The Real Dirt: Never too much cauliflower 

When I see cauliflower on my CSA’s chalkboard, I am filled with joy. It’s one of those vegetables that does so much in place of a starch. Sub it for rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes, tots (just heard about that one!)—the list goes on. One of my favorite recipes is mashed cauliflower, a simple, elegant dish that my 16-year-old niece always revisits for seconds.

Mashed cauliflower—or, as we sometimes say, faux potatoes—can contain a basic three ingredients or get a bit more complicated. But not much more—just add some garlic and Parmesan or finish it with truffle salt or rosemary salt.

Here’s what I did:

I had about two heads’ worth of cheddar and regular cauliflower (my cauliflowers were smaller than average). I chopped them up into florets and put them in a large pot with a steamer tray at the bottom. I poured in about a cup of water (enough to get a half-inch of water in there) and steamed them until they were a little more than fork-tender. You don’t want to overcook them, but you want them to be soft enough to mash well. Mine took about 10 minutes.

While they’re steaming, I might slip some garlic in the oven to roast, or saute some diced garlic.

Once the cauliflower is cooked, take out your food processor (a hearty blender would probably work, too) and add the cauliflower to it. I had to do this in two or three shifts. I used a total of 1/3 cup olive oil, pouring some into each batch—plus a little extra at the end. I added a 1/2 tsp of salt as well, distributed in each batch. And then another pinch at the end. Add the garlic, if you’re using it.

I let the food processor run for a good two to three minutes to get a pureed cauliflower mash.

And then I served it up.

You can use this to top a farmer’s/cottage/shepherd’s pie. You can serve it with steak. You can do so many things with this little side dish.


2 heads (or the equivalent) of cauliflower

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2–1 tsp salt (I like Redmond salt, localish and filled with minerals)

garlic, roasted or minced, or herbs of your choice (optional)


Chop the cauliflower into florets. There’s no need to be pretty about it, these will eventually be mashed, but don’t hack them so badly that the cauliflower turns to crumbs.

Steam the cauliflower florets in a large pot (or boil them) until they are very fork tender. This takes about 10 minutes. In batches that fit your food processor, add the cauliflower, some of the olive oil and some of the salt. Taste a sample with your finger. Add salt or oil as you like. Here is when you would add a clove or two of roasted garlic, some rosemary salt or rosemary, or other herb combination. This is a very flexible recipe.

Process the ingredients for 1–3 minutes, until smooth.

Add some finishing salt if you feel like it. I really like truffle salt, which tempers some of the cauliflower flavor.

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