One Ingredient: Cauliflower
by Julie Van Rosendaal
Who would have guessed that the bland brassicas of our child-
hoods, the broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower that were
habitually cooked to a soft shade of grey-green before being
forced upon us, with cheese sauce only if we were lucky, would
become hip among vegetables, the darlings of Pinterest?
As generations have relaxed a bit about vegetable cooking times, brassicas have become less sulphur-y and more celebrated – for their health benefits as well as their easygoing flavour. At one time, cauliflower was separated into florets and steamed, buttered and salted, and that was about it. These days, heads of cau-liflower are sliced into thick steaks and seared in hot pans, chipped in the food processor into a substitute for rice, or roasted whole, nestled or doused in sauce (try butter chicken sauce – truly) and served in wedges. Its benign flavour means cauliflower pairs well with other ingredients, from curry paste to tomato sauce to blue cheese. Try it with browned butter, lemon and capers, spicy harissa or garlicky chimichurri. Stir leftovers into curries, pastas, quiche and sandwiches. Don’t
be afraid to treat cauliflower like meat, pushing its limits in the oven or on the stovetop or grill – those extra-crispy bits are the best part.
The intense heat of the oven, a cast-iron skillet or grill caramelizes its natural sugars, giving it a smoky-crispy exterior and buttery soft interior. Simmered into submission, cauliflower purees perfectly into mellow soups. And if you like its dense texture and crunch, cauliflower is just about perfect raw, shaved into salads, marinated or pick-led. (Want to try cauliflower “rice”? Pulse raw florets in the food processor until they have a texture that resembles rice, place in a covered bowl and microwave for a few minutes, or stir-fry in a hot pan with a little oil until tender.)
Once relegated to frozen mixed veggies and meatloaf’s supporting cast, cauliflower is in its prime, inspiring chefs, diners and now home cooks. The next time you pick up a head, let it pull you outside your culinary comfort zone.
Cauliflower Fritters with Lemony Mayo
Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan and Lime
Tandoori Cauliflower (Tandoori Gobi)
Ten Foot Henry’s Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Yogurt and Salsa Verde
Read One Ingredient in the digital issue of City Palate.