If one were to think of cauliflower as being a suitable substitute for potatoes in many recipes, one would not go far wrong. It has many of the same nutritional characteristics, it has the same general freedom from bitterness, it cooks up in generally the same ways. And it melds perfectly with butter and cheese. Cauliflower comes as close as any whole food to having no flavor. And many cooking preparations ignore this essential fact. Too often cauliflower is served simply boiled or steamed with the hope that a bit of butter can make up for its lack of flavor. Interestingly this is completely, totally, utterly wrong; and it is not far from the truth.
The first cauliflower dish I loved was a curried cauliflower. The head is cut into a number of florets about half an inch on a side, and these are carefully sauteed in butter of ghee until each flat side turns golden. The cauliflower is removed. Onion and garlic are sauteed, curry spices are added. The cauliflower goes back in, and coconut milk is added. A bit of lime juice is drizzled over the dish at the end. Made well, this is a sublime dish. The butter browns the cauliflower bringing out the best flavors. And the spices - especially a bit of chili pepper - and lime juice add just the right zip to balance the oiliness of the dish. You will want to serve a Thai salad made with finely shredded carrot, cabbage, cashew, vinegar, sugar, soy.
The second cauliflower dish I have loved is pickled cauliflower - the ones with some chili pepper. The flavor is so clean and hot. It is exquisite.
Few vegetables gratin better than cauliflower. As good as potatoes are for gratins, there is a fresher, more vegetal sense to the gratin of cauliflower which makes it more suitable for spring and summer dishes. Of course, cheese and cauliflower are natural allies since nutritionally they bring completely complementary qualities to the table.
Here are some strategies for treating cauliflower effectively in recipes.
James Peterson covers cauliflower dishes very well in his book on vegetables:
This recipe is slightly adapted from the South Beach Diet. Core one head of cauliflower.
Before this recipe, a head of cauliflower was at least four servings in our house. Now, one large head of cauliflower is barely enough for two of us!
Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.