Winter produce can be disappointing, with its limited selection. There are not many fresh, bright veggies out there this time of year. Root veggies such as potatoes, yams, and squash can leave us bored and heavy with their starchiness and lack of appeal. But there is a gem buried among the roots that has the potential to transform into creamy soups, caramelized clusters, or a decadent yet light purée. The cauliflower is a favorite in my home all year long, with its versatility and adaptable flavor. Here are just some of many ways to prepare this unassuming vegetable.
Soup. Cauliflower is a wonderful vegetable to use in soups. It can be added to any mixed-vegetable soup, combined with broccoli or apple, or added to a chicken, beef, or sausage soup, or it can stand alone to be the base flavor for a soup. Add in chunks or purée till smooth. Roast to caramelize before adding to broth to give extra flavor.
Poached and roasted whole. A whole cauliflower head can be poached to infuse with flavor and make tender, and then roasted for a beautiful, caramelized presentation.
Roasted. Roasting cauliflower creates a nutty crispiness that is hard to resist. Cut head of cauliflower into florets and combine with spices, fresh garlic, pine nuts, or just simple sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roasting at high temperature creates the best results. Eat it on its own or throw into a salad of greens or grains. You can also create a dressing of lemon and garlic or a savory tahini to drizzle on after roasting.
With or instead of grains. Not only can you sauté it or roast it to add to rice, quinoa, or couscous, but you can actually use it in place of these grains. Pulse small pieces of cauliflower in a food processor until it is finely chopped and resembles couscous. Combine sautéed cauliflower “couscous” with spices, garlic, lemon zest, and nuts like cashews or pine nuts. Cauliflower can also be riced or shredded. You can also sauté florets with similar flavors for a regular vegetable side dish. Create a fresh breadcrumbs-and-parsley topping to take it over the top.
Puréed or mashed. One of my favorite treatments of cauliflower is to use it as a potato substitute for a side dish. Cauliflower purée or mash is a lighter, even more delicious dish that can stand in for potatoes as a base for steak, braised meats, or any protein. It can also substitute for potatoes in latkes. Puréeing cauliflower creates a creaminess from its natural pectin even without the addition of dairy. Roast cauliflower florets first or simply simmer in a flavored broth until tender. Purée or mash with some of the liquid and season with salt and pepper for a delectable side dish. The purée can also be incorporated into dishes like hummus, alfredo sauce, risotto, or mac and cheese for hidden added nutrition without all the fat and calories.
Steaks. Besides serving whole, another impressive presentation of cauliflower is to roast in steaks. Only trim the stem slightly, then stand the cauliflower up on its stem and slice thick slices straight through from top to bottom. The steaks need to be about 1 inch thick to make sure the florets do not fall off and the steak stays intact. Use remaining cauliflower florets to make a purée to serve under the steaks or make a lemony garlic sauce to drizzle over steaks.
Pizza. Not as a topping—I’m talking about the new food trend of creating a crust made out of cauliflower. It’s a low-carb pizza alternative that has recently become very popular amongst the dieting pizza-lovers. Simply grind cauliflower florets finely, cook in microwave for a bit, strain the water, and combine with cheese, herb and spices, and an egg. Form into a crust and top with your favorite sauce and toppings. v
1 medium cauliflower head
¼ cup mozzarella
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
Place a pizza stone or use an upside-down baking sheet into the oven and preheat at 450°F. Trim the stems from the cauliflower and roughly chop into 2” pieces. Clean well and drain. Place cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Place ground cauliflower in a medium bowl, cover loosely with paper towel, and microwave 3 minutes. Remove cauliflower into a clean dishtowel and let cool a little. Take the towel and wring out all the water from cauliflower over a sink. Place cauliflower back into the bowl.
Mix drained cauliflower with the mozzarella and Parmesan, oregano, basil, salt, and garlic powder. Add egg, and mix well till combined. Place parchment paper on a cutting board, spray with nonstick spray, and put cauliflower mixture on top. Form a 12” diameter crust ¼” thick. Slice parchment onto stone or baking sheet and bake for 8–11 minutes until golden brown and crispy at edges. Top crust with sauce and toppings of your choice. Bake for another 5–7 minutes until cheese is melted.
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