Amazingly, I didn’t taste a bite of cauliflower until I was in my 30’s.It just wasn’t a vegetable my parents served.Once I started cooking for myself, I would eye the beautiful but mysterious-looking white bulbs in the store and think, “now how in the world do you cook that?”.I’m glad I learned, because today, cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables.
Cauliflower is a member of the brassica family, along with cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale and collard greens.Even though the green leaves surrounding the head is edible, typically it is only the head that is consumed.The head is made up of densely packed, under-developed flower buds and in that sense, most closely resembles broccoli.The basic variety is white because the leaves grow up around the head and keep it from getting the sunshine that is necessary for photosynthesis.However, cauliflower can also be green, purple, and orange depending upon the variety.
Like other members of the brassica family, cauliflower has many nutritional strengths.It contains high levels of vitamins C, B6, and K, and is a very good source of folate and magnesium.It also contains good amounts of protein and dietary fiber.It is popular with dieters because it is low in calories, fat and cholesterol and has a low glycemic load.
Cauliflower is wonderful raw in salads or on a crudités platter.It is also fantastic quick pickled.However, cauliflower additionally lends itself to a number of cooking methods. Some sources suggest that cooked cauliflower retains more nutrients when it is steamed, stir-fried, roasted or grilled.However, it can still be boiled if need be, but there may be a loss of some vitamins and minerals.
My favorite way to eat cauliflower is in a puree or mash, especially when it is combined with potatoes.See below for a recipe for a pureed cauliflower casserole.
Another wonderful way to cook cauliflower is to roast it.Try slicing the whole, cored head into thin slices and roasting them with a little olive oil.The thin slices get deliciously caramelized and tasty. Check out this great recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Vinaigrette from Epicurious.
You can also separate the cauliflower head into florets and roast it that way or even roast the head whole (core it first so it cooks more evenly). A relative of mine loves to spread sour cream over the whole roasted head, then top it with breadcrumbs browned in a little butter.Yum!
A quick and easy method for cooking cauliflower is a simple steam or stir-fry. Because of its mild flavor, it goes with just about any kind of sauce.Try dressing it simply with olive oil (or butter) and salt and pepper.Cooked cauliflower also tends to absorb flavors very well which makes it a great ingredient in marinated salads.See below for a recipe for a Mediterranean style marinated cauliflower salad.
Choose cauliflower with no yellow or brown spots on the head.If it does contain such spots, cut them away before using.Store, unwashed, in plastic in the refrigerator for up to a week.Storing longer than one week can lead to a stronger odor and flavor.It is a good idea to soak organic cauliflower heads upside-down in salted cold water for 5 minutes before preparing in order to remove any unwanted critters that may be lurking in the dense head.
To freeze cauliflower, blanch it first for 2-4 minutes, then place in a cold or ice water bath to stop the cooking process.Drain and then store in airtight containers in the freezer.Frozen cauliflower is best used in soups and stews, as the texture changes with freezing.
This dish is popular with my whole family and because it is light and healthful, I feel good serving it.
Lighter Cauliflower “Soufflé” Casserole serves 4
– 1 medium cauliflower, separated into small florets
– 2 large potatoes
– 6 large peeled cloves garlic
– 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
– 1/4 cup skim milk
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
– 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
– 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
– 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
– 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 350.Spray an 8X8 baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Place potatoes, cauliflower, and garlic cloves in a pot of water and bring to a boil.Boil until very tender, about 10-12 minutes.Alternatively, steam cauliflower separately from the potatoes and garlic.Drain and cool for a couple of minutes to allow steam to escape.Place drained vegetables in the bowl of a food processor.Add milk, 1/4 cup Parmesan, salt, and nutmeg.Process just until smooth, stopping a couple of times to scrape edges of bowl (don’t over process or mixture will get gluey).Add eggs and a few turns of freshly ground pepper and pulse until well combined, stopping a couple of times to scrape edges.Turn mixture out into prepared baking dish.
2. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan, and olive oil and mix until olive oil is well distributed and mixed into breadcrumbs.Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over cauliflower mixture.Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is lightly browned and casserole is very lightly puffed.Serve immediately.
I really can’t get enough of this flavorful salad.It was adapted from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.Be sure to let the salad marinate for at least a couple of hours before serving.
Marinated Cauliflower Salad Serves 4-6
– 1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 6 cups)
– 1 cup julienned cut carrots
– 2 celery stalks, thinly julienned and cut into 1″ pieces
– 1/2 cup pimiento stuffed olives, sliced
– 2 tablespoons capers
– 2 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
– 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Steam cauliflower until just tender, about 5 minutes.Drain.
2. Place warm cauliflower in a bowl with carrots, celery, olives and capers.Toss to combine.
3. Blend vinegar, lemon juice, anchovy paste, and olive oil with a hand blender until emulsified.Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Pour dressing over salad and toss well to coat.Season to taste with salt and pepper.Chill for at least 2 hours to allow vegetables to marinate.Serve at room temperature.
This pasta dish is lighter than many similar types of recipes (which tend to have tons of butter or oil) and is best eaten as soon as it has finished cooking.
Whole Wheat Penne with Cauliflower and Bacon Serves 4
– 1 large head cauliflower, or 2 small
– 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
– 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
– 1 pound whole wheat penne
– 8 slices center cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
– 1/2 cup minced shallots
– 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
– juice of 1 lemon
– 1/4 cup pasta cooking water
1. Preheat oven to 375.Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.Spray foil with olive oil cooking spray (or brush with olive oil).Break cauliflower head(s) into florets and cut larger florets in half lengthwise.Place florets in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat.Season to taste with salt and pepper.Toss to coat.Lay florets in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.Bake for 10 minutes.Turn pieces.Continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower pieces are tender and are partly caramelized.Remove from oven.
2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until hot.Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.Remove from heat and allow to cool.Once cool, mix in Parmesan, lemon zest and parsley.Set aside.
3. Place a large pot of salted water on high heat to boil.When boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.Remove 1/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid and add to broth.Drain pasta.
4. When cauliflower is almost done cooking, place a 12-inch skillet on medium heat and add bacon pieces.Cook, stirring frequently, until bacon has rendered its fat and is crisp.Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon pieces to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from pan and place once again on burner on medium-low heat.Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.Add broth, pasta cooking water, and juice of one lemon and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.Add pasta and roasted cauliflower, and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is almost absorbed and pasta and vegetables are hot, about 4 minutes.Add bacon and breadcrumb mixture and stir just to incorporate.Serve immediately.