Just as fashions wax and wane, so do food fads. Eggs got a bad rap for a long time due to the cholesterol issue but now they’re even served on a green salad. Kale had its moment in the spotlight and is still adored by many. Well now it is cauliflower’s turn. Apparently, due to the drought in California, there was a shortage of some cole crops last spring.
A cole crop refers to any plant belonging to the Cruciferae or Brassicaceae (mustard) family…broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, to name a few. Cauliflower is probably the most demanding of these crops as it loves cool, damp weather and will punish you by bolting or developing premature small heads if you alter its growing conditions. I have tried to grow it from plants that I purchased without success as Ali is no farmer with patience! Cauliflower is a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, calcium and fiber. It comes in a beautiful variety of colors that contain healthy phytochemicals and I have actually displayed it in a centerpiece with flowers.
If you think about it, cauliflower is just as versatile as any other vegetable. My husband even brought to my attention a bizarre recipe for cauliflower brownies ~ coo-coo for cocoa-puffs, right?! I love to cut the head (which is actually the flower) into florets and roast it in the oven or steam it and smother it with butter and Parmesan cheese. I don’t care for it in the raw form as I find it rather bland but terrific with a green goddess dip! My mother served it to her young family boiled, then served in a gooey Velveeta cheese sauce ~ anything to get us to eat a fresh vegetable ~ but here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower.
Serving a cauliflower purée along side a piece of grilled fish is a healthy compromise. The purée becomes a vegetable and a ‘starchy’ side. No need for fattening whipped potatoes!
Ali’s Cauliflower Purée
- 1 head white cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 cups whole milk or half-and-half*
- 1 T. butter
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Fresh chives, chopped**
- Combine cauliflower and milk in a large saute pan. Simmer, covered for 25 minutes.
- Strain the florets from the milk, reserving both and keep milk warm.
- Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Add butter and half of the milk.
- Process mixture until desired consistency***. If the mixture is too thick, add a little bit of milk at a time to thin.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with chives. Lay a piece of prepared fish over the purée and serve warm.
*The milk or half-and-half will not really add flavor but you want to have a purée that can stand alone, like mashed potatoes. Milk with less fat content or even stock may not give you the consistency you desire.
**Use your favorite herb depending on how the fish has been prepared. If the fish is strongly marinated, then I suggest a milder herb so as not to confuse the flavors.
***You could serve this a bit chunky to show the vegetable; however, it is much more palatable to serve it creamy smooth.
Cauliflower and warm fennel salad is a combination that you may not have thought of. I am always looking for ways to use fennel as I love the anise flavor. The following recipe is so easy that there is no reason NOT to prepare it.
Ali’s Warm Cauliflower and Fennel Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 cup fennel, sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 t. Dijon mustard
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Fresh fennel fronds, chopped for garnish
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add florets. Boil 5-8 minutes until crisp tender.
- Add fennel and boil 1 minute; drain vegetables.
- Whisk the oil and remaining ingredients.
- Add dressing to vegetables and toss to coat; serve warm with fennel fronds.
Cauliflower really is much too tasteless to serve alone. It requires at least some butter! I also love to prepare it by roasting with curry butter and ginger or a lemon caper vinaigrette and shallots. The possibilities are endless. In fact, I just thought of cutting the stem and core into thick slices, brushing them with olive oil and grilling until tender. Serve with any accompaniment that you desire. I believe I have dinner!