Cauliflower gratin with garlic and goat cheese

This post is coming at you from a mobile location today. By mobile, I mean I'm laying in the grass 20 feet from my front door, still within wifi range. It's a blissful 60 degrees, there's a slight breeze in the air, birds are chirping, and I've got one thing on my mind: farmer's markets are starting up soon.

My love affair with farmer's markets began in college when I started to value buying locally-sourced foods when possible. Amazingly, things just taste better when they're fresh from your neighbor's garden rather than picked early and shipped in from all over the country (or the world). I looked forward to Saturday mornings at Columbia Farmer's Market with its impressive produce stands, fresh Missouri trout, and incredible local goat cheese. Being surrounded by hundreds of delicious choices always gave me a boost of inspiration, and I'd leave loaded down with goodies but floating on air. To me, the arrival of autumn means an end to farmer's market season until early May, and I'm left scrambling for new meal ideas through a long winter. From November to March, we eat a lot of chili. Like, probably way too much chili. But spring has spring again, which means summer produce is near. One nearby market is starting earlier than ever - this Saturday! - and I'm trying to keep my best to keep my happy dances contained until then.

On another note, I just made eye-contact with a squirrel for a full 15 seconds.
It's time to put an end to some injustice. Cruciferous vegetables have gotten the short end of the culinary stick for far too long. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage - our cruciferous kings - are often mistreated, abused, and boiled into overcooked mush. And nobody likes overcooked mush.

With a little knowledge and a few techniques, we can redeem cauliflower back to its original deliciousness - and we should get pumped up to do that when we realize just how nutritious it is! One cup of cooked cauliflower contains 10% of your daily fiber, 75% of your daily vitamin C, and 15% of your daily folate. Nutritional stats aside, several studies have linked cauliflower to reduced risk of many cancers including bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian. Say whaaat? You heard me. One possible reason for this is the glucosinolates it contains: glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds that, when broken down by chewing, release powerful isothiocyanates that trigger anti-inflammatory processes in the body. As we know, inflammation is linked to a myriad of common diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Isothiocyanates may also help protect the walls of our blood vessels (a major defense against heart disease) and the lining of our digestive tract, resulting in better heart health and better digestion.

To celebrate this nutritional powerhouse, here's a recipe the whole family will love. It's creamy, steamy, and allows the flavor of cauliflower to shine like it deserves. No mush allowed. I'm serving this for dinner tonight alongside wine-poached salmon and melted leeks.
Get that mise en place. Having all your ingredients measured and ready to go is important in a fast-paced recipe like this.
Cauliflower gratin with garlic and goat cheese
Adapted from Cooking from the Farmer's Market
Serves 4

1 medium head cauliflower
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs (you should leave yours coarser than I did - more crunch!)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chipped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Grease a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.
  2. Fill a stockpot fitted with a steamer halfway with water and bring to a boil. Steam the whole cauliflower head for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board to cool. Cut into 8 roughly equal wedges and arrange in the baking dish. 
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic to the butter and quickly saute for 30-45 seconds. When the butter begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and whisk in the flour. Return the saucepan to the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Reduce the heat to low, add the salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Finally, stir in the goat cheese and allow it to slowly melt into the sauce.
  4. In a small pan, melt the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter over medium-high heat. When it sizzles, add the bread crumbs and toast to a golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Stir the red pepper flakes into the goat cheese sauce and pour the sauce over the cauliflower. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. 
  6. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cauliflower is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. 

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