If you love cauliflower, or are relatively neutral towards it (as I am) you'll enjoy these. I had cooked a whole cauliflower for dinner the night before, and had about half of it left over...it was a pretty huge cauliflower!
Time to try something new! I turned the cauliflower into little balls, by adding some Parmesan, herbs, egg and breadcrumbs. While forming the balls I remembered the mozzarella in the fridge, so I hid a piece of the cheese inside each cauliflower ball...it melted while they baked, leaving a gooey surprise inside.
The recipe made eight balls, enough for two each. I chose to bake them at a high temperature instead of frying them. The outside was still crisp, but frying would give a much crispier texture.
I was using leftover cooked cauliflower. If you don't have any, cut about four cups of cauliflower florets and stems and cook in lightly salted boiling water until just tender. Drain, run under cold water and allow any excess water to drain off before proceeding.
Place the cauliflower into a food processor. I had:
Process until the cauliflower is in small pieces, about the size of roughly chopped garlic.
Place the cauliflower into a large bowl with:
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
Mix well to combine, and then add the breadcrumbs, half a cup at a time, until the mixture is firm enough to hold together when shaped into balls.
Between 1 1/2 - 2 cups of breadcrumbs
Scoop a half cup portion of the cauliflower mixture into your hands, and form it into a ball.
Press it flat, and insert a cube of mozzarella into the centre. Reform the ball, enclosing the cheese completely.
Gently roll the ball in your hands to form a uniform round shape, and place onto a baking sheet.
Do the same with the remaining cauliflower mixture.
Place the cauliflower balls into the fridge to chill while the oven heats to 400F. Place the cauliflower balls into the oven and bake until they are crispy on the outside, and hot all the way through. This should take at least 30 minutes, depending on the size of your balls. Check the inside temperature by sticking a metal skewer into the centre of one of the balls.
Serve the balls while they are still hot!
- These are not as time consuming as they might seem at first glance. Once the cauliflower is cooked, it takes hardly any time to assemble them, and while they bake you are free to take care of the rest of dinner.
- Cooked broccoli can be substituted for cauliflower. If you are able to find one of the coloured cauliflowers (purple, green, orange) use that instead, especially if you have young children...multi-coloured food is always so much more fun to eat!
- I chose to bake them, but you can also shallow or deep fry them, or even just brown them in a pan and then put them into the oven to cook through. By using oil you will achieve a crispier outside, with a more golden colour.
- Another option is to bread the cauliflower balls before cooking them. This can be done either by rolling them in breadcrumbs, or by setting up a traditional breading line with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs.
- Any kind of cheese can be placed in the centre, preferably one that will give a gooey result...cheddar, havarti, goat cheese, bocconcini, Brie or Cambozola.
- Don't limit yourself to cheese. Why not hide something like roasted garlic, tapenade or pesto in the centre. If you choose to stuff the balls with something that is not as firm as cheese, consider freezing small blobs of the filling to make the assembly easier and less messy.
- Use the opportunity to add as much flavour as you wish to the cauliflower mixture. Spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper or nutmeg; chopped fresh herbs such as basil, dill or tarragon; hot sauce or Dijon mustard; strong flavoured cheese such as blue cheese or asiago; chopped nuts such as hazelnuts.
- Make the size of the cauliflower balls smaller, and you have a lovely canape. Flatten the balls and you can turn them into pancakes.
- These can be assembled a day ahead; they can also be frozen. Bake from frozen, allowing extra time.