01/13/2015 08:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Broccoli 'Breadcrumbs' Will Take Your Casseroles to the Next Level

by Gabriella Vigoreaux

Romulo Yanes

I first encountered veg-crumbs (vegetable breadcrumbs) in a post on Heidi Swanson's blog 101 Cookbooks in which she topped mac-and-cheese with a broccoli-basil-breadcrumb crust. To say my curiosity was peaked is an understatement. I immediately wanted to top all my casseroles and pasta bakes with a blanket of green broccoli snow. Or cauliflower. Or Romanesco! Heidi uses both broccoli and breadcrumbs in her creation, but I see no reason why you couldn't use broccoli alone. You could even combine it with some nuts and seeds to achieve an even crunchier texture.

Why, you ask? Three reasons:

1. It's faster and easier than making homemade breadcrumbs.

Throw some broccoli or cauliflower florets into the food processor and let it do all the work for you. No need to wait until you have day-old bread, no need to toast crumbs in a skillet.

2. It's gluten-free, paleo and overall healthier for you.

It's a new year and you're probably trying to eat better, right? Veg-crumbs are the answer. Think of them as a savory, guilt-free crumble topping.

3. Veg crumbs are prettier than breadcrumbs.

Especially if you're using a green vegetable like broccoli or Romanesco.

Convinced to take the veg-crumb plunge? Here's how it's done.

Throw a few handfuls of broccoli or cauliflower florets into a food processor and blitz until roughly the size of breadcrumbs. Stop the processor, add a couple tablespoons of chopped nuts and seeds and maybe a little grated cheese (never hurt anyone) and pulse to combine. Stir in just enough melted butter or olive oil to coat the crumbs. When your casserole is about 10 minutes from being done, sprinkle the veg-crumbs over the top and pop it under a broiler until the crumbs are a couple shades darker and crispy.

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