Ever since I met my current partner, I’ve been introduced to a slew of foodstuffs I’d never heard of before. Bee pollen. Umeboshi paste. Rice almond bread (gluten-free). Chia seeds. And, my favorite, cashew butter. I’d seen the creamy, eggshell-colored goo on the shelves at Trader Joe’s (when they carried it) and Whole Paycheck, but at the time, I was too enmeshed with almond butter to try anything else (which I do still hold in a very special corner of my heart).
I also have a sick obsession with nut butters of all kinds (I was once part of an a capella group call Big Papadakis & The Nut Butter Trio). Peanut, almond, hazelnut, almond-hazelnut (yes, this exists) and now, cashew. My partner and I love to substitute cashew butter for cheese in a cream sauce; we even have a list of all the recipes we want to make with it (it’s so cute even I want to puke).
On ward to the recipe….the cashew cream is so good even a cheese lover will forget there’s no cheese in it.
Cauliflower Gratin w/Cashew Cream
• 1 head of cauliflower
• 2 leeks
• 1 small onion
• 1 cup cashew butter (you can find it at Whole Foods or your local co-op)
• 2-3 cups of veggie broth** (more or less depending on how creamy you like it)
• 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (for the cheesy, yeasty flavor)
• 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (dried will work too)
• 1 tbsp. olive oil • ½ tsp. salt (to taste)
• ½ tsp. pepper (to taste)
• 1/2 loaf day-old hard bread
What you will need
• 1 large casserole dish
• 1 medium saucepan
• 1 large steaming pot
• Sharp knives
• Food processor
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put enough water in the large steaming pot to steam cauliflower and bring to a boil (about 1 quart). Chop cauliflower in bite-size pieces. When water boils, put in cauliflower to steam. Cauliflower should only steam until it is al dente (i.e. it should be more hard than soft). Remove and place in casserole dish.
3. Chop onion and leeks. In the medium saucepan, heat olive oil. When oil is hot, sauté leeks and onion on medium high for 5-7 minutes, then reduce heat to low/simmer for about 30 minutes or until caramelized (they should taste sweet).
4. While leeks and onion simmer, blend cashew butter, nutritional yeast, veggie broth, thyme, salt and pepper. The consistency should be creamy so if you need to add more veggie broth to thin it out, do so. And if you like it “cheesier,” add more nutritional yeast.
5. When the leeks and onions are caramelized, mix them in with the cauliflower (should be distributed evenly).
6. Pour cashew cream sauce over cauliflower. Make sure you cover it with the sauce (this will allow the cauliflower to soak up as cream sauce as possible).
7. Clean food processor. Add bread and process. Sprinkle over the cauliflower and cream.
8. Bake gratin at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cauliflower is soft (not too soft), the cream is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned.
9. Let cool for 15 minutes.
*I’ve never made this recipe using measurements so these are guesstimates. I encourage you to play around with the proportions, figuring out what you like and don’t like, adding or subtracting veggie broth, salt or pepper. Have fun with it!
**If you make a spectacular veggie broth, you can always make your own and use it in this recipe (and post it in the comments!). You can also do that for cashew butter (cashews and water) instead of buying it. I’m just lazy sometimes!
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.