Colder weather doesn't mean there aren't any veggies growing. Big white cauliflower clouds fill market stalls in the spring and again in the fall. Their plain, pale appearance belie cauliflower's wonderful, creamy taste and a lot of varied uses in the kitchen. Cauliflower is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, and kale. It's also in the same family as the romanesco, which highlights the fractal nature of how these brassica vegetables grow.
You'll most commonly see white cauliflower, but other colors are out there, too, including orange, green, and purple.
Though not eaten as often, the leaves surrounding the cauliflower are also edible(looks like they should be on the list of "Eight Veggies Where You're Missing Half The Fun"). This is particularly useful if you're growing your own cauliflower but can't grown the large heads you'd find at the grocery store.
Now let's get down to the excellent and varied things you can do with cauliflower!
For many folk, roasting is the go-to method for cooking cauliflower. Cauliflower pieces are delicious coated in olive oil and sprinkled in salt, then roasted in a 375° oven until tender. I like to include a few cloves of garlic and some chunks of onion, too, though they aren't necessary.
It turns out, you can also roast cauliflower whole. Some folks poach the cauliflower first, but I just cut down the stem and coat the entire cauliflower in olive oil and any toppings (salt, fresh herbs, capers...). Put the entire cauliflower in a dish in a 425° oven for about 50 minutes, checking every once in a while to make sure the top doesn't burn.
Following the suggestions of some online commenters, I finished my whole-roasted cauliflower by turning off the oven and tenting it under a piece of tin foil. This extra time as the temperature went down (and the tenting, which keeps the top from burning) helps the inside cook through.
I recently told a market customer about this easy and yummy recipe, and she asked how we ate it. While there are beautiful pictures online of people slicing into the whole cauliflower like a cake, we went a different way. It was so good, my boyfriend and I tore off pieces with our bare hands. We kept pulling pieces and munching; the whole thing was gone in an afternoon.
- Saute onions in olive oil until translucent, then add some diced garlic
- Stir in the garlic briefly, then add cauliflower, chopped up into small pieces
- Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, for a few minutes
- Add enough vegetable broth to submerge everything in the pot
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is fork-tender
- Blend the soup until creamy. Enjoy!
Here are the variations that keep it interesting:
- Add fresh or powdered hot pepper when sautéing the onions for a good kick
- Add diced potatoes along with the cauliflower to stretch the recipe and thicken the resulting soup
- Spice it up! I like to add a lot of curry powder, along with some turmeric powder and ground fennel, for some flavor. Add these early, while sauteing the onions, then add more at the end as desired
- If you aren't vegan, add some cream to, well, make it creamier when blended
- If you want a vegan creamy alternative, try adding coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew milk
- Add greens to the soup after blending. They're a healthy addition that also adds texture. Try kale, chard, spinach, or even cabbage (as I did at right)
Want a recipe with exact measurements? Try one of these:
Potatoes aren't the only thing delicious when smashed. Mix cauliflower into your potatoes pre-mashing for a healthy, light addition. Here's an easy recipe.
DIRT Magazine introduced me to the surprising idea of using cauliflower as a replacement for rice. Whether you've jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, or just love cauliflower like I do, cauliflower rice is a great option.
Check out their recipe for a Broccoli Tofu Peanut Bowl, which uses cauliflower in lieu of rice.
Want to make cauliflower rice for your own meal? Here's the basics according to DIRT Magazine:
Grate the cauliflower florets on the large holes of a box grater (or use a food processor) until you have about 2 cups. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan. Cook garlic and ginger on low 1 minute. Add grated cauliflower and stir constantly for 3 minutes.
Rice isn't the only carb you can replace with cauliflower. My aunt recently sent me a recipe for Veggie Pizza with Cauliflower Crust, which she and her daughter proclaimed "absolutely amazingly fabulous." The recipe uses egg whites and cheese to hold a grated cauliflower crust together. Yum!