Versatile Cauliflower

It’s raining this morning, which is a nice break from the dense fog we have had lately. It’s nice to be able to see across the street even if the rain will ultimately bring more foggy conditions, I’m enjoying it.

This morning at the Farmers’ Market I picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower. It’s what some would consider on the small size, but because I am the only eating it, it’s just the right size. I also bought rainbow chard, carrots, celery and some apples to make into sauce.

I really like doing a little research on what I find at the market. I love learning more about things that have been part of my life for decades and about new things that I have just discovered.

While I have eaten cauliflower my whole life I never once considered the visual similarity between it and broccoli until I read the sentence; “Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem” (An inflorescence is a group of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches). I think this was so startling because I consider myself a very visual person and yet I hadn’t noticed something so obvious.  It was only when I allowed my curiosity to enter the process that I really saw the similarity. Now, I wonder what else is right in front of me that I’m not seeing?

Other interesting facts I found on my cauliflower quest were: its name is from the Italian cavolfiore, from cavolo cabbage and fiore flower and that it was introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century. In today’s world there are four major groups of cauliflower; Italian (this is the ancestral form from which the others were derived), Northwest European (developed in France in the 19th century), Northern European (developed in Germany in the 18th century), and Asian (developed in India during the 19th century).  It was also noted that it is available in various colors beside white, including; green, purple, brown and yellow. To be honest, I haven’t tried the other colors. I have seen them in pictures and at a few gourmet markets. I’ve only eaten the white variety since that is what’s has been available at my market. But, if they do become available I’d definitely give them a try, especially if I can buy a small head.

This wonderful winter vegetable is low in fat and  high in dietary fiber and like many winter fruits and vegetables it is  high in vitamin C.

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled (I don’t boil any vegetable except potatoes, I prefer steaming), fried, steamed or eaten raw. I’ve also read that low carb dieters use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes. Hum, guess you would have to cook it until pretty soft to get the texture right when it’s pureed so that might be when they boil it. I still think I prefer the steam method. As you can see I haven’t tried it as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce

roasted cauliflower with Parmesan

One of my childhood favorites is cauliflower that has been steamed till it’s just done then served with a simple cheese sauce. I have also tried it sliced, tossed with a good olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted until just browned then sprinkled with a nice Parmesan cheese. Another favorite is to slice the florets and steam them then toss with a pat of butter, salt and pepper.

Here’s a interesting way to fix cauliflower as a snack,  cauliflower popcorn. It’s an idea from Earth Eats by Annie Corrigan. They have all kinds of interesting articles on their site.

Another site with a yummy vegetarian version is Pinch My Salt, it’s steamed cauliflower with a curry butter and almonds. The recipe was adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Cauliflower matches well with foods such as almonds and walnuts, bacon and ham, cheese, curry and hollandaise sauces, breadcrumbs, butter, lemon, mushrooms, herbs like chervil, chives, parsley and spices like nutmeg.

As you can see cauliflower is extremely versatile. No wonder it is used in cuisines throughout the world. If you haven’t given this highly nutritious, delicious vegetable a try you should. You just might grow to love it as much as I do.

Comfort on a Rainy Evening

Tonight for dinner I wanted something comforting. To me, that usually means mac and cheese. But, I remembered I had this beautiful little head of cauliflower that I got at the Farmers’ Market and said to myself, “This will do just fine.” The head, really no bigger than my fist, was the perfect size for dinner for one. I steamed it and made a simple cheese sauce from cheddar cheese and soy milk, since that’s the only milk I had. Simple, yet deliciously comforting.

If you haven’t tried cauliflower lately, you should. It’s in season now and can be prepared in many ways. It’s also high in vitamin C, which we all need plenty of during the winter months. Check out the orange, green and purple varieties too. Many Farmers’ Markets have them.

Here are a few interesting facts that I found on Wikipedia. The nutritional facts were especially enlightening.

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded. Cauliflower is nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.

Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem.

Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed. In addition, the compound indole-3-carbinol, which appears to work as an anti-estrogen, appears to slow or prevent the growth of tumors of the breast and prostate. Cauliflower also contains other glucosinolates besides sulfurophane, substances that may improve the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances.  A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

I recently found this article in The Huffington Post. It’s a good guide to winter vegetables having both pictures and recipes.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

The Huffington Post 12/13/09

It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut of using the same ingredients and the same recipes again and again. If you shop at your local farmers’ market, however, you have a great opportunity to try something new. Most people think farmer’s markets are only for summer, but there are many that are open year round and offer great winter produce. Buy some fresh, seasonal produce and discover delicious new flavors. Here, our some picks for wonderful winter vegetables, complete with recipes you can make tonight.