Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family, and is related to other cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli. Cauliflower we are familiar with today descend from the wild cabbage plants of Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. Wild cabbages grew well in the temperate climate, and their use spread throughout the Mediterranean where many varieties of the plant were developed. Wild cabbage was developed into crops such as kale, green cabbage, and broccoli. Varieties of the domesticated cabbage plant began to resemble what we would recognize as cauliflower in about 600 B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean. Cauliflower grew popular in France during the 1500s and the veggie slowly but steadily became a staple in Western Europe. Ever since, cauliflower has become one of the most common food items in the world. Cauliflower is recognized for its high nutrient density, and is one of nature’s healthiest foods. Cauliflower varieties are generally categorized by color. White cauliflower is the most common and iconic variety. Orange cauliflower is less common, but is notable due to its increased vitamin A content. Broccoflower, as it is sometimes called, is green cauliflower. Purple cauliflower contains anthocyanin which is an antioxidant present in red wine which gives it its characteristic deep purple color.
Often when people hear ‘cauliflower’ they think ‘bland,’ but this doesn’t have to be the case! Cauliflower can be more than a vehicle for ranch dressing on a veggie tray. Common cooking methods for cauliflower include boiling and steam: both of which are boring and have contributed to cauliflower’s reputation as a bland food. Not only are these cooking methods boring, they deplete the vegetable of its nutrients. Cauliflower deserves to be treated better than that. Suspend disbelief for a moment and try something more exciting with cauliflower, like mashed cauliflower, cauliflower steaks and buffalo cauliflower “wings.” Mashed cauliflower is a simple recipe that works as a light replacement for mashed potatoes. They are a very close facsimile of the real thing; you’d never guess you were eating mashed cauliflower and not potatoes unless someone told you. Cauliflower steak is made by slicing a head of cauliflower into thick slabs, seasoned and then grilled, roasted or pan-fried. Buffalo cauliflower wings are made in the same way as buffalo chicken wings. Toss florets in traditional spicy buffalo sauce, then either fry them or roast them. Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dip. This simple recipe can win over the most diehard cauliflower hater. Simple flavorful side dishes with cauliflower are made by drizzling fresh cauliflower florets with olive oil, seasoning them generously, then oven roasting them until tender. Add some lemon to roasted cauliflower to add a citrus zing that’ll make it feel more like a summertime dish. Use cauliflower as pizza dough. Start by putting cauliflower through a food processor, and blend until the cauliflower is thoroughly shredded. Steam the cauliflower until it is tender and it creates soft dough. Form the dough into thin patties and top with your favorite pizza toppings and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy. Don’t be afraid to try some exciting new recipes with cauliflower.
Select cauliflower that feels dense and heavy. Heaviness is a sign of freshness; a light cauliflower is dry and not optimally fresh. Ideally you should pick cauliