Cauliflower is one of those humble vegetables that is easily overlooked. I urge you not to. Especially for my Guyanese and Caribbean friends who did not grow up eating this vegetable – try these recipes and you will be sold. I promise. Cauliflower is very sensitive to temperature and prefers cool (not cold) climates. It does not grow well in hot climates so many of us first encounter cauliflower in our new temperate lands.
In my Wall Street days in the distant past I ordered a most unlikely appetizer – roasted cauliflower – during a lunch meeting with a client. We were at a hip restaurant in the Financial District in Downtown Manhattan. It was a gastronomic revelation! The cauliflower was roasted to perfection with just the right amount of browning and served with flecks of grated parmesan and golden raisins. I was hooked. after some trial and error, this became my principal method of preparing cauliflower at home and it is a great favorite with the entire family.
And then I started seeing diced cauliflower in the supermarket billed as “cauliflower rice.” To be honest, this did not appeal. For some reason I bristle at “hip” food and diet trends… so I left it alone. Then one day during the summer, staring into the back of a pretty empty fridge there was the faithful old cauliflower staring back at me.
I ALWAYS buy cauliflower when grocery shopping because it has great staying power in the fridge and is faithfully there when all of the green veggies have been used up. So I took it out, trimmed off the bit of mold that had started growing on it, washed it up and looked at it. On the menu was pan fried flounder and summer vegetables… What to do?
CAULIFLOWER IN LIVING COLOR
I have cooked every kind of cauliflower that I could find seasonally at the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn. During the summer, in additional to the standard white cauliflower, we get purple cauliflower, yellow/orange cauliflower and green cauliflower. You can learn more about The Many Colors of Cauliflower – Purple, Green, Orange, and White on the Iowa State University Blog.
Cauliflower is a pretty versatile vegetable, in my opinion because it is very robust. Except for the romanesco (which I discuss in the next paragraph) cauliflower has a very mild flavor. The mildness and the robust nature of cauliflower make it perfect for pairing with other veggies and giving body and substance to vegetable curries.
This gorgeous fractal vegetable does not disappoint. You will notice that this is not just a green cauliflower but a distinct variant with a taste as unique as its shape. I prefer it lightly roasted so that it retains its bright green color and a bit of crunch. I recommend half a tablespoon or less of usual herb blend, butter and a dash of salt and pepper to bring out the unique sweetness of cauliflower romanesco. Follow the basic roasted cauliflower recipe below BUT OMIT the raisins and parmesan cheese.
Replace the butter with coconut oil or an oil of your choice for a vegan dish
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1/2 tbsp herb blend
- 3 or more tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat your oven to 450oF.
- In the meantime, cut off the cauliflower florets, place in a colander and rinse well. Cut the larger florets in half. Place on a paper towel to dry. When the cauliflower florets are dry, season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place the butter in a pyrex dish.
- When the oven is hot, put the pyrex dish into the oven and let it heat up until the butter is just bubbling.
- Remove the pyrex dish with the butter from the oven. Add the herb blend and stir. Place the pyrex dish with the herbs back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes.
- Take the pyrex dish out of the oven again and add the cauliflower florets. Stir and turn the cauliflower until it is well coated on all sides with butter and herbs. Cover with aluminium foil and return to the oven.
- Cook for 10 minutes, remove from oven and stir the cauliflower, turning again to make sure all sides get butter and herbs. Add more butter if you think it is needed. Cover again with foil and return to the oven.
- After another 10 minutes, check the cauliflower. It should just start becoming tender. Remove the foil, turn to make sure all sides are coated with butter and herbs.
- Place the rack in the highest possible location in your oven. Sprinkle the cauliflower with golden raisins, stir to mix well, and return to the oven to brown.
- After another 10 minutes or so, remove from the oven, Cauliflower should be tender and have pretty browning all over . Stir again and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
- Serve fresh out of the oven.
Barberries instead of golden raisins if you like a bit of tartness.
The yum factor on this dish cannot be overestimated… beautiful flavor and texture! Oh my! The texture is like that of a fine grain mediterranean couscous. I may get all sorts of hate mail saying that this is in fact Cauliflower Rice: – but it isn’t… ’cause I said so. For this dish you need a solid food processor to get the right texture. Let me make a confession here… I originally started out trying to create cauliflower rice, but the food processor had other ideas – so cauliflower couscous was invented.
- 1 small cauliflower or 1/2 of a large cauliflower
- 1 medium carrot washed and set aside
- 1 – 11/2 tbsp herb blend
- 2 tbsp salted butter (or coconut oil for vegans)
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- 2 cups baby spinach (optional)
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- Wash the cauliflower. Trim away the stem and cut into florets. Let drain on paper towels or in a colander.
- Scrape the carrot clean and grate carrot as shown in the photo.
- Heat the butter or oil over medium heat in a non stick pan or skillet.
- When the butter or oil is just hot, add the herb blend and stir continuously until the herbs are translucent and fragrant.
- Add the carrots and stir to coat well with butter and herbs. Cook until the carrots become tender and sweet.
- Add the dried cranberries and mix well to combine with the carrots and herbs. Heat through for 2 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower and mix slowly and thoroughly. Add salt/seasoning salt and black pepper to taste. Turn the flame down to medium low. You will see the cauliflower slowly absorb the golden tones of the butter and the warm tones of the carrots.
- Add spinach if you are using it.
- Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Check periodically, stirring gently until the cauliflower is no longer white and opaque but translucent and moist. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
Your cauliflower couscous should be moist, creamy and a little sweet. Enjoy!
Not leftover… Brought forward: Cauliflower Couscous with Coconut Jade Rice and Broccoli
I had some coconut Jade Rice on hand along with some broccoli so I extended the life of the cauliflower couscous and ramped up it’s heartiness and wow factor.
- Prepare one cup of Jade Rice according to package directions but substitute 3/4 of the liquid with canned coconut milk
- In a non stick pan or skillet, combine the leftover cauliflower couscous and coconut Jade Rice. Stir to mix well and heat through.
- Add broccoli florets (washed and cut up, of course)
- Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and let heat through until the broccoli is tender crisp.
- Toss to mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes so that the flavors can combine nicely.
- Serve hot alone or with the meat of your choice.