Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

I feel so grateful to live in this beautiful area of the country.  As the leaves start to change color and the nights get cooler, a whole new feeling comes over me.  I can best describe it as a deep appreciation for the quiet but persistent wisdom of nature.  Like the squirrels who are busy hoarding their acorns for the cold winter ahead, I find myself nesting and gearing up.  My body naturally starts craving heavier comfort foods.  The grill gets covered and largely shut down and I start making broths, soups, and stews.  The squashes, broccoli and cauliflower coming out of the farm right now are a natural fit for this subtle shift, a new rhythm for a new season.  Hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

Featured Item—Cauliflower

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 are 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 crudite platter. It is also fantastic quick pickled. I am intrigued by this recipe for Lemony Quick Pickled Cauliflower (click here). If you are looking to ferment naturally, check out this recipe for lacto-fermented cauliflower pickles (click here).

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. Pureed cauliflower is also increasingly being used as a sauce or gravy (see recipe below), which is a great way to reduce calories in one’s diet.

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 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. I have included a recipe below for a stir fried “riced” cauliflower, a unique way to substitute a rice-like vegetable for the starchy, highly caloric and nutritionally poor white rice in stir fries or other dishes.

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 eating or cooking. Store whole cauliflower, unwashed, in plastic in the refrigerator for up to a week. Storing longer than one week can lead to a stronger odor and flavor.

To freeze cauliflower, cut it into pieces, blanch it first for 2-4 minutes, then place in a cool 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.

*****************************************************************

Lighter Cauliflower “Souffle” Casserole                                       serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 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

METHOD:

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 overprocess 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.

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

INGREDIENTS:

– 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

METHOD:

  1. Steam cauliflower until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
  1. Place warm cauliflower in a bowl with carrots, celery, olives and capers. Toss to combine.
  1. Blend vinegar, lemon juice, anchovy paste, and olive oil with a hand blender until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  1. 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.

***********************************************************

My husband is always asking for a sauce with meat—I came up with this recipe as a way to appease him without adding tons of extra fat and calories to our meal. The gravy also is good with potatoes. Leftover gravy is terrific as a soup or a base sauce for pasta.

Thick Cut Pork Chops with Cauliflower “Gravy”                      Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 1-1 1/2″ thick cut bone-in pork chops

– 3 cups water

– 3 tablespoons kosher salt

– 1 bay leaf

– 10 peppercorns

– 1 clove garlic, crushed

– 3 tablespoons light olive oil

– 1 large onion, very thinly sliced

– 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

– Half head of cauliflower, roughly chopped

– 1 cup chicken broth, or more as needed

– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

– ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

  1. In a casserole dish, mix water, salt, bay leaf, garlic and peppercorns. Add chops and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Remove pork chops from brine and pat dry well with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of chops liberally with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons light olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add chops and sear each side, about 4-6 minutes per side. Remove chops to a rimmed baking sheet and set aside for about 10 minutes while you caramelize the onions.
  1. Pour out most of oil in skillet but don’t wipe off browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Heat pan on medium heat and add onions and 1/4 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown (caramelized), about 20-30 minutes. Add broth and using a wooden spoon, scrape up brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook, covered, until cauliflower is very soft, about 20 minutes.
  1. While cauliflower is cooking, place rimmed baking sheet with seared pork chops on it into the preheated oven. Cook for about 15 minutes or until chops reach an internal temperature of 140-145 in the center. Remove from the oven.
  1. Once cauliflower is cooked, place mixture in a blender. Blend until smooth (be very careful when blending hot liquids as steam can cause the top to pop off). Add additional broth if necessary to get a gravy consistency. Add nutmeg and pepper and season with salt to taste. Blend until well incorporated. Place in a gravy boat and serve with the hot pork chops.

****************************************************************

This is a great recipe to use up bits and pieces of vegetables from the share. Ricing cauliflower is great way to get more healthful and low calorie veggies into your diet.

Kitchen Sink Cauliflower “Fried Rice”                                          Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 teaspoons coconut oil, divided

– 3 leeks or one medium onion, minced

– 3 tablespoons grated ginger, divided

– 4 cups mixed vegetables (carrots, broccoli florets, zucchini, sweet peppers, turnip, radishes, green beans), cut small (1/4”) or shredded

– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

– 1 pound ground meat (beef, bison, turkey, chicken or pork)

– 1 head of cauliflower, florets and some stem chopped roughly

– 2 tablespoons coconut aminos, or low sodium soy sauce

– 1 tablespoon vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand

– 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

 METHOD:

Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice—pieces should be small.

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and half of grated ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add mixed vegetables. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp tender. Scrape out vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Return skillet to heat. Add 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and heat well. Add ground meat. Cook, breaking up meat with a spatula or spoon, until meat is well browned and cooked through. Remove all but 2 teaspoons fat from skillet. Add cauliflower “rice” and the other half of the ginger to the meat in the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is tender, about 7 minutes. Add vegetables back to the skillet and cook for a few minutes to reheat the vegetables. Stir in coconut aminos (or soy sauce), fish sauce, and sesame oil. Cook for 2 minutes. Taste and add more aminos or fish sauce as desired to taste. Serve.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *