For Bon Appetit, by Danielle Walsh.
There are few things more comforting than tucking into a bowl of carbs with reckless abandon. As a skinny kid with an unstoppable metabolism, I’d eat staggering portions of macaroni and cheese or buttered white rice — an after-school snack as I settled into a T.V. session before dinner. To me, this kind of food felt like an inside-out hug. Fast-forward to 28 and a much less impressive metabolism, and carbo-loading doesn’t quite have the same effect. Still, I crave that big bowl of pasta, and the carefree feeling I had eating it as a kid.
If you, like me, have followed the carb-replacement trends with curiosity (and sometimes horror), you’ve noticed people using cauliflower as a substitute for everything: pizza, pasta, mashed potatoes, and, of course, rice. After seeing packaged riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s, I decided it was time I give the homemade version a shot. I bought a head of cauliflower, broke it down into florets, and threw them into my Cuisinart. This is going to be easy, I thought. Nope. It turns out, a bowl packed with cauliflower is a food processor’s nightmare. The bulbous white florets get mashed under the blade making that rice-like texture impossible to achieve. (Little did I know, the grater attachment was my secret weapon).
Not to be defeated (or waste a head of cauliflower), I scooped my over-processed “rice” into a saucepan and followed the recipe. I added coconut milk and a bit of water. It didn’t look like what it was supposed to, but it did look familiar. After 25 minutes of simmering, the gritty cauliflower had become creamy, and it dawned on me that what I’d made wasn’t cauliflower rice, but grits.
That weekend, I experimented again, blitzing my cauliflower into oblivion and simmering it with water. I stirred in butter, a touch of cream, and a generous handful of freshly grated sharp cheddar. Now, being a New Englander living on the West Coast, I’m no expert on grits, but this hearty concoction was a damn fine healthyish substitute for the real thing. It hit all the notes: creamy with a bit of structure, slightly sweet and piquant yet rich from the cheddar. With a fried egg and some hot sauce, this warm bowl is decadent enough for a weekend brunch on the couch, yet easy enough for a workday breakfast. Oh, and it reheats like a dream for those #lunchaldesko days.
I don’t have time for pre-dinner television anymore, but I look forward to this new kind of comfort — one that satisfies both my adult restraint and my inner kid’s desire to vanquish a bowl of cheesy carbs without a second thought.
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