I got married two years ago, acquiring a vegetable-loving husband, his three kids and his collection of kitchen appliances. I was unexpectedly excited by some of the last, such as the gas range with a warming drawer, and some not --- the griddle and slow-cooker are a yawn. And then the wafflemaker found its way into my rotation.
About a month after the wedding, I happened upon a way to make cauliflower waffles in an old cookbook of mine. I'd had the book for 10 years but had never noticed the recipe. I chose to make the waffles for dinner that night because I thought it would make the kids giggle, which they did. I've continued to make them since, because they're delicious.
Cooking for seven (we've added a baby and an au pair to our family) has helped me noodle my way through learning to parent my three insta-kids. They are sometimes eager helpers, sometimes indifferent bystanders, sometimes both --- within a span of five minutes.
While helping me make the waffles, the kids have learned how to beat egg whites and fold them into the batter. They have also learned that licking the egg-white beater is kind of gross, and that if you let go of the lid of the wafflemaker before it's closed, it will come crashing down and annoy The Mother. The kids gleefully quiz guests about the waffles' "secret" ingredient.
I didn't make cauliflower waffles to sneak vegetables into anybody's diet. The kids eat them happily. I cook for my family with two goals: to make healthful food (mostly) that I enjoy and to make dishes that I think are fun. I've put popcorn in both soup and chocolate chip cookies, to mixed reviews. A gorgeous beet, fennel and kefir soup was reviled, as is anything that includes chickpeas (a.k.a. "ant butts"). My older daughter loves fettuccine Alfredo with added peas and spinach; it's prepared when my husband is out of town, because cream sauces are not his favorite.
Cauliflower has been a theme among the keepers: In our regular rotation are olive oil-roasted broccoli and romanesco cauliflower (alien vegetable!) and shepherd's pie with cauliflower mashed into the potato topping. The original waffle recipe suggests a tomato sauce accompaniment. Lately, I've taken to topping the waffles with a homemade tomato sauce with sausage - and more cauliflower.
I like the flexibility of this two-cheese waffle recipe. I've made it with all-purpose and whole-wheat flours. I've skipped the freshly grated Parmesan, in a time crunch, and simply thrown in extra cheddar that's already shredded. I've doubled and tripled the recipe, and I always use more cauliflower than the original recipe calls for because one of my husband's cooking mantras is that everything is better with more vegetables. (I find that endearing.)
One key is to use frozen cauliflower. I used to scoff at my husband for regularly using frozen vegetables in his cooking. But I've since come to realize that they can, at times, get the job done efficiently without a loss in quality. Making cauliflower waffles qualifies as one of those times. Plus, my grocery store's supply of frozen cauliflower so far hasn't been affected by the recent cauliflower shortage.
The baby is now 8 months old, and we're doing our best to spread the cauliflower love her way. My husband broke off a piece of his waffle the other night for her; she gnawed on it while the rest of us ate dinner.
CAULIFLOWER AND CHEESE WAFFLES
5 or 6 servings (makes 7-inch waffles)
These are ideal for a quick supper, unexpected luncheon guests and even a cocktail party nibble (cut into small portions). Top with anything you like, including creamed chicken, sauteed mushrooms, chipped beef or tomato sauce.
The recipe doubles easily; the batter can be used for pancakes as well.
• 3/4 cup cooked, coarsely chopped cauliflower florets
• 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white
• 1 cup regular or low-fat milk
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1/2 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
• 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Preheat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's directions.
Meanwhile, combine the cauliflower, whole egg, milk and cream in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Sift the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of wax paper, then stir those dry ingredients into the cauliflower mixture to form a smooth batter. Fold in the melted butter and both cheeses.
Beat the remaining egg white in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form, then gently fold it into the batter; it's okay to leave some streaks or pea-size pockets of white.
Cook in the heated waffle iron according to the manufacturer's directions, until the waffle is set and lightly browned. Transfer to the oven to keep warm while you use the remaining batter.
Serve with your choice of sauce or topping.