Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cauliflower 101

The cauliflower is an annual plant that is part of the Brassicaceae family that includes cabbage, broccoli, turnips, kale and radish to name a few. This cruciferous vegetable has a compact head called a curd. Cauliflower averages 6 inches in diameter and is composed of undeveloped flower buds which attach to a central stalk. The curd is surrounded by green leaves that protect it from sunlight and does not allow for the development of chlorophyll. Most people are familiar with white cauliflower but the curd can range in color from orange to green to purple. There are four major groups of cauliflower. Italian which includes Romanesco, Northern European annuals which were developed in Germany and North Western European biennials which were developed in France. Lastly is the Asian which is used widely in China and India. For a list of available varieties go to this site from Cornell University. According to the top 5 producers of cauliflower are China, India, Spain Italy and France. Cauliflower season is usually March to December. 

Cauliflower is a highly altered plant but also has a long history. Its ancestry can be traced back to the wild cabbage plants of Asia Minor. The plant itself went through several transformations and reappeared in the Mediterranean region later. The oldest known record of cauliflower dates back to the 6th century and the name is Latin, caulis (cabbage) and flower. Francois Pierre La Varenne who trained in the kitchen of Queen Marie de Medici of France, used chouxfleurs in Le Cuisiner Francois one of the most influential cookbooks in early modern French cuisine.

Did you know Mark Twain said “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education?” And cauliflower is called a “cruciferous” vegetable because it’s flowers have four petals and resemble a Greek cross? For more fun facts about cauliflower go here.

To Store

Store cauliflower unwashed in a sealed bag with a paper towel tucked in to absorb any excess moisture. Whole heads of cauliflower can be kept in a loosely sealed bag in the refrigerator for 4 to 7 days. Precut florets should be stored for no more than 4 days.

To Nourish

Cauliflower is extremely high in Vitamin C providing 73% of the daily requirement. It is also high in Vitamin K, B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Choline, Fiber, Omega-3 Fats and Manganese. Cauliflower provides detox support and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It also provides cardiovascular and digestive support. Orange cauliflower is rich in beta carotene and purple cauliflower is rich in tannins. For more information about the health benefits of cauliflower here.

To Prepare

Cauliflower is firm but also spongy. It is slightly sulfurous and bitter in flavor. The flavor has also been described as sweet and nutty. Cauliflower can be eaten raw, pickled and preserved, steamed, boiled, sautéed, roasted, grilled and baked. According to Ruth Lively, Fine Cooking, “The secret to getting the most flavor from cauliflower is to not overcook it. It should be just tender—when a metal skewer inserted in the stem meets the faintest resistance, it’s done. I prefer high-heat cooking methods like roasting or pan-searing (see the recipe Browned Cauliflower with Anchovies, Olives & Capers), because they brown the cauliflower and add a lovely caramelized sweetness. But cauliflower is also delicious steamed or boiled.” Go here for more tips from Fine Cooking.

According to BBC Good  FoodCut off the surrounding leaves (if they're fresh, they can be cooked, too). For large cauliflowers, cut off individual florets from the central stem and cut again if necessary. You should end up with florets of a comparable size, so that they all cook at the same pace. Then wash. Smaller, baby cauliflowers can be cooked whole.” For a visual guide to cutting cauliflower go to this article by The Kitchn.

To Try 

Cauliflower Chow Chow
Quick Pickled Cauliflower
Cauliflower, Cabbage and Carrot Achaar (Malaysian-Style Pickles)
Cauliflower Tortillas
Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks
Cauliflower Popcorn
Cauliflower and Ham Crustless Quiche

Cauliflower and Goat Cheese Soufflés
Tunisian Style Baked Cauliflower Frittata
Cauliflower and Cashew Soup with Crispy Buckwheat
Cold Cauliflower Soup with Bacon and Croutons
Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup with Dumplings and Paprika (Karfioleves)
Shaved Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad
Barley, Cauliflower and Herbs with Burrata
Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs

Olive Oil Braised Vegetables
Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon-Parsley Dressing

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Peas
Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Jacque Pepins Cauliflower Gratin
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower
Cauliflower with Leek Ash

Venetian Cauliflower
Aloo Gobi
Indian Style Cauliflower
Tandoori Cauliflower
Mini Cauliflower Pizzas
Cauliflower Crust Stromboli
Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Puree
Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower
Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks and Scallions
Vadouvan Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Chickpea Curry

Cauliflower Parmesan
Sicilian Cauliflower Pasta

Pasta with Cauliflower in a Spicy Pink Sauce
Pappardelle with Cauliflower and Mustard Brown Butter
Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno
Grilled Striped Bass with Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Capers and Black Olives with Parsley Dressing

To Use

Penzeys Indian Curries 4 Jar Gift Pack includes four of their most popular curry seasonings for creating Indian cuisine bursting with vibrant spicy flavor.  The box contains: Maharajah Curry Powder, Tandoori Seasoning, Balti Seasoning, Garam Masala.  (Penzeys, $45.55)