Maybe you are hosting a party big sporting event like the Ross Park Zoo Penguin Bowl . Little cheesy cauliflower tarts will make a touch-down. Get that end-zone dance ready!

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Roasted Cauliflower Leek Au-Gratin Tart (prep. time about 1 hour, which can be broken up into several steps.* Yield 12 medium tarts or 2 9” pie-sized tarts.)

Roasted vegetables:

1 bunch of leeks (3 or 4 stalks), top green part cut off, sliced length-wise in half, thoroughly rinsed and patted dry (you want to roast, not steam your leeks in the oven)

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

2-3 Tb. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the leeks and cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper.  Roast for about 20-30 minutes until tender and caramelized, turning vegetables about halfway through roasting.  Set aside until ready to use.

Au Gratin sauce:

2 Tb. butter

2 Tb. flour

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. Turmeric

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and cracked black pepper

2 C. milk

½ C. vegetable stock (if sauce is too thick)

½ C each of shredded sharp cheddar, Colby jack and Swiss cheeses

1-2 C. French-fried onions.

Your favorite pie crust or refrigerated pie crust.

In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Cook the roux until it starts to turn golden.  Stir in the nutmeg, Turmeric and pepper flakes.  Continue to cook the roux about another 2 minutes before whisking in the milk.  When the sauce starts to thicken, stir in the cheeses and add a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Taste and add more salt as needed.  If the sauce starts to become too thick, remove from heat and stir in some vegetable stock until it is smooth and thick but not clumpy.  Remember, you want the sauce to stick to the vegetables and be creamy but  not run out of the pie when you cut or bite into it. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375.  While the oven is preheating, snip the roasted leeks into small pieces with kitchen shears and chop the cauliflower into smaller bites.  Keep in mind whether you are doing small tarts or a full-sized pie when determining how big your pieces of vegetable should be.  Cut small rounds from your pie dough slightly larger than the diameter of the openings in a muffin tin for individual tarts and press the dough into the muffin pans or, for the full-size version, line a 9” pie pan with a round of pie crust dough.  Combine the vegetables and the cooled sauce.  Spoon into the tarts or full-sized pie pan.  Cover the top of the tarts with French-fried onion pieces.  Bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is golden and crisp and the filling is bubbling.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes (or a little more) before popping out the individual tarts or slicing the larger tart into wedges. Serve warm as an appetizer, side dish or a main vegetarian dish along with an optional dollop of a little sour cream.

*Rather than making this a project taking an hour or so with roasting the vegetables, etc. all at once, you can break it down into steps over several days.  Roast the vegetables first and refrigerate until ready to use.  You can even cut them into the right size once they are cool enough to handle before putting them in the refrigerator.  The crust can also be made in advance or you can buy the ready-made.  The vegetables and sauce could be combined and kept refrigerated for a couple days until you want to make the tarts as well.  Just keep in mind, you may need a longer baking time if the filling is really cold.  I would suggest if you want to assemble the whole pie days ahead of time to “blind-bake” your crust to keep the filling from soaking into the raw dough, making it pasty even after baking.  Especially spreading the work out over a couple days, the PITB (pain in the backside) rating on this one is probably about a 3!

A little word on Turmeric:  It is a common spice in Indian curry and has a slightly bitter, ginger-like taste. It is noted on medical and nutrition sites to be an aid in digestion, an anti-inflammatory and helps fight fatigue, arthritis and liver issues.


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