Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) is just one member of the great Cruciferae family. All of the Cruciferae cousins, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and broccoli, to name but a few, have their antecedents in wild cabbage. If the family Cruciferae were horses, broccoli would be a steady workhorse and cauliflower the showy white Lipizzaner.
The compact heads of cauliflower are called curds. Once these small florets show themselves to the farmer, she gathers their outer leaves together and ties them closed, swaddling the little curd so it looks like Baby LuLu. This “blanches” the curd so it grows up to be a compact, white-headed, refined cauliflower. In Mark Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson, cauliflower is described as “nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
The complex, subtle, somewhat nutty flavors can be coaxed out of this lovely vegetable with careful preparation. Of course, cauliflower can be eaten raw, though ideally steamed al dente and dunked in cold water. Cauliflower stands up well in stir-fry and gratin. Cheese or béchamel sauce are great complements. Mashed or blended into custard is a very effete dish. One cup of cooked cauliflower is great low-calorie food at a mere 29. Low in carbs, mashed cauliflower is a great substitute for potatoes. Think of cauliflower as the other white vegetable.
Peel away any outer leaves, trim bottom stem. For whiter cauliflower, add a tablespoon of milk or lemon juice to boiling water. Cooking in an iron or aluminum pot will turn this lovely vegetable yellow or greenish.
Store the flower stem-down in the fridge; cauliflower keeps well for a few days.
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She’s been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.