Asparagus and Bacon Cauliflower Risotto with Sundried Tomato Pesto

Sometimes an ingredient just becomes an obsession. Right now, for me... That ingredient is cauliflower. I find it so invaluable in my kitchen when trying to be creative, healthy, and pumping out delicious dinners my family will gobble up. You can roast it, fry it, bake with it, puree it, saute it, boil it, rice it... I mean what CAN'T you do! (Last week I had an EPIC kitchen fail when I attempted to make cauliflower protein powder breakfast muffins. They were quite literally inedible. Moving on.) 

There was a sale at a local store where the cauliflower heads were $1 each. Obviously I bought 7. I riced them, bagged them, dated them, and tossed them in the back of my freezer for the next time cauliflower was unavailable or just insanely priced. (I'm NEVER okay with paying $7-$8 for one head. Not gonna happen!)

Spring means asparagus season has started, so that was the next logical step for me. I think asparagus is amazing. I love the fresh, green, almost grassy taste of asparagus. My favorite way to eat it is to grill or broil it, and then toss it in really good, grassy olive oil. Spring on a plate! 

I've been dying to see if you could actually make risotto from cauliflower. I was unsure if it would soften and become creamy deliciousness or simply dissolve into mushy bland glop. It worked! It was beautiful; it was light, it was airy, and it was easy! No more standing and stirring Arborio for thirty minutes wondering if your kids are secretly giving the dog a makeover or painting a mural on the hall closet. This took me about ten minutes to cook and about two to eat. It's fast, easy, fresh, and awesome. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or ghee 
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • 3 cloves pf garlic, minced 
  • 1 bunch asparagus 
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 
  • OPTIONAL: a few slices of bacon, roughly chopped and grated parmesan cheese 

Sundried Tomato Pesto:

  • 4 oz sundried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water 
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped 
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves 
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste 
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Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor with the "S" blade. I tend to do about 15 pulses of around 2 seconds each.

Boil a small saucepan of water or turn your electric tea kettle on. 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. (You want a big pan here, so you don't crowd the cauliflower rice. If there's too much in the pan in one area, it will steam and not saute and wind up mushy.) Once the pan is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant about three minutes. Add in the cauliflower next and stir it around to ensure it's well mixed. 

Continue cooking for a few minutes until the cauliflower is soft. 

Put the dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let these sit for five minutes, then drain. (Discard the water or save it to add to soups, stocks, or even as liquid for cooking the risotto.)

In the bowl of a food processor, add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, walnuts, capers and garlic. Pulse until well blended and no large bits remain. Add the red wine vinegar and pulse again. With the motor off stir in the olive oil by hand. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I didn't need very much salt with the tomatoes and capers.) 

Scrape the pesto in a bowl and set aside. 

Slice the asparagus into 2-inch pieces, discarding the woody ends. 

Add the asparagus to the pan and continue cooking. 

While stirring, add in the liquid. The asparagus and the cauliflower should absorb this. Add the lemon juice and stir. Once the asparagus is bright green and tender, turn off the heat in the pan. 

Scoop some risotto onto each bowl and top with the fresh chopped thyme. Spoon over a little of the pesto onto each bowl as well. 

 I ate mine just like this, and it was delicious! My husband added some chopped bacon and some freshly grated parmesan cheese. However you want to go at it, just dig in! 

Corie CameronComment