This recipe is inspired by my grandmother. I’m sure a lot of people are inspired by their grandmother’s cooking but mine was a little different than what you’re probably picturing.
She was a really good cook, something I took for granted about all of the women in my family. She married my grandpa, whose parents were from Lebanon and so learned to cook all kinds of exotic (and incredibly delicious) Lebanese food.
Despite learning to cook new, interesting flavours, her personal taste was a little more along the lines of Canadian/American, classic, simple and comforting food. Roast chicken, potatoes, great salads, pavlova, tuna and egg salad sandwiches. Going to her house for dinner was always something to look forward to.
This recipe is really homey and comforting, something that ironically, my Granny was not. She was very much into fashion, she painted the most vibrant and colourful abstract art (that we’re lucky to have hanging on our walls), traveled the world, loved her family and kissed us all, leaving hot pink lipstick marks on our cheeks. She was a colon cancer survivor and lived in a way that resembled her vibrant and colourful art to the age of 86.
She obviously ate cauliflower, but I think there was more to it than that. She also knew what she wanted and appeared to, from my perspective, go for it without too much hesitation. I distinctly remember trying to act like it was ok when she coloured over my jungle scene colouring sheet with big purple triangles while waiting for our food at a restaurant. Literally teaching me to colour outside of the lines.
My version of this dish is a bit different from hers (the purple triangle version?). I’m not sure how she actually made hers (aunts? cousins? does anybody remember?) but I do know it had a brothy-er base. Regardless, it is still all about the cauliflower, celery (the celery is important, even if it sounds weird, don’t leave it out!) and crispy topping.
Ours is creamy, thanks to some cashews and hemp hearts (healthy fats and protein) and the flavour that would have come from her (probably) chicken stock, for us comes from the aromatic cancer crushers, onion, leek and garlic. The topping is not breadcrumbs but a mixture of rolled oats and sunflowers seeds (but you could also use almonds and/or skip the oats in place of more nuts or seeds).
Many people, friends, family, strangers, have wondered out loud to me why we have to eat so healthy to be healthy, just look at our grandparents, they weren’t making green smoothies. I actually think my Granny would be making green smoothies if she was around today, she liked trends (she did yoga too, probably because she read about it in Vogue), but on a whole that’s very true.
It’s undeniable that food was very different back then, there weren’t all of the chemicals/hormones/antibiotics being dumped into it as there are now, and by default they were eating more locally, which has proven to be a more nutrient-rich way to eat. This meant that they were eating more seasonally too, which is a tricky thing to do for us these days with all of the options we’re given. There was also less processed food available, so people were eating more real food made from scratch. They knew exactly what was in their food, something we can’t always say these days.
Paying attention to the food we eat is important when we’re trying to get/stay healthy, and because of the reasons above, we have to put in a little more effort these days. That is why I put healthy recipes up here every week; I truly believe that our bodies want familiar, real, whole food. But that’s not the only thing. It’s also important to go through the drive thru for French fries with your new 80-year-old boyfriend once in a while, to put a ping pong table in your basement (because ping pong!), to learn to surf (or paint! or dance!), to dye your hair purple (or let it go grey!), or try a laughter yoga class…by yourself. It feeds a different part of your body that is just as hungry for that real, living, brain-tickling stuff.
I remember sitting in my Granny’s back garden with her oily paints, painting the giant pine cones that fell off of her trees while eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches (even when we were old). She didn’t knit or sit with us on her lap or bake cookies with us, but she had a different electric kind of comfortable to her, something that I have found comfort in later in life. The kind of comfortable feeling you get knowing that whatever you do or try, as long as it speaks to you and you really go for it, it can’t be wrong. And maybe that (along with some cauliflower) is what got her through so much and took her so far in life.
- 1 head of Cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 or 2 bites-sized florets (cut up the core too, to add to the sauce)
- 5 Celery ribs, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 c cooked White Beans (optional, to make a heartier meal)
- 3 sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 small Onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium Leek, thinly sliced
- 3 Garlic cloves, minced
- ½ + ¼ c Parsley, chopped (1/4 c is for garnish)
- 1 c Cashews, soaked for 8-10 hours, drained and rinsed well
- ¼ c Hemp hearts
- 1¾ c Water
- 1 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
- ¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
- Sea(weed) Salt, to taste
- ½ c Rolled Oats
- ½ c Sunflower Seeds (or almonds)
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp Dulse, chopped
- 2 tsp Nutritional Yeast
- 1 Lemon, zested
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- ¼ tsp Sea(weed) Salt
- Preheat the oven to 350*F
- Steam the Cauliflower florets and core pieces until tender (about 6-7 minutes, depending on the size) and then add the celery for a few more minutes.
- Meanwhile in a large pan, sauté the onion, leek, garlic and thyme leaves in the coconut oil with a splash of water until very soft and translucent.
- Add the steamed cauliflower core pieces.
- In a blender, blend the soaked cashews, hemp hearts, steamed cauliflower core (not the florets), nutmeg, water, and lemon juice until very smooth. Season to taste.
- Add the steamed cauliflower and celery (and white beans if using) to the pan of limp sautéed veggies and turn the heat off.
- Add the cashew mixture from the blender and the fresh parsley.
- Toss and stir well to combine everything thoroughly.
- Transfer contents to a 14x9 inch (or close to) casserole dish and distribute evenly.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the veggies are very tender and the topping is golden brown.
- Sprinkle lots of fresh, chopped parsley over top and serve.
- When reheating leftovers, add a splash of water, the cashew cream can get too dry.
- In a food processor blend all ingredients until the make a course crumb.
- Top off a gratin, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for later use.