Cauliflower Power

“Do you like vegetables? I’ve always been fond of root crops but I only started to grow last summer. I happen to think the cauliflower more beautiful than the rose.” – Uncle Monty

Have you noticed the amazing cauliflower coming in from Ontario farms this fall? It must have been a good year for them, because I have never seen such huge, beautiful plants as the ones I have seen recently. Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as cabbage, kale, broccoli and collard greens, is a great winter vegetable, and is at its peak of flavour right now.

Cauliflower has a rich and prominent position in the cuisine of many cultures throughout the world, dating back to wild varieties that were first cultivated several hundred years B.C. Known as chouxfleurs in French, they were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century and popularized by François Pierre de la Varenne (the author of Le Cuisinier françois (1651), widely regarded as the founding text of modern French cuisine.

Though the white cauliflower is by far the most popular cultivar of this plant, you can also find green, orange, brown and purple varieties. Interestingly, the orange cauliflower, often known as “Cheddar” or “Orange Bouquet” is a result of a natural mutation that occurred in a cauliflower field in Canada (yay us!) and has twenty-five times the level of vitamin A as it’s white cousin.

No matter the colour, cauliflower is amazingly versatile and can star as the appetizer, side dish, soup or main course of your dinner.  As an app, it is great to snack on raw, on a crudités plate with maybe a zesty aioli as a dip. Raw, it has a crunchy, firm texture and a mild and slightly bitter texture that is somewhat addictive.

Cooking it brings out the sweetness and nuttiness, especially if roasted or sautéed with a little turmeric or allspice. This recipe for Smoky Roasted Cauliflower is a favourite. Many folks like to steam it or boil it, but be careful; overcooking it in this method can render it quite mushy and cause it to lose it’s mild distinctive flavour, resulting in a rather bland side dish, which is a shame.

There is a whole generation of us that grew up with cauliflower served this way: boiled to death and smothered with cheese sauce, an ignominious fate for such a delicate flavour.

However you cook it, make sure to break up the head of it (called the “curd”) into small pieces. These “florets” are undeveloped flower buds and break off easily, and are usually fairly uniform in size so they cook evenly. Discard the stalk and leaves if you wish, although they are edible as well, and suitable for use in stocks.

A unique way to serve this vegetable is to grate it and form it into pancakes, or Cauliflower Latkes, here’s a great recipe by Sue Riedl on the Food Network Blog.

Because it is so low in carbohydrates and starch, mashed cauliflower makes a great substitute for mashed potatoes. Here’s all the exciting nutritional info:

this innocent looking little vegetable is a source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, vitamin B5, potassium, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, molybdenum, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3.

Steam it rather than boil it, as up to 75% of the nutrition may be lost if you over boil it. Another great dish that allows this wondrous vegetable to shine is Cauliflower Paprikash, so delicious and hearty you can easily make it the star of your dinner. Here is our favourite recipe for this delicious dish from Mollie Katzen, author of  “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” and the iconic “Moosewood Cookbook”.

Cauliflower Paprikash

Serves 4 or 5

Ingredients

1 medium cauliflower

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sour cream

1 cup plain yogurt

2 Tbsp. horseradish

1 Tbsp. mild paprika

salt & pepper to taste

1 lb. wide egg noodles

2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

2 Tbsp. chopped dill

2 Tbsp, chopped chives

extra paprika for the top

Steps

  1. Break or cut the cauliflower into 1 inch florets. Steam them until just tender and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, melt Butter in a medium-large saucepan. Add the onion, and saute over medium heat until it begins to soften (5 to 8 minutes). Add the flour, whisk in and continue to whisk for a minutes so the flour cooks. Add the sour cream, yogurt and horseradish to the pan, and beat well with a whisk.
  3. Cook and stir over very low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, salt, pepper, and the cooked cauliflower. Set aside until shortly before serving time.
  4. Just before serving, cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water until just tender. (If necessary, gently reheat the sauce while the noodles cook. Don’t let it boil or it will split.) Drain the noodles, and transfer them to a large serving bowl. Toss immediately with the poppy seeds. Spoon the sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle the top with dill, chives, and a little extra paprika. Serve right away

 

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