A “much maligned” (and rice-free) risotto

Honestly, it was hard to know where to put the quote marks in that title. The “much maligned” is stolen straight from a menu my husband put together for his restaurant. He used a kid-hated, (hopefully) adult-friendly mix of broccoli, turnips and brussels sprouts as an accompaniment to a steak dish he did months ago. So when I made a cauliflower risotto, it seemed to fit right into that category of things children wouldn’t touch.

However, the “risotto” was not your typical risotto, so maybe the quote marks should have been there. After all, there is no rice whatsoever in this dish. I know what you’re thinking — clearly that means it’s not risotto at all. And yes, you’re technically right but still — it’s delicious! And healthy, so therefore, worth trying out.

And the result actually blew me away. Sure, I wouldn’t mix this up, or even really compare it to regular risotto, but yet, it was still really satisfying.

I began this project because I was looking for a light dinner full of veggies and protein and low on carbs. But I also wanted something that would be ready in less than half an hour because I was so hungry (if I even teeter on the edge of “hangry” it’s very, very bad news). I found a pork tenderloin in my fridge and a head of cauliflower. That got me thinking about a recipe I had seen on another blog, ultimately attributed to Dr. Oz.

I started by mincing a small yellow onion and grating a head of cauliflower. Once it’s grated, the cauliflower will actually resemble arborio rice, which is used to make Italian risotto. And much like in real risotto, the process began the same, by sweating the onion in oil until it was tender. Then I added the grated cauliflower and let it toast briefly, just as I would the rice.

Once the cauliflower was warm, I added a splash of white wine, and let it cook down. Then I added chicken stock and let it go until the cauliflower was tender, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next came a handful of chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon and (because it’s impossible for me to eat entirely healthy) a small spoonful of sour cream. Butter would also work, but I wanted to cream the dish out as well as give it some extra zing.

And within 20 minutes, I had a pan full of goodness!

** At this point I should mention that I also had some roasted cauliflower from the night before so I threw that in there too, so the slightly brown pieces are not the grated ones. In fact, if you are frisky enough to roast some cauliflower for this dish as well, I would recommend doing so. It added nice color and texture to the finished dish. **

I decided like real risotto, this one deserved a nice cheesy finishing touch. But since everything was so white already, I rejected my usual staple, grana padano, in favor of the French cheese Mimolette. Mimolette is a fun cheese — mainly because of just how seriously orange it is. I mean, look at that color!

On a tangent, I was just thinking if I had an orange fluffy kitten, I would name it Mimolette. What a perfect name for a kitty.

Pork tenderloin & cauliflower risotto with roasted asparagus

The timeline alone really makes me want to make this again soon. It’s quick, easy and healthy — all things that make a week-day dinner important. I mean, it’s summer — who wants to spend 45 minutes over a hot stove stirring a pot of rice? No one, I promise you. But when you can whip this dish out in half the time and know that you won’t feel heavy and full afterwards — it’s a win/win.

Here’s how to go about it:

Cauliflower “Risotto” (adapted from Dr. Oz)

  • 1 each head of cauliflower (size may make you adjust other ingredients, so the amounts here are just guidelines)
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional, but encouraged)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • a little less than 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2-1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 TBS (or more!) of butter, sour cream, Greek yogurt and/or creme fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Herbs and cheese to garnish

* This dish is extremely adaptable — throw in roasted veggies if you have them or maybe some toasted nuts. Really, anything that goes with cauliflower will taste good in here! *

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