A collection of seasonal recipes and stories

moosewood’s cauliflower cheese pie

For nearly four months this blog has languished here, neglected and forlorn, half-heartedly attempting to entice passersby with embarrassingly out-of-season recipes for things like zucchini and raspberries and — good lord — rhubarb.  It’s not the blog’s fault, really. In September I started an awesome new job and, awesome though it is, it required some settling in to.  Then all of a sudden it was Thanksgiving, followed immediately by the inevitable Christmas craziness — a month-long stretch during which we saw our pizza dude far more frequently than I care to admit.  On the rare occasions that I found time to make something worth mentioning here, I looked at my calendar and realized it would be weeks before I was likely to do so again.

But I have things under control now.  For the past month I’ve managed to cook almost every night.  Real meals.  Made from actual food!  Last week I signed up for Eat Your Books, a handy-dandy new website that allows me to search the index of every cookbook I own in a matter of seconds.  As I contemplated a lone head of cauliflower yesterday, Eat Your Books informed me that my library contains 99 recipes for cauliflower — a whole world of possibilities.  And from that world of possibilities I selected a recipe I’ve made a dozen times before.  Hey, baby steps.

Moosewood’s Cauliflower Cheese Pie worked its way into my repertoire five years ago, when  a recipe for a slimmed-down version of it appeared in The Washington Post.  I wasn’t much of a fan of cauliflower at the time — I’d had steamed cauliflower and raw cauliflower, and I found them equally unappetizing.  But this recipe involved cheese and garlic and — be still my beating heart — a crispy potato crust.  I made it that night with my mom, and then the two of us made a rather unladylike production of devouring the whole damn thing.

It’s been a cool weather staple ever since, which is hardly surprising considering how freakin’ good it is.  It starts with the aforementioned crispy potato crust and ends, as all good things do, with cheese.  In between there’s cauliflower — tender, pan-roasted, and flecked with bits of garlic and caramelized onion.  All of this is bound together by the soft custard of a mere two eggs and a splash of milk.  It’s crispy and comforting and sweet and nutty and cheesy, and when my mom called last night it was bubbling away in the oven.  “Oh yum,” she gushed, “yum, yum, yum.”

Cauliflower Cheese Pie
from Mollie Katzen’s The New Moosewood  Cookbook, via The Washington Post
(serves, um, 2)

for the crust

2 c. grated raw potato (from 2-3 peeled potatoes)
½ t. salt
1 egg white, beaten
¼ c. grated onion

for the filling

1 T. olive oil
1 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t. salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ t. dried thyme
½ t. dried basil
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 c. (4-5 oz.) grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs
¼ c. milk

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F and generously oil a 9″ pie dish.  Seriously, be generous.  This is the difference between ending up with the crispy potato crust attached to your pie and the crispy potato crust attached to your pie dish.

2) Keeping each separate, grate the cheese, then the potatoes, then the onion using a food processor or box grater.

3) To make the crust, place the grated potatoes in a colander and toss them with the salt.  Wait ten minutes, then squeeze out the excess water.  A salad spinner works well for this, or you can wring the potatoes out in a dishtowel.  Stir together the potatoes, egg white and onion in a large bowl, then pat the mixture evenly into your pie dish , building them up the sides to form the crust.

4) Bake for 30 minutes, then brush the crust lightly with olive oil and bake for 10 more minutes.  Remove from oven and lower the temp to 375°F.

5) While the crust bakes, heat 1 T. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper (to taste) and herbs and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the cauliflower and stir well to coat.  Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender, 8-10 minutes.  Add a tablespoon of water if the cauliflower begins to stick to the pan.

6) Spread half the cheese over the crust and spoon the cauliflower mixture over, then sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.  Whisk together the eggs and the milk, then pour this mixture over the cauliflower cheese mixture.

7) Bake 35-40 minutes, until set.

28 responses

  1. Carrie

    This sounds heavenly. I can’t wait to get to the store and buy everything I need to enjoy this! Thanks so much for the post.

    February 2, 2010 at 9:05 am

  2. Clare

    I wish I could transcribe the Homer Simpson drooling noise: “arglearrrh”. This looks really good, and not too complicated.

    February 2, 2010 at 9:46 am

  3. This is one of our favorite cold weather meals. In fact I made it just a few days ago. I highly recommend it!

    February 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

  4. Just stopping by to say congrats to you Megan… and the food looks good too.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  5. Thanks for the great blog! It’s nice to have a link to show friends something that I was raving about on Facebook. I made that recipe last night. It was great! My copy of the Moosewood Cookbook is so old and worn that I had to put it into a 3-ring binder. It’s my favorite cookbook obviously and I’ve been using it since about 1980.


    March 8, 2010 at 11:34 am

  6. defunktgourmet

    Hi! Yours is the third blog that mentions this Moosewood cookbook. I think it’s a sign that I should just man up and purchase a copy. In a couple of paycheques, I think I’ll definitely have to pick one up!

    Just stumbled onto your site and can’t wait to read your older posts. Thanks for sharing :)

    April 13, 2010 at 6:31 pm

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  8. jackie

    OMG, I have to make this. Sounds delicious!

    December 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm

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  10. I love the way this sounds and have absolutely got to try it, I love cauliflower but lets face it the vegetable only has so many ways to fix it, until I saw this recipe, it has everything going for it, besides just being plain cauliflower, smothered in something, and yes your servings (um 2) I don’t blame you I will say if for you (Um…1)


    June 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

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  13. scott adams

    my girl friend (now my wife 24 years) made me this awful dish 30 years ago. i am ready to try it again. Ill report back later.smadasco

    January 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

  14. That looks really sooooo good, and I have the cookbook, which has been on hiatus for no good reason, collecting dust for awhile. Thanks for luring me back to a good thing. Very appetizing post!

    April 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm

  15. I too have a forlorn head of cauliflower in the fridge so I went looking for some inspiration online. I just used the last of my potatoes to make Mosewood’s pimento cheese soup so I’ll try it without the crust this time. Maybe I can do something with bread crumbs. It will still be as good or better than the other recipes I have.

    April 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

  16. Amy

    One of my favorites!!!

    October 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm

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  18. carole

    This recipe is a real keeper for generations. Everyone loves the flavors and this is a good way to get the grandchildren to eat healty. Thanks for sharing. Carole

    September 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

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  21. Thanks, I made this recipe tonight..it took some time but it turned out delicious. The only thing I added was 1/4 cup feta and 1/2 a leek

    January 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

  22. Ellen Raphael

    Just found out from a friend that you can make the crust ahead and then add the other ingredients!
    Makes coming back from a hike with hungry friends– much easier!

    October 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    • You can also make with leftover veggies like carrots, broccoli, peppers etc.

      December 9, 2016 at 5:21 pm

  23. Cheryl dePascale

    I loved this recipe! I take care of my 90 year old mother and she will absolutely not eat vegetables, I have tried everything and she always refuses to even try it, this she tried and she loves it! Thank You!

    February 2, 2017 at 2:49 pm

  24. emma elson

    It’s my least favorite thing in the entire universe. Not just my least favorite food, but my least favorite THING. I absolutely hate it.

    February 10, 2019 at 9:39 pm

  25. Karen D

    I’ve been making this pie ever since I got my Moosewood cookbook. It is a “must” for our Thanksgiving Day dinner!

    December 2, 2022 at 1:22 pm

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