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Cauliflower, Leek and Greens Bake

Anson Smart / “Whole Food Cooking Every Day” by Amy Chaplin (Artisan Books)


Cauliflower Topping
  • 1 large head (2½ pounds) cauliflower, cut into 1½-inch florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, cashews or macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup filtered water (if using a food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Leeks and Greens
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 large (12 ounce) leek, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 large (1 pound) bunch Lacinato kale, tough stems removed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons tamari, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 recipe cauliflower topping (recipe above)

Chef notes

This bake is really is kind of amazing. Every time I make it, the response is nothing short of ecstatic. Something magical happens when cauliflower is whipped into a smooth puree with cashew milk and nutritional yeast before being baked. The consistency and flavor are surprisingly good for such a simple method and so few ingredients; the result is the kind of comforting creaminess that I think most of us crave, especially in winter.

Technique tip: You don't have to be exact about what vegetables you use, and of course it's fine to use more of one than the other. I found that I need about 8 to 9 cups total chopped vegetables.


For the cauliflower topping:

Set up a steamer pot with about 2 inches of filtered water in the bottom (the water shouldn't touch the bottom of the basket) and bring to a boil over high heat. Arrange the cauliflower florets in the steamer basket, cover and steam for 10-12 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through but not falling apart. Remove from the heat and set aside.

High-powered-blender method: Put the nuts, olive oil, yeast and salt in a high-powered blender and add the steamed cauliflower. Starting on low speed, use the tamper stick to keep the mixture moving and to scrape down the sides as you go. This will take a couple of minutes. Season with more nutritional yeast and salt to taste and blend to combine.

Food-processor method: Put the steamed cauliflower in a food processor. Combine the nuts, water, olive oil, yeast and salt in a regular upright blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour into the food processor with the cauliflower and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Season with more year and salt to taste.

The topping is ready to be baked on a filling of your choice, or it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

For the leeks and greens:


Preheat the oven to 375°F.


Warm a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil, then add the leek and cook for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Stir in the cabbage and salt and cook for 2 minutes, or until the cabbage is beginning to soften. Cover the pot and cook, stirring every minute or so, for 6-8 minutes, until the leek and cabbage are tender. Stir in the kale one handful at a time, then cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the kale is tender. Add the 2 tablespoons water, the mirin and tamari and stir.


Dissolve the arrowroot in the remaining 2 teaspoons water and drizzle into the greens, then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, or until any liquid has thickened and the greens are glossy. Remove from the heat and season to taste with more salt and tamari.


Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square or equivalent baking dish and smooth the surface. Spread the cauliflower topping evenly over the greens. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the topping has begun to set. Turn on the broiler and broil the bake for 3-6 minutes, until the topping is golden and browning in parts. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving. (Once cooled, leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat, cover and warm in a 400°F oven until heated through.)