Sometimes, it's okay to 'dirty up' your clean eating

 10 Mar 2017 - 20:09

Sometimes, it's okay to 'dirty up' your clean eating
'Dirty' Cauliflower. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

By Ellie Krieger / The Washington Post

I understand why people gravitate toward the term "clean eating." It's an appealing way to describe a dedication to the most healthful, most pure ingredients. But I take issue with it. To me, it implies that foods that don't pass as "clean" (who gets to decide that, anyway?) are somehow soiled, and that you have to choose between the two. Personally, I like a little dirty with my clean, and this recipe is proof that you can have them both simultaneously in a nourishing way.

I've been making one version or another of it for decades, well before "clean eating" entered the lexicon. The accompanying recipe makes an easy, crowd-pleasing side that involves some kind of brassica - broccoli, Brussels sprouts as well as cauliflower - that is simply steamed or roasted until tender and then treated to a contrasting crisp "dirt" of garlicky toasted bread crumbs. The taste of fresh bread crumbs is well worth the small effort of whirring some whole-grain bread in the food processor and baking the crumbs. You can do this alongside the vegetable if you roast it, as called for here, or you can make the bread crumbs up to two weeks ahead and store them in the freezer.

But if you want to skip that step, you could substitute a half cup of whole-wheat panko bread crumbs. The dried crumbs are toasted further to a deep brown and seasoned in a skillet with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil, then tossed with the simply cooked vegetable, transforming it from good to luscious. It's just the kind of "dirty" that keeps you wanting to eat smart.

'Dirty' Cauliflower

6 servings

Here, cauliflower is simply roasted until tender then tossed with a lusciously crisp "dirt" of garlicky browned bread crumbs. The taste of freshly toasted bread crumbs is well worth the small effort it takes to make them, but if you want to skip that step you could substitute a half cup of whole-wheat panko.

MAKE AHEAD: The toasted bread crumbs can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Ingredients

1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2 inch florets

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

Steps

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 15 minutes, then remove the foil, return it to the oven and roast for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower is tender and browned.

Meanwhile, place the bread in a mini-food processor; pulse until the bread is reduced to crumbs. Spread them on a a baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes - alongside the cauliflower is fine - tossing once or twice, until crisped and golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet; this will yield about 1/2 cup.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the garlic and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, then stir in the toasted bread crumbs and cook for about a minute, until they are well coated, fragrant and further browned. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Toss the seasoned bread crumbs with the cauliflower just before serving.

Nutrition | Per serving: 140 calories, 4 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television's "Ellie's Real Good Food." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.