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I mostly despise leftovers. Hart finds this quite frustrating, to put it mildly. I will say in his defense it is not unwarranted frustration, my very strong dislike of eating leftovers really doesn’t partner well with my tendency to cook for an army. I have gotten better with the not cooking dinner for 10 on a Tuesday, but that mostly just means I cook for 5, which is definitely better…but still means leftovers. Often when I cook I plan for leftovers deliberately & share that in the recipes, those leftovers I love; its the leftover things like mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, etc that can cause a gag when I clean out the refrigerator & make Hart shake his head.

I’m not a huge fan of the waste, which is also his big issue with it. Time, effort and money all go into those little containers of stuff I can’t identify that end up in the trash. Challenge accepted ~ there is no reason that I can’t find things to do with leftovers that will make me want to eat them.

Cauliflower Smash is something I make often. One of my most favorite things ever is mashed potatoes, but even I get bored with them after awhile. I started mashing in cauliflower florets awhile ago and turns out that I kind of like it better. It still scratches that creamy mashed potato itch, but it is much lighter and I like the flavor of the cauliflower adds.

I can already hear a bunch of people all “I don’t like cauliflower blech no way ew icky gross patooie”. To you I say – “hush up & try it!” in the nicest way possible, of course. Cauliflower is not in my top 10 favorite vegetables either, I actually kind of hate it raw, but when you mash it into some potatoes I fall in food lust with it. I have fed this to ardent cauliflower haters who loved the Smash – I know it’s technically “mean”, but I do take a perverse pleasure telling people that something they told me was awesome had something in it they claim to hate. Cauliflower is too bland to really hate, texturally it is kind of strange when cooked or raw, but that is a non-issue when mashed up.

I first had something like this at a steak restaurant in Station Square. We went there for an anniversary dinner and had one of those meals that was good, but had it been thought out & executed a bit better would have been exceptional. My steak came with a cauliflower gratin that I was actually quite siked to eat, anything covered in melted cheese is a win, but was underwhelmed by its reality. It was gloppy cheese in a ceramic ramekin with mushy, watery cauliflower that I am certain started out as frozen baked to a bubbly mess. Great concept, horrid execution entirely too reminiscent of the velvetta covered mess out of the microwave from when I was a kid.

Picking it apart was easy, there weren’t many layers of flavor to get through once you nailed the cheap cheddar, and turning it into what I thought it would be was a cinch. The potato would hold the whole thing together, the cheese needed to be present but not a gloppy mess and the cauliflower needed to be cooked from fresh. I add all kinds of things to it – crumbled bacon, sour cream or yogurt, shredded cheese and have even used it as a pierogi filling that I LOVED. I like the rough chunky texture, it is always a bonus to sneak in a vegetable and the cauliflower means less cream and butter because of the lightness it adds so it is healthier.

This recipe is more of a guideline, you can tinker with it to accommodate what you have on hand or what you think will taste good. The recipe makes about 8 cups-ish. This is the base recipe, add whatever you like – shredded cheese, bacon, snipped chives, etc.

Cauliflower Smash

  • 3-4# Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1/2 head Cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Cream (or milk or sour cream or yogurt)
  • to taste Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper

Rinse off the potatoes, I leave the skin on, feel free to peel if you would prefer. Dice the potatoes and put in a pot of salted water over medium high heat. Cook at a gentle boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for another 6-8 minutes, until the florets are completely tender and technically overcooked.

Drain into a colander, and let steam dry for a couple minutes**. Put back in the pot and hand mash with a potato masher until everything is smashed up. Add the butter & cream and mix to combine, taste and season as needed.

Now that you have had your dinner, if you are like me there is a container of leftover cauliflower smash sitting on the shelf in the fridge. Taunting you. Its not that you don’t like it…you just don’t really want to eat it again. But there it sits.

I was thinking that I could make it into potato pancakes. Easy, really, but not of any real interes to eat. That was a problem since the whole point is to make something I am excited to eat. Instead of a potato pancake how about a zucchini pancake? Why not! The reality was even better than the imagined idea. This will also work with leftover regular mashed potatoes, but I loved the chunky texture of the cauliflower in the pancake.

Another recipe of approximations, you are going to have to use your eyeballs and judgement to decide if your batter looks right, you may start with more or less leftover mashed potatoes or smash than I did, but I have faith! This batch made about 16 4″ pancakes…more than enough for another dinner’s side dish!

Zucchini Cakes

  • 3 cups-ish Leftover Cauliflower Smash or Mashed Potatoes
  • 2 medium Zucchini
  • 4 each Large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups Panko Breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1/2 Lemon
  • juice of a whole Lemon
  • to taste Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper

I toss the smash in the microwave for 2 minutes just to soften it up and make it easier to work with. Get it into a big bowl and mix it up to loosen it. Let it cool while you shred the zucchini.

Cut the tops and bottoms off the zucchini and cut into 3 sections. I use the biggest holes on my box grater and shred until I get down to the seeds – so only the outside – cutting the zucchini into a thin julienne. Add the zucchini and all the other ingredients to a the smash and fold together with a spatula until completely combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as you need to.

You are going to cook these in batches by heating non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil & butter. Heat until the butter foams then drop the pancakes in 1/4 cup portions. Flatten out a little and let them cook until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook on the other side until browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and hold for eating. Add more olive oil and butter as necessary.

I ate them plain, the lemon was so bright I loved it, but they also would be really good with a red pepper coulis or garlic aioli. I will definitely be making these again! Next time I think without the lemon and with bacon and gouda instead or with the lemon and sauteed mushrooms and fresh thyme.

**Note on Mashing Potatoes ~ When you let them steam dry for a couple minutes I literally mean a couple minutes – you do NOT want to let the potatoes cool, they need to be smashed while still definitively HOT. I saw a twitter convo a while back about gummy mashed potatoes the – folks involved thought they over cooked and/over over whipped the potatoes. Neither of those things are possible. Well they are, but neither yield gummy mashed potatoes ~ overcooked potatoes will taste watery, over whipped potatoes mostly aren’t a thing, they will just be fluffier. What causes gummy potatoes is letting them cool before whipping or mashing. It sets starches that lead to weird textures when smooshed. Two ALWAYS things for perfect mashed potatoes every time – 1) drain well, but quickly, and mash while HOT and 2) mash before you add any butter, cream, milk or anything. Trust me. My mashed potatoes have a fan club. Not even joking :)