Cooking with Cauliflower

While talking to my mother this past week, she informed me that all of the cauliflower in her garden was coming in at the same time and she was scrambling to find ways to quickly cook and preserve it.

click to enlarge Raw vegetable salad with cauliflower
Raw vegetable salad with cauliflower

While talking to my mother this past week, she informed me that all of the cauliflower in her garden was coming in at the same time and she was scrambling to find ways to quickly cook and preserve it. She was going to bake some of it into casseroles to freeze, and some of it would naturally find its way onto the crudité platter for our Father’s Day pool party. During a subsequent phone conversation with my cousin, I found out that her favorite way to prepare the vegetable is simply to roast it with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese (recipe available at citybeat.com). A few days ago, a conversation with my daughter went something like this — Me: “Cameron, what is your favorite way to serve cauliflower?” Cameron: “To my enemies.” Well, I guess you can’t please everyone.

Cauliflower is a nutrient- and antioxidant-dense powerhouse that is low in fat, high in fiber and contains a number of phytochemicals and carotenoids. It’s an incredibly versatile vegetable that has the ability to absorb the flavor of whatever dish it’s cooked into, and given the variety of textures it provides based on whether it’s raw or cooked, it’s no wonder that it seems to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance in our diets.

Society’s current obsession with everything gluten-free has turned the innocent cruciferous head into a bit of a dietary wunderkind as of late, and cauliflower is being substituted for almost everything from flour in pancakes and pizza crust to popcorn. Cauliflower is being mashed and hidden in potatoes in order to hoodwink small children into eating their vegetables, and it’s even being shredded and substituted for rice.

When shopping for cauliflower, whether at the grocery store or farmers market, look for creamy white, compact, clean heads. Purple, green or orange cauliflower can also be found, but do note that it tastes the same as the white variety. And while it may look snazzy on your crudité platter, when cooked, those bright colors fade.

Leaves on all varieties should be bright green and clean. Keep your cauliflower in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Summertime is prime potluck and picnic season. Due to its size, a large cauliflower lends itself well to being the base of a dish needed to feed a crowd. I was invited to a pool party recently, and with the heat we’ve been experiencing, the last thing I felt like doing was preparing a hot dish. Something light, fresh and crisp was in order.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a British-based chef. My friend Joanne recently shared Ottolenghi’s recipe for a raw vegetable salad featuring cauliflower, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish to bring to an event at which most of the guests were vegetarians. Indeed, it was a huge hit. The original version featured asparagus, but I couldn’t find any the day I was at Whole Foods, so I used haricot vert (thin French green beans), and they added a nice, crunchy touch. I also sweetened up the dressing a bit with a good squeeze of honey. If you can’t find French breakfast radishes, feel free to use the basic red, round type you find in the grocery store. I did, and they were just fine. The salad doubles beautifully.

Raw Vegetable Salad

Serves 4


Ingredients:

1 small shallot, minced

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar

1½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

A good squeeze of honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 tablespoons sunflower oil

head cauliflower, grated

4 long radishes, such as French breakfast, thinly sliced lengthwise

12 haricot vert, cut into thirds

1 cup watercress

cup frozen peas, thawed and drained, or fresh peas, blanched for 1 minute

cup basil, roughly torn

cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Instructions: Mix the shallot, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in the sunflower oil. Add the cauliflower, radishes, haricot vert, watercress, peas, basil and Kalamata olives to the bowl with the dressing. Using your hands, gently toss dressing and vegetables together. Serve immediately. 


If you need a recipe for an unusual ingredient — or even a commonplace one — ask ILENE ROSS how to prepare it: [email protected].


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