I’ve written about this underrated vegetable several years ago, but now it seems the rest of the culinary world has woken up to the fact that cauliflower is truly wonderful and versatile. Everywhere you will find recipes for roasting, deep-frying, making into “risotto”, couscous, curry and even making a “pizza crust”. But before you can really embrace all these interesting suggestions it would be good to understand the basics. Most people fell out of love with cauliflower because it is cooked poorly. Either undercooked which definitely is the wrong thing to do. I know lots of chefs that blanch cauliflower rather cook it, but if you ask them why?…. they can’t give a lengthy explanation,they just do it that way because that is what they have been told or taught. Or the other end of the spectrum when it is overcooked and then left standing in hot water to become waterlogged and tasteless.
Tips to make Cauliflower your favourite vegetable
Do not cook cauliflower in aluminium saucepans! It taints the flavour and discolours it. There are some chefs who would try to fight the discolouration by putting in a few cut lemons. This does indeed help the cauliflower stay white but the subtle flavours of the cauliflower can be lost by the lemons.
Make sure your hands are scrupulously clean before you prep Cauliflower because the oils in your hands may discolour it; particularly if there is a large gap in time between when it is prepared and it is cooked. If you have disposable latex gloves wear a pair. Cut the cauliflower into even sized florets, leaving on some leaf for colour.
Start cooking all vegetables that are grown above the ground in boiling water not cold. Make sure there enough salt in the water so that it has a light salty taste. Cook the cauliflower in water that is not boiling too hard or it will cook unevenly.
Test with a fork or paring knife when it slides off the knife it is done. Remember you have to allow for the reheating so don’t over cook. As an alternative you can steam the cauliflower, just make sure you season the water first. Chill quickly in cold running water but then drain well to prevent the cauliflower from sucking up water and becoming water-logged.
Taste a piece…it’s amazing how many chefs and cooks don’t taste what they are cooking. By the time it is reheated it should have a creamy texture and a mild nutty taste. Whenever possible, I like to reheat cauliflower in a microwave or pop in a steamer for a few minutes. Of course, you can cook it and serve it straight up, just don’t let it sit in the cooking water too long.
Things that go great with Cauliflower
Obviously, cheese does, but have you ever tried stirring in a small amount of grain mustard into the cheese sauce?
Smoked bacon also works well, either pieces of smoked back bacon or if you prefer get some quality hardwood smoked streaky bacon (streaky comes from the belly and is the regular type of bacon sold in the US). The streaky bacon can be cooked until it is crisp then crumble up to top the Cauliflower and cheese sauce. Nuts go very well with Cauliflower either almonds or pecans. Just warm the nuts well first to bring out their flavour.
If you’re feeling a little to be more adventurous, roast a head of garlic for about 15-20 until it is tender in a medium hot oven. As it cools squeeze out the garlic from its skin into a mixing bowl. Cut 2-3 (normal size) vine ripe tomatoes in half and scoop the middle and keep. Whiz the tomato innards in a food processor and pass through a sturdy strainer onto the roasted garlic. Push it through to ensure very little of the volume is lost. Dice the tomato flesh and toss that in too. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). Now add 3-4 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and whisk well. Season your dressing and offer at the table with the steamed cauliflower.
Things that don’t go so great
Some people suggest citrus flavours such as lemon go with cauliflower but I disagree. The flavour of cauliflower itself is nutty mild and sweet and it is very easy to overpower that nuanced flavour with lemon and other citrus flavours.
If all that wasn’t enough to get you to give cauliflower another try, you might want to think of the health benefits. The Arthritic association of the UK believe that eating cauliflower can to do a lot to ease symptoms. http://www.arthriticassociation.org.uk
In America research from Georgetown University Medical Centre suggests that some vegetables contain chemicals that appear to enhance DNA repair in cells, and could actually lead to protection against cancer developing. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and soybeans all contain chemicals that can help repair damaged DNA. Cauliflower is low in fat, high in fibre, and contains a hefty dose of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant as well as a good amount of potassium. More recently scientists have found that the compound indole-3-carbinol in cauliflower appears to slow or prevent the growth of tumours of the breast and prostate.
Bibliography: Earl Mindell R.Ph; PhD;
Title :Food as Medicine
A Firestone Book published by Simon and Schuster 1994