Mashed cauliflower is a tasty and low-calorie substitute for mashed potatoes. When properly prepared, the taste and texture of mashed cauliflower will surprise you and your family, and will become a favorite side dish to accompany roasted chicken, grilled meat, or steamed salmon.
One large head of cauliflower will feed three or four people. Buy only clean, firm, white or ivory-colored cauliflower. Check to see that the stem end is firm, not mushy, and that the florets are tightly packed together. Minor surface blemishes and discolorations are natural and can be trimmed away.
Begin by pulling off and discarding any green leaves and stems. Trim away and discard the very end of the stem, which may be slightly discolored. Using a sharp knife, split the head of cauliflower in half, and begins to dismember the florets and stem, cutting the stem into one-inch pieces. Don't forget to include the small pieces that will break away from the florets as you cut the cauliflower apart.
Bring to a boil three quarts of salted water in a deep saucepan. For more flavor, use canned chicken or vegetable stock in place of some or all of the water. When the liquid has come to a rolling boil, add the cauliflower florets and stems, stirring with a wooden spoon to submerge all of the pieces. The liquid will stop boiling momentarily. When the water begins boiling again, wait three minutes and then begin testing the cauliflower pieces with a fork. The florets will soften quickly, but the stems will take a few minutes longer. The fork should easily pierce the pieces with little pressure. Do not overcook the cauliflower, because the mashed cauliflower will become watery and limp. Using a slotted spoon, begin removing the florets to a large bowl. Leave the stem pieces for last.
When the entire cauliflower has finished cooking and has been transferred to the bowl, mash the cauliflower as you would potatoes. Add a little skim milk and a tablespoon of butter or margarine. Add two teaspoons of nutmeg. Mash the cauliflower well, mixing in the milk, butter or margarine, and nutmeg. If a smooth, lump-free puree is desired, place the cauliflower and other ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for salt and add pepper to taste. The mashed cauliflower will not be as stiff as mashed potatoes, but it will be a satisfying and low-calorie substitute.