Tales of a Cauliflower Convert
I blame it all on the crudites platter.
For years, I eschewed cauliflower. I found it odd smelling, awkward in my mouth and too big to store in my fridge. I tried to like it, really I did, particularly after learning of its all-powerful, cancer-resistant antioxidants.
But its regular appearance on party platters, served as a companion for a bowlful of dip, threw me over the edge. Who decided that raw bulbous hunks of funky-smelling cauliflower tasted good? Yuck.
Still, even when I ate it cooked, it never wowed me. Boiled white florets topped with a nondescript cheese sauce just didn't move this palate.
Once I realized that the cooking method, not the vegetable itself, was responsible for my cauli-aversion, I changed my tune. Through roasting, I have learned to love cauliflower, particularly now, when it's in season and locally available. (I got a gorgeous head last week at Clarendon farmers' market.)
When it's party time, I am happy to serve cauliflower -- my way. Florets get lathered up in olive oil or melted butter, then coated with a zesty spice mixture before a short stint in a hot oven. The result is tender, flavorful and dare I say, addictive. You can serve these babies with toothpicks at your next soiree. (Recipe details at the bottom of this page.)
Last year, I had another cauliflower epiphany, this time in a Seattle restaurant called La Medusa, where chef Julie Andres serves a Sicilian style roasted cauli that will send you to the moon. The dish, redolent with raisins, pine nuts, garlic, anchovies and bread crumbs, was dancing on my tongue, inspiring me to recreate the dish at home (includes recipe how-to details).
Readers who participated in my recent vegetarian chat shared lots of great ways to enjoy cauliflower. I just came across an interesting recipe for cauliflower pie (with a mashed potato crust, spinach and gruyere), which sounds intriguing. I'll keep you posted on this goodie found in Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables.
Before I go, here are a few interesting cauli tidbits: One cup of cooked cauliflower has 91 percent of your daily requirement for Vitamin C. Whoa! It's also high in fiber and folate. As for calories, a mere 28.
Did you know . . . the head of a cauliflower is a called a "curd"? Share your cauli tales in the comments area below!
Spiced Roasted Cauliflower
Adapted from December 2002 issue of Food and Wine
1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds), cut into florets
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (Alternatively: Use same amount of olive oil)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Â½ teaspoon ground coriander
Coarse salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with butter or oil, coating evenly. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and spices and mix cauliflower with hands, ensuring that spice mixture has been evenly distributed.
Spread florets on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in oven until fork tender, at least 15 minutes. Serve in a bowl as a side dish or with toothpicks, as a party snack.
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