Pick, Mix and Serve: Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower is in season, so you can find it everywhere. It’s an incredibly versatile winter vegetable. I created this recipe to satisfy our warm, comfort-food cravings and my husband’s gluten-free diet. It’s delicious, easy to make and full of flavor.

fresh cauliflower

Photo by Evan Janke

Pick, Mix and Serve: Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin

Serves 4-6

Start with 1 head cauliflower


Pick Notes: I have never had great success with growing cauliflower in my Santa Barbara garden. It takes up a ton of room and then gets leggy so quickly. Now, I buy it at the farmers market or grocery store. When picking cauliflower look for tight head of florets and fresh, green leaves.  Steer clear of any discoloring, those dingy black or yellow spots or yellow means it’s not so fresh.  Also, I prefer a smaller bundle, which tend to be the most tender.


cauliflower mash

1/8 cup half and half

1 tablespoon butter

Pinch of nutmeg

Splash of cooking liquid

Salt and pepper, taste for seasoning


For the top crust:

½ cup walnuts

½ cup Parmesan grated

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 clove garlic

1 tsp olive oil


Cut the florets off the stem of the cauliflower head and boil them in very salty water until soft (stab them with a fork to check), about 15 minutes. Drain the florets, reserving some of the liquid, and place them in a baking dish (a pretty pie plate is the perfect size). Mix in the half and half, the butter, nutmeg and the splash of cooking liquid. Mash with a fork until it’s a creamy consistency similar to mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to use the fork to spread the cauliflower mixture to create a consistent level.


mashed cauliflower

Use the fork tines to create nooks and crannies for the topping to settle into.


Turn on your broiler.


Chop the walnuts and garlic clove until mealy with a sharp knife and combine with the Parmesan, cayenne, garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over the cauliflower layer.


Broil for 5 minutes on the lower third rack of the oven until the top is crispy and golden brown.


Serve warm. A great thing about this dish is it can be made in advance and sit on the counter until you are ready to eat, just five minutes before dinner is on the table, pop it in the broiler. It makes a great side with just about any protein. We’ve had it with fish, chicken, steak and I even served it up for lunch with a fried egg on top and salad on the side.


cauliflower gratin