Monday, June 11, 2012

Bacon from the Boot: Cauliflower with Basil Pesto, Speck & Gorgonzola

Cauliflower with Basil Pesto, Speck and Gorgonzola in my new blue dish!
Bacon and cheese, geez. It's a go-to combo in so many ways. Atop burgers or nestled inside them,   mac & cheese with bacon, even in the ubiquitous drive-thru breakfast sandwich, it raises the deliciousness factor by at least 10. Not much that isn't improved by smoked meat and cheese. I often like to use speck, which is the Italians greatest gift to us smoked meat lovers, in pasta dishes and anywhere else I can get away with it. Technically, what it is, is smoked prosciutto, but it's meatier than our regular bacon, porkier, and well, a little smokier in my estimation. You can get it sliced to order in good delis, and already diced in many good supermarkets. Sometimes I just dice it up, crisp it up in a little good olive oil, and use that as the base for a good vinaigrette. Wonderful stuff from The Boot.

Yesterday, my local Whole Foods had a terrific Friday Deal on bone-in rib steaks, and I picked up a gorgeous 3" thick 2-pounder to butterfly and grill for our dinner. Also a lovely organic cauliflower that I originally intended to puree with cheese. We've had some carb-heavy meals lately and I wanted a good, low carbs side dish. The Gorgonzola and the speck caught my eye in the fridge drawer, and I thought they would make nice partners in a rustic baked casserole. I was right. It's a little homely, but it's a great accompaniment to grilled meat, and can bake unattended while the grill does it's magic on the rest of your dinner.

Cauliflower with Basil Pesto, Speck and Gorgonzola
6 servings

1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. diced speck or smoked bacon
1/2 cup of red bell pepper in 1/2" dice
6 cups of al dente cooked cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3 T Basil Pesto ( I like the Basil Pesto from Stonewall Kitchen if I don't have any homemade)
4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola Dolce
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Heat the olive oil is a large nonstick skillet that has a cover and add the speck. Cook on medium, about 5 minutes until the speck is starting to crisp. Add the bell pepper, raise the heat and continue to cook about 2-3 minutes longer until the pepper is starting to soften.

Adds both color AND flavor.
Add the cauliflower, give it all a big stir, and add the white wine. cover and let steam-cook about 2 minutes until most of the wine is gone. Stir in the basil pesto, mixing thoroughly. Turn the cauliflower mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil or a lid. Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove the cover, sprinkle the Gorgonzola over the top, and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, uncovered until the cheese begins to melt.

Remove, stir gently to mix in the cheese, sprinkle the basil or parsley over the top and serve.

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