What will be the trendiest vegetable in 2013 was a recent question in a focus group. I sat up straighter in my chair. “Trendy vegetables,” I love it already! That makes vegetables sound as revered as high fashion and haute cuisine. Cauliflower was declared the projected winner. It is certainly deserving: not only does it assemble itself like a bouquet of flowers, offer a mild yet complete and comforting flavor, pack an impressive dose of vitamin C, as well as fiber and potassium, and exemplify fractal design, but Mark Twain referred to it as a “cabbage with a college education.”
Generally thought of as a white vegetable, this member of the brassica family also comes in a yellowish-orange, a deep purple and the fabulous knobby green Romanesco variety. This phenomenal mini moonscape vegetable provides the added excitement of a special spiraling pattern. Who doesn’t want a Fibonacci masterpiece on their plate?
Not sure about the spirals and the Fibonacci sequence? Vi Hart explains it more precisely and certainly more playfully than I could in the following video. You’ll be counting spirals on pinecones, pineapples, artichokes, sunflowers, cauliflower, etc in no time.
With so many ways to enjoy cauliflower, let’s start with one of the simplest, yet very delicious and beautifully presented ways: Roasted Cauliflower
Place sliced cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt into a pre-heated 400˚ oven.
Ten or so minutes later, remove the beautifully browned, slightly softened, still crunchy, with a decidedly sweeter and smoother flavor (than when it was raw) roasted cauliflower. Add additional salt or pepper to taste, and enjoy.
Cauliflower also does well as a potato stand-in. Whether you’re cutting down on spuds, avoiding the nightshade family, or just ready to try something new: Cauli-Millet Mashed Potatoes
From The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, Millet Mashed “Potatoes” with Mushroom Gravy
- 1 cup millet, washed
- 5 cups water, divided
- 2 cups cauliflower, in small florets or chunks
- sea salt
- toasted sesame oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 12 button or 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 drop brown rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons kuzu, diluted in 1/2 cup water
- scallions or parsley for garnish
- Place the washed millet in a heavy 2-quart pot. Over medium heat, stir the millet continuously until it dries and then becomes aromatic and ever-so-slightly golden in color. This can take 5-8 minutes.
- And water and cauliflower. Bring to a boil. And salt. Cover and simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Put millet through a food mill or blend in a food processor. Blend to desired creamy consistency.
- To make the gravy: heat toasted sesame oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add onion, salt and sauté until translucent. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add water and bring to a boil. Season with tamari, mirin and brown rice vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to your taste, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Add diluted kuzu to simmering mixture and stir constantly as the kuzu thickens.
I made a double batch of the “Mashed Potatoes” part of the recipe above, reserving half to use as the topping in a vegan Shepard’s Pie a couple of days later. My children ate this up so fast….
A sampling of other excellent cauliflower recipes:
- NY Times “Calling all Cauliflower” with five Italian recipes.
- Marian Morash has a nice chapter on cauliflower in The Victory Garden Cookbook (one of my favorites).
- Deborah Madison’s beautiful new Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes includes a short chapter on cauliflower with several recipes such as Cauliflower Soup with Coconut, Turmeric and Lime (which is making my mouth water).
- If you would rather slide into cauliflower more surreptitiously, try some of Jessica Seinfeld’s recipes in Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food in which puréed cauliflower is “hidden” in such unsuspecting items as banana bread, macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs and chocolate cupcakes.
- The Guardian serves up recipes for a cauliflower pizza crust and a cauliflower-pear bake.
- Saveur Magazine is sure to please with their collection of cauliflower recipes.
And there are many, many more recipes. What are your favorite ways to prepare cauliflower?