Approach April With Caution

In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” a soothsayer warned Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March.”

Well, the ides — the middle — of March is now past, but I would offer a similar warning today, ‘Beware the First of April.”

Yep — April Fools’ Day is once again upon us, and it’s time to prepare oneself to encounter a bit of malarkey, hokum, balderdash, hogwash or whatever term you prefer for the foolishness that occurs on April 1.

As I have shared before, my late mother, known to you readers as DotMom, thoroughly relished her April 1 pranks, which generally included serving “hardboiled” eggs that had just been run under hot water to DadDon (he always fell for it, even though she never served hardboiled eggs any other day of the year) or concocting some tall tale that had just enough plausibility to get her children to fall for it.

I did not inherit her ability to pull off such a stunt. No matter how hard I try to come up with a bit of suitable April 1 malarkey, I never get anyone to fall for it, so I’ve given up. I hereby pledge to be nothing but truthful come Friday.

With a bit of a wicked sense of humor, DotMom didn’t always contain her pranks to April 1. She loved to dress up on Halloween, pulling a nylon stocking over her head to distort her features, and knocking on the doors of her friends, never betraying her identity. “Who was that masked woman?”

DotMom also took special delight in getting her children and grandchildren to eat foods they didn’t necessarily care for by disguising them in something else. Most often, since she had such a zealous fondness for it herself, the sneaky item was zucchini. On one memorable occasion, she mailed granddaughter Gretchen, a famously picky eater (although she has now expanded her culinary horizons a bit) who shunned any sort of green vegetable, a batch of zucchini brownies. Gretchen, who was living and working in Texas at the time, was somewhat horrified when, after eating several of the sweet treats, she noted the small flecks of green in the bars. DotMom, of course, chortled with delight at pulling one over on her eldest granddaughter.

That’s why my mother came to mind when earlier this week I served up a meal that similarly disguised a vegetable, turning it into a velvety Alfredo sauce. It’s a recipe that I saw served up on “The Kitchen,” a Food Network Saturday morning program that features five of the network’s most engaging chefs. This particular episode had a “makeover” theme, and chef Katie Lee demonstrated her Alfredo sauce makeover, which uses pureed cauliflower as a base.

Having previously tried out recipes that use cauliflower as a basis for pizza crust or substitute for mashed potatoes, I was intrigued. And, as I had some cauliflower in the refrigerator that needed to be used up, it got added to the menu.

Per usual, I changed the recipe up just a bit, adding some onion to the sauce and throwing in asparagus and rotisserie chicken in lieu of the shrimp in Lee’s version. I would definitely make it again, although I might try to figure out a way to minimize the number of pans and appliances required. But I can honestly say this sauce would “fool” just about anyone, and no kid or veggie-shunning adult would be wise to the cauliflower’s presence.

April Fools’ Alfredo

1 small head cauliflower, broken up into florets

1 pound fettuccine noodles

1 cup 2 percent milk (I had 1 percent to which I added a small amount of cream)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, lightly smashed

1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese (not the shaker kind)

1 cup asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces

1½ cups cooked chicken, diced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until very tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain in a colander, reserving the boiling water for the pasta.

Add the fettuccine to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions.

While the noodles are boiling, combine the cauliflower with the milk in a blender (I did it in two stages), and puree until smooth.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the smashed garlic clove (keep it intact). Add the cauliflower puree and cook for several minutes before removing the garlic clove. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the asparagus and chicken and continue to cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan.

Reserving ⅓ cup pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the skillet. Add the reserved pasta water, as needed, to get sauce to desired consistency.