Vegetarian Smashed Cauliflower and Roasted Asparagus Sandwich

by on May 13, 2012

Back in my restaurant days, for the longest time we had made our mark serving through two meals a day. Breakfast and lunch. 

It was perfect for a vegetarian place since so many dishes for those two meals can naturally be vegetarian and no one thinks twice. Poached eggs, oatmeal, salads, eggplant parmesan.  We’d have regular customers come for years and never realize it was a vegetarian place until they were craving a tuna sandwich and found out after asking that their beloved restaurant was a vegetarian place. 

Then one summer we decided to try adding a third service, dinner. Two meals we had down logistically to run lean and mean staffing and prep wise, but a third meal threw a huge wrench in the operations. But we all put our heads together, everyone pushed and worked hard to make everything come together. 

Even worse than the logistics was to create a unique vegetarian dinner menu that would be special enough to attract even non-veg heads to our humble but stylish establishment. Fortunately the owner’s mom was brilliant in the kitchen. She always had a hand in developing most of the amazing recipes we served, and for the dinner menu she came up with some beauties. 

Out of all the amazing dishes, there was one that was a hands down staff favorite. An open-face sandwich with cauliflower puree, asparagus, and a poached egg. This wasn’t a sandwich trying to convert a regular carnivore treat into a vegetarian substitution. It was a brilliant sandwich which happened to be vegetarian. 

So many things about the sandwich were great, but for most of us it was the cauliflower puree which sent it over the top. We could, and would, eat the cauliflower puree straight up or on some crostini. Cooked in milk with garlic until soft then pureed up. Oh so good.

You’d think the poached egg would have been the star, but so many times we would make it up for ourselves without the egg. Just the cauliflower puree balanced by the asparagus. Most of us had already been working 10-12 hours by dinner time and it was nice to have something a little less rich before going home and passing out. 

So that’s how we’ve re-created the sandwich now here at home, staff meal style. Toast up our favorite bread, a nice thick layer of the cauliflower, which we’ve smashed instead of pureed to give an added texture. Some roasted asparagus and finished off with the sweet refreshing slices of tomatoes. 


Cooking Method: 

chop cauliflower

brown the garlic 

add cauliflower…

then add milk….

cook cauliflower in milk till soft 

hello asparagus

roasted asparagus 

voila! now assemble sandwich

now you can eat! and share. 

Smashed Cauliflower and Roasted Asparagus Sandwich

Yield: 6-8 Sandwiches

Total Time: 30 Minutes


Sandwich Ingredients

  • Rosemary Olive Oil Bread, or your favorite bread choice
  • Smashed Cauliflower
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Tomatoes, sliced or cut into wedges
  • Arugula

Smashed Cauliflower

  • 1/4 c (60ml) Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 T (22 ml) crushed Garlic (about 4-6 cloves)
  • 1 medium head (@ 2 lbs -910g) Cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 c (475 ml) Milk
  • 1 t (5 ml) Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 lb (455g) Asparagus
  • a few sprigs fresh Thyme or Tarragon
  • 3 T (45ml) Olive Oil
  • 1/2 t (3g) Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • fresh cracked Black Pepper


Smashed Cauliflower Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and cook until light golden, stirring very frequently.
  2. Add cauliflower and milk. Increase heat to bring to a simmer, then lower heat back to medium (should be a vigorous simmer without boiling over).
  3. Simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  4. Mash cauliflower to break down the bigger chunks. Season with salt.

Roasted Asparagus Directions

Preheat oven to 400º F (205º C).

  1. Toss asparagus, thyme, and olive oil on a sheet pan. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. Roast in oven for 10 minutes, toss the asparagus, then continue roasting for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.

Sandwich Directions

  1. Toast bread.
  2. Spread a 1/4" layer of smashed cauliflower. Lay a few spears of asparagus. Add a couple slices of tomato and arugula. Cut in half and serve.
Recipe Source:

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marissa | Pinch and Swirl May 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

The asparagus ‘hi’ made me laugh out loud. As usual your photos are so enticing – love that the mashed cauliflower still has a bit of texture instead of a complete puree.


2 Averie @ Averie Cooks May 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I love hearing stories about your restaurant past and the little bits and pieces of days gone by.

Mashed cauli is great; I love cauliflower any way you want to serve it. And asparagus too. Adorable caption, ‘hello asparagus’ :)


3 Kate {Something Fabulous} May 14, 2012 at 12:53 am

Mmm, this looks delicious! x

Kate {Something Fabulous}


4 Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary May 14, 2012 at 4:11 am

YUM~ Love this!


5 JulieD May 14, 2012 at 5:05 am

I absolutely love roasted asparagus but I have never tried smashed cauliflower before! This looks like a simple yet comforting dish…will have to try it! Thanks!


6 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar May 14, 2012 at 5:07 am

This is so unique! I love this idea!


7 Caroline @ chocolate & carrots May 14, 2012 at 5:36 am

I love that cauliflower is so fun to mash and use in all sorts of dishes. I’ve been cringing at the site of raw vegetables lately (oh, pregnancy), but this…this, I can do! :D It looks fabulous!


