  We laughed how everyone kept apologizing for the bad weather.  In their defense, it was 65 and overcast.

The best part of our trip was not the food or even seeing the ocean again.  It was getting to spend time with our dear old friends; catching up on life and seeing all the changes that had taken place while we were gone.  It was hard leaving, knowing we would miss two more babies being born.  But on the upside, San Diego is not a bad place to visit when it's time to go back.

I was excited to get home and back to cooking but not to make this recipe.  In fact, I've been dreading it.  My Grandma makes the most amazing Cauliflower Noodles Alfredo, but the problem is, I can't make it for the life of me.  Last Spring I gave it a go.  No big deal, right?  Noodles Alfredo...I've got this one in the bag.  I ended up dumping the entire batch in the trash (and I'll eat just about anything).  I even crossed it off the "Must Have" list at one point.  But it taunted me all summer long.  I've resisted the "cauliflower" self-talk for months, and it finally got the better of me.  Did I mention I hate cauliflower?  So the cauliflower and I had to compromise.  I decided if it was going in anything, it had to be pureed.  My sister actually makes a killer Cauliflower soup (that I promise to get the recipe for) and if she can get it taste good, maybe I can too.  My cooking pales in comparison to hers though, so there's no guarantee.

This recipe is something I've been mentally preparing for for months, so when I finally took it to the kitchen, it just snowballed.  In honor of finding out that I have French Canadian blood (I've always wished I was French...but wait, does that count?), I decided to use brown butter as the base, which turned out to be a fabulous idea.  It gave a nutty complexity to the sweet and creamy cauliflower.  It was perfection!  I somehow created a perfect balance of flavors, and this fledgling cook actually felt like a real one for a fleeting moment in time.

It ended up being more of a casserole than an alfredo.  The sauce was almost mashed-potato-like, but without the guilt.  I feel like a proud parent to my little dish, "Cauliflower Gratin."  I hope you like it!

Cauliflower Gratin


1 head of cauliflower
10 ounces whole grain penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained and set aside
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
small handful of fresh sage, finely chopped
small handful of parsley, finely chopped
whole wheat breadcrumbs
parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare Cauliflower: Remove leaves and cut off florets.  Discard core.  Steam cauliflower florets for 8-10 minutes.  Place florets into food processor or blender and puree until smooth and creamy.  If dry, add a dash of cream.

Brown Butter: In large pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir constantly to prevent solids from sticking to the bottom and burning.  Butter will begin to turn a golden-tan color.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool just briefly.

Sauce: Add minced garlic to butter to instantly saute.  Quickly add pureed cauliflower to prevent garlic from burning and becoming bitter.  Add salt, and stir over medium-low heat.  Mix in pre-cooked pasta, and pour into gratin dish.

In a small bowl, mix equal parts of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese (not a lot, just enough to lightly top the dish) and add chopped parsley, sage and a few grinds of white pepper.  Top pasta with breadcrumb mixture to add a little texture, and place in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.


  1. Sissy you are soo Funny! BTW nice rental car. (I love you and miss you terribly!)

  2. Aw man, this post makes me miss you terribly, too. Don't really know exactly why, it just does.

    Okay first, so glad you got to visit your second home (you have three homes!). The rental car cracked me up because when we went to Monterey and then further south on "the 1," as my dad says, we couldn't count how many mustang convertibles we saw! Seriously, one right after another after another. I would've rocked the top down, too, btw- as my husband and daughter would most likely scream at me...

    Secondly, my email has been down so I miss our little chats and I forgot to tell you that Ryan got the low-down for us. But obviously you know all that by now! And did you know we are related to a poet?! A POET! Gosh, it makes so much sense to me. Of course I failed to write down her name so I'll probably have to bug your mama for that one. And yes, I am counting the French, for the record.

    And who knew Sherri made a mean cauliflower (gag) soup?! Although, she was always the one that loved that (bemoaned) lentil soup, which I now actually love! I'll just take your word for it that it's good. Not so sure though... :)

    Okay, love you and au revoir!