Cauliflower is one of the most underutilized vegetables in the cruciferous family -- its relatives include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
Cauliflower is in season
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, not only within this category, but among all cold weather produce due to its versatility, nutritional properties and lovely sweet flavor.
Cauliflower comes in range of beautiful colors from creamy white to vibrant purple, green and orange. The mild, nutty and slightly sweet flavor effortlessly and charmingly pairs with a host of other flavor profiles. Cauliflower is of course a staple among crudité platters and is just as delicious, although very different, when cooked. Steaming, sautéing and roasting play up the natural sweetness, creaminess and nuttiness.
If cauliflower isn't already a staple in your winter cooking, you may want to consider adding it to your shopping list this week. It is high in phytonutrients (chemicals that have powerful disease and cancer-fighting properties), vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber. Eating cauliflower raw is the best way to take advantage of its numerous health benefits, although steaming, sautéing and roasting does not significantly lower the amount of phytochemicals and nutrients. Just avoid boiling cauliflower, as studies show that most nutrients are lost within just a few minutes of boiling.
If you are cutting back on your carb intake, cauliflower is a wonderful alternative to potatoes. It can be mashed or pureed into a silky potato-like consistency and texture, minus the carbs and starch. If you are lucky enough to find purple cauliflower, puree that for a fun and colorful take on mashed "potatoes" that the kids will love -- no artificial coloring necessary.
What to look for when choosing cauliflower
Choose firm heads that are uniform in color. The buds should be packed tightly together and not have any brown or discolored spots. The more leaves and stems surrounding the head, the better, as they help protect it. Although not very digestible on their own, the stems and leaves make a great flavoring agent for vegetable stocks, so don't throw them away! Colored cauliflower has the same nutritional benefits and flavor as the more common white variety, so don't shy away from trying it out.
How to store cauliflower
Store whole cauliflower heads in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for about a week, or probably even longer if you are buying it directly from a local farmer. Keep the head whole and break it up just before use, as cauliflower will only stay fresh for a couple of days after it is cut into florets.
Up next: Uses for cauliflower and a recipe for oven-roasted curried cauliflower >>