The way I see it, if you can make something healthier, why not try? And see how you like it — or not — afterwards? Does that mean that I’m a fat-phobe counting my calories and hoping to become stick-thin? No. Does it mean that I’m into the hippie scene and drink wheatgrass just to fit in? Nah. Does it mean that when I find a dish or technique that I like, try to improve upon it in little ways, including making it more nutritious, lean and easy to make? Yes. And that is essentially why I just put tofu in a “souffle.”
I roasted some cauliflower a few days ago, to toss into a pasta, and noted how buttery-tasting the little florets were with their browned tops. I hadn’t even added any butter to it, but cauliflower just has a rich, nutty taste on its own. I thought this vegetable would be perfect for adapting to a more traditionally rich and savory dish, such as something (cough — everything) French.
What would it be? Soup came to mind first, a puree of just cauliflower and vegetable broth, without the milk. But I wanted something I could really sink my teeth into, and savor for more than just sips.
If you’re intimidated by the word “souffle,” just think of it as a small quiche — that is, baked, scrambled eggs — only much more light, fluffy and smooth. It has a beautiful table presence, with a protruding, baked golden top that just wants to pop out of its ramekin and jump into your mouth. And it can be savory or sweet; I definitely went for the savory category here.
Instead of flour and milk, I used one small block of firm silken tofu to blend into a head of steamed cauliflower. I was surprised by how silky the puree was; cooked cauliflower can really become utterly smooth. So does silken tofu. But so watery are both, neither would cook to any type of solid texture on their own. That’s where the eggs come in.
Instead of whipping the whites separately, I whipped up a couple eggs whole, and added them to the pureed mixture. Hey, it was an experiment in practicality, as well as healthfulness, after all. Combined together into a smooth, ochre puree (I’d started out using orange, or “cheddar” cauliflower heads anyway), and seasoned gently with salt and freshly ground black pepper, this went into a small baking pan that was greased with — well, butter.
But that was all the dairy that took place. And I dare say it’s all that needs to in the end. This “souffle” — if you’re with me on still calling it that — was airy and custardy and delicious in every bite. And, really easy. The nutty, buttery flavor of cauliflower pervades every spongelike bite, so much so that it almost tastes like eating just cauliflower puree, baked to a golden-topped bliss. You can’t taste a hint of the tofu at all.
Cauliflower Souffle (With Silken Tofu)
(makes 4 small servings)
1 small head cauliflower, cut down to 1-inch pieces
8 oz. firm silken tofu
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
butter to grease ramekins
Steam the cauliflower until just translucent instead of opaque, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor, and blend with the tofu until silky-smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs well separately, and add to the cauliflower mixture to blend again.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease four ramekins with butter and divide the cauliflower mixture among each. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until tops become golden brown and pop from surface a bit. Let cool a few moments before serving.
(for 4 servings)
1 head orange cauliflower (from Greenmarket): $3.50
8 oz. pack silken tofu: $1.99
2 eggs (from hens): $0.40
salt, pepper, butter to grease: $0.20
Four brownie points: A versatile, very neutral, and highly beneficial alternative to creamy ingredients, silken tofu is the saving grace of this would-be rich and decadent dish. Instead of adding fat, it provides heart-healthy soy protein. (Keep in mind that silken tofu’s bulk is largely water, being a very moist type of tofu which accounts for its smooth texture when blended.) Cauliflower is a potent antioxidant, no matter what color (or lack therewith) it may be. One serving comes with a huge dose of Vitamin C to ward off your fall sniffles soon.
Seven maple leaves: I haven’t figured out how to make tofu myself, but as a purely plant-based product, it’s easier on the Earth to produce industrially in the meantime. If you can find organic tofu (which should be very easy, considering you’ll most likely find it in health stores anyway), all the better to make sure the soybeans were as natural as can be. And it’s a great time to buy cauliflower from local farms — the just-in-season fall crop is best enjoyed fresh as can be.