8 amelia from z tasty life May 14, 2012 at 7:28 am

can’t wait to make these hearty vegetarian delights! perfect for a light lunch. and cute as buttons.


9 Jennifer May 14, 2012 at 7:29 am

Beautiful pictures. I’m not a huge fan of cauliflower, but I keep thinking it’s because I haven’t the right recipe for it. This one definitely makes me want to give it a try again.


10 White on Rice Couple May 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Jennifer- hopefully this will be the recipe to help you cross over to loving cauliflower. :)


11 Katie @ Epicurean Mom May 14, 2012 at 8:01 am

Interesting sammie! I love it! I’ll be making this asap!


12 Macheesmo via Facebook May 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

Yum! One of my favorite side dishes in sandwich form!


13 Thyme (Sarah) May 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

Bought lots of cauliflower this week so this is a good idea for us. I make a ‘faux’ mashed potatoes that is really all cauliflower that everyone enjoys here.


14 Kristen May 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

What a great idea for a sandwich! I love “faux” potatoes (smashed cauliflower)


15 Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking May 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

What a delicious idea for a sandwich and beautiful photos! I just may turn this into crostini for a party this coming weekend.


16 White on Rice Couple May 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

Georgia- these are the perfect crostini for parties. Make a huge platter and it’ll be a hit!


17 Susan in the Boonies May 14, 2012 at 11:15 am

WANT to try this!


18 Kathleen Richardson May 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Oh, what beautiful photos. Oh, what delicious ingredients. I’m hooked! You have the best ideas.


19 Kim Bee May 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

This is a lovely dish. I would not have thought of this combination. I love cauliflower and also asparagus but have never had them together. Love your “Hi” note. Very cute!


20 White on Rice Couple May 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Kim – lol, thank you. The ‘Hi’ was kinda random. Glad you like it. xoxo


21 lynn @ the actor's diet May 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

yum – this looks amazing you guys!


22 Jeff @ Cheeseburger May 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm

This is an excellent summer sandwich for vegans. Thanks for sharing the recipe.


23 Cheese with Noodles May 15, 2012 at 2:23 am

This looks really good and so unique! I made some rosemary wheat bread that it would probably be good on, too. Mmm.


24 Lauren May 16, 2012 at 7:13 am

Never had cauliflower on a sandwich before but suddenly have the urge. Beautiful!!


25 Aggie May 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm

This is my kind of meal. I love the asparagus Hi :)


26 Roberta Goeta via Facebook May 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

Roasted asparagus? Have to try this, looks very yummy!!


27 Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits May 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm

What a great flavor combination: cauliflower and asparagus. The genius of combining the two into a sandwich is most impressive.

A big pat on the back for the whimsical “Hi”! Very clever!


28 White on Rice Couple May 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Jackie- Hi. :) thank you.


29 Angelina May 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. Once I started roasting it I can’t seem to eat it any other way because it’s so good roasted – but this sandwich is certainly tempting me to branch out again with my cauliflower preparations. Plus, we have local fresh asparagus available right now!


30 A.L. May 22, 2012 at 7:04 am

Absolutely beautiful – mashed cauliflowers on toast. I think I do have one or two heads lying around in the fridge. Will definitely try this out, with a good drizzle of garlic infused olive oil and a hearty slice of sourdough rye bread. :) Thanks for sharing.


31 A.L. May 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Didn’t find any cauliflower and the weather was too gloomy I simply couldn’t force myself to drop by the groceries. Tried the recipe out with pumpkin instead – very nice on whole meal toast with some Dijon mustard. The pumpkin was probably a tad sweeter than cauliflower so I increased the quantity of salt by a generous teaspoon. Consistency was good although I prefer it a bit thicker. I noted the milk curdled a bit with prolonged simmering (perhaps my pumpkins require a longer time to soften enough for mashing?) – next time I may try cooking the pumpkins the usual way, mash, and thin it out with a bit of milk at the end. Thanks again for the inspiration.


32 Laura (Tutti Dolci) June 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This sandwich is just perfect without the egg! Smashed califlower sounds like something I’d want to eat again and again.


33 Avi June 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Looks good, I love cauliflower. One quick question, though: once the cauliflower is soft, do you drain the milk off? Thanks


34 White on Rice Couple June 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

If cooked at the right temp, the milk should be mostly absorbed into the cauliflower so you won’t need to drain any off. It will be perfect after mashing.


35 sara June 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

So pretty! What a great dish, love the colors!


36 B @ Crags and Veggies June 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

Wow, what a great idea! I am always looking for ways to use cauliflower. It’s absolutely not a favorite vegetable of mine and I always get it in my CSA. I even tried broccoli and cauliflower potstickers!


37 catherine June 27, 2012 at 10:49 am

I’m dying to try this! The asparagus sounds great. I recently made a cauliflower sandwich myself ( and it’s my new fave. I love when an unexpected veggie shows up in a sandwich.


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