Healthy and Decadent Root Vegetable Gratin and Emotional Superheroes

by Pamela

root vegetable gratin, vegetable gratin, gratin, winter vegetables, root vegetables

The traditional gratin is a fat and calorie bomb dripping with cream, butter and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but sometimes you need to lighten up a bit. Did you make a resolution, for 2011, to eat healthier, lose weight, eat less meat, try new and different vegetables or did you say screw the resolutions I just want to eat something that tastes delicious and doesn’t take me 5 hours and 20 dishes to make?  Whichever it was, this root vegetable gratin will fill the bill.

I wasn’t too sure how this was going to turn out, when my little brain decided it wouldn’t rest until it came up with a dairy free gratin.  It’s that whole challenge thing.  Sometimes I wish both sides of my brain would work with each other a little more often.  But I couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t like it, since it’s loaded with all of the winter veggies that I like: cauliflower, leeks, beets, parsnips and carrots.

I suppose you’re wondering how in the world a gratin could be dairy free.  It’s all about the cauliflower.  You know how I love using this vegetable.  I use it to make creamy soups and spicy roasted side dishes.  But in this gratin, I roasted it with garlic and turned it into a garlic cauliflower sauce to replace the more traditional béchamel sauce that’s found in a gratin.  The flavors of this dish really work well together.  The richness of the cauliflower garlic sauce allows you to eat this without missing the fat laden cream sauce.  And in place of the usual buttered bread crumbs sprinkled across the top, I used a mixture of chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest.


I will admit that slicing all of these vegetables to a uniform thickness is made much easier by using a mandoline or a v-slicer.  Considering how bad my knife skills are, this is a must.  A very important thing to keep in mind when making a vegetable gratin is to cut all of your vegetables to the same thickness (usually 1/8″).  By keeping them at a uniform thickness, the vegetables will cook at the same rate.  Which is key if you don’t want one layer to be mushy and another to be rock hard.  The layers in a gratin should all work together, both in flavor and texture, to become one uniformly delicious dish.

This root vegetable gratin is a fantastic side dish or it also makes a meatless entrée that is both filling and flavorful.  When Craig dug into this he had no idea what it was.  He just kept eating and when he finally came up for air, I told him what it was and he didn’t believe me.

Relationship Advice

January is a time to explore, and maybe clean out, our closets; refrigerator and love lives.  Since superhero movies are all the rage this year and let’s face it, don’t most guys think they’re a superhero of some sort, let’s take a look at our significant others and see what kind of emotional super hero we’re involved with.

Emotional Batman – Not available on a regular basis, but has an eerie way of showing up in the shadows of the night.  He’s got a seemingly homo erotic relationship with one of his buddies and his car has every tricked out feature available.

Emotional Thor – He has the body of a God and a temper that could only be called “Warrior Madness.”  He’s basically f’ed up on roids 90% of the time and thinks he can control the weather.

Emotional Iron Man – As soon as he dons his business suit, he is invincible.  He knows everything from how they get the Tootsie Roll in the center of that lollipop to quantum physics, but ask him when your anniversary is and he’ll give you a look of pure unknowing.  As Jennifer Aniston likes to say, “he’s missing a sensitivity chip.”

Emotional Green Hornet – An internet geek (read blogger) by day that sleeps on his mom’s couch and hangs out with a guy he refers to as his valet, which actually means buddy who has a car and a driver’s license (since Mr. Hornet has neither).

Emotional Daredevil – Has taken martial arts classes for a year and insists he has ninja like senses.  These high level sensitivities can only be blocked by powerful things like chicken wings, beer and sports.


Root Vegetable Gratin Recipe

Serves 6 – 8


  • 1 Large Head of Cauliflower
  • 8 Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Leek – White and Light Green Part Only (cleaned and halved lengthwise then sliced into thin half moons)
  • 1 Large Golden Beet
  • 1 Large Parsnip
  • 2 large Carrots
  • 1/3 Cup Hazelnuts (skinned and chopped)
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest


Arrange oven rack so that it is in the middle of the oven.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.

Chop up 3/4 of the head of cauliflower (save the remaining cauliflower for another use).

Spread the cauliflower onto a baking sheet along with the garlic cloves.

Drizzle with olive oil.  Mix up the cauliflower and garlic with the oil to make sure that everything is coated with the oil.  Spread everything evenly on the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes or until everything has a nice golden color on the edges.

Remove from oven.

Turn the oven heat down to 375 degrees Farenheit.

Mix the chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.

In a 2 quart saucepan, add the roasted cauliflower and garlic along with the thyme, nutmeg and 3 cups of the chicken broth.  (The extra stock is if you need it to thin down your sauce after blending it.)

Bring the broth to a boil then reduce the heat to low.

Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture.  You can also remove it from the heat and pour everything into a blender and purée.  (Remember to vent the lid so that you don’t get hot cauliflower all over the kitchen.)

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Peel and slice the beet, parsnip and carrots to 1/8″ thick.

Using a 1 1/4 quart baking pan (10 1/2″ x 7″), pour some of the cauliflower garlic cream sauce on to the bottom of the pan. (Approx, 1/2 cup)  Spread the sauce around so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the sliced leeks over the sauce.

Top the leeks with more of the cauliflower sauce and sprinkle some of the chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest over this layer.

Arrange the sliced beets over this layer of sauce.  It’s fine to overlap them a bit and top with some of the sauce.  Sprinkle some of the hazelnuts/lemon.  Continue doing with the rest of the vegetables and finish with a layer of the sauce.  (You should have some of the hazelnuts and lemon left over.)

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle remaining nuts and lemon zest over the top.

Bake for another 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.

*These vegetables will still have some bite to them, they will not be mushy.

*This is also quite garlicky, you can easily reduce the number of garlic cloves to make it less strong.

*To make this a vegan gratin, simply use vegetable stock instead of chicken.


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Celia January 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

Love it – gratin and advice. Another hero:

Emotional Spiderman – Appears tough, but he’s a little clingy. Under the wisecracking mask he’s sensitive, nerdy, and something of an artist. A little neurotic and guilt-prone.

Pamela January 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm

LOL – That’s a good one!

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