Wednesday, April 02, 2003
posted by Julie |
My way of eating, in shorthand, is "avoid white food." By which I mean, white flour, white sugar, valueless starches.
But white is a lovely color on a plate. With bread, rice, and taters off my list, what's a cook to do?
I have completely ignored this vegetable nearly my whole life. I couldn't say why, except I haven't considered it sexy enough, somehow. Cauliflower is my grandmother's vegetable. What could be more boring?
Returning to my recurring theme, that grandma was probably right about everyting, I am on a cauliflower revival kick. Why?
Potassium, folic acid, huge helpings of vitamin C, a good source of protein, one of the cancer-preventive cruciferous vegetables, and when chosen and served raw with dips or cooked properly, a delicious, interesting veggie/flower.
Because, you know, that's what cauliflower is. It's a cabbage flower caught early in its budding.
I deserve a diet rich in flowers, don't you?
The main thing you need to know about working with fresh cauliflower (if you want to fall in love with this veggie, start with fresh), is how to buy a good one. There are several varieties, but basically you want one NOT wrapped in lots of plastic. The plastic will trap gasses in a veggie that already spoils very quickly. Its leaves should be clingy. Its florets should be really tight and spotless. If there are any dark or black spots at all, it's too old and won't taste good when cooked. If the produce vendor has cut off pieces, assume they cut off the black spots, and leave it in the store. Try to buy and cook a cauliflower within a day or two. Fresh. Fresh. Fresh.
You can cut cauliflower up into florets, as you might broccoli. Or slice right through the head to sauté or grill slices, if the head (also called the 'curd') is tight enough. You can steam, blanch, or boil cauliflower. I recommend doing so carefully, quickly, no more than 3 minutes or so to leave the vegetable with bite, rather than mushy, unless you plan to use it in a puree or cream soup.
I went looking for recipes and found some good ones:
Dana Carpender, in her 500 Low-carb Recipes book uses cauliflower to replace other white foods. Two recipes that made me smile are for Fauxtatoes, and Cauliflower Rice.
The Fauxtatoes recipe suggests steaming fresh cauliflower until tender (or start with cooked frozen cauliflower), drain, blend or puree in a food processor, add butter and salt and pepper. Serve instead of potatoes with gravy, if you like.
This trick is in Dana's book. She credits it to Fran McCullough in Living Low Carb. Run raw cauliflower through your food processor using the shredding blade. The consistency is very ricey. Steam this shredded veg, or microwave it with a little water in a covered bowl and drain, or sauté in a little olive oil or butter. Mmm. Try this.
From one of my kitchen bibles, the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, many hints on how to work with cauliflower:
*Warm chopped cooked cauliflower in butter, add to omelets
*Add cauliflower and ham bits to a quiche for a complete dinner
*Turn into a puree top with cheese and bake in the oven
*Puree, fold with whipped egg whites to make a soufflé or with whole eggs for a roulade
*Add to stews and mash against the side of the pan to help thicken the stew
*Beat into whipped potatoes
*Use eggs to make into croquettes or patties
*Make a creamy cauliflour soup, sautéing cauliflower and leeks, add chicken broth. Cook until tender. Puree.
Marian offers these recipes:
Italian-Style Cauliflower Salad
1 ½ lb. cauliflouwer florets
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives or kalamata olives
2 T. capers
1 clove garlic
2 T. lemon juice
½ C. olive oil
Blanch florets for 3 minutes, cool and drain. Cut anchovies into pieces and toss with cauliflower, olives, and capers. Mash garlic and salt together, mix with lemon juice and oil. Toss with Cauliflower and season with pepper. Chill and serve.
Marinated Cauliflower (make 8-or-more hours ahead)
1 lb. florets
¼ - 1/3 C. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 clove garlic
1 C. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. mustard seeds
salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 T. olive oil
1-3 T chopped parsley
2 T. chopped scallions (optional)
Blanch florets in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain. Place in a stainless steel or glass bowl along with basil and oregano. Crush garlic. Bring to a boil the garlic, vinegar, and mustard seeds. Pour over cauliflower, stirring to mix well. Cover. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, stirring once or twice. Drain, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss with parsley and scallions.
Here's to flower power,
The Victory Garden Cookbook