I am proud to say that my parents never had any trouble getting me to eat vegetables. I always found them interesting, even tasty. However, it wasn’t the same thing as far as my brother and sister were concerned. Jeff was a picky eater up until the day he entered the seminary (where he figured that fried eggplants with bagoong were quite tasty). Isabelle, on the other hand, has always had a good appetite but has only begun to eat more veg since she started a diet last month.
At any rate, I was fiddling around in the kitchen yesterday and was inspired by an article on cauliflower written by BBC Good Food editor Barney Desmazeray. He waxed poetic about lightly steamed caulis garnished with crisp lardons of bacon and of fluffy, pillowy cauliflower cheese on cold evenings. Given that I just bought a gorgeous head of cauliflower (a gorgeously healthy specimen, as a matter of fact; and at just PhP 39.75 [US$ 0.91] for a half-kilo!) and a quarter-kilo of new potatoes (PhP 19.25 = US$ 0.44), I decided to get cracking.
This dish is a delicious way of getting kids of all ages to eat their veggies. A scrumptious three-cheese sauce seasoned with pepper and parsley blankets toothsome baby potatoes and crisp-tender cauliflower. Finely chopped tomatoes scattered on top of the dish towards the end of baking add little nips of sweetness to contrast with the savory sharpness of the sauce. It’s also a recipe that you can prepare ahead of time; the vegetables, in particular, can be pre-cooked and kept in covered containers in the fridge till needed. You can also replace the cauliflower and potatoes with broccoli, butternut or kabocha squash, baby carrots, and asparagus.
This makes an excellent vegetarian main dish, especially when paired with a salad of lightly sauteed mushrooms dressed with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. It also works as a side dish for roasted or barbecued chicken.
Veg ‘n’ Three
- 1/2 kilo cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1/4 kilo unpeeled baby/new potatoes, scrubbed of any dirt then halved
- 1/4 cup green peas
- 200 grams Cheddar cheese, grated
- 50 grams cream cheese with herbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Edam cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1-1/4 cups full-cream milk
- 1 medium tomato, deseeded and diced
In a pot of salted water, cook the potatoes until these can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside. Boil the cauliflower in salted water for only five minutes; drain and set aside.
Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Saute the chopped onion till softened. Add the garlic and half the parsley and cook till fragrant. Add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and a dash of pepper; cook until the flour turns brown and smells toasty. Pour in the milk and cook, whilst stirring constantly, till bubbly and slightly thickened. Add the Cheddar, cream cheese, and half of the Parmesan or Edam. Stir until all the cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
Add the drained vegetables to the cheese sauce. Stir until all the potatoes and florets are covered with sauce. Pour into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and grated Parmesan/Edam. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and evenly sprinkle over the diced tomato. Bake for an additional five minutes. Remove from oven and serve whilst hot.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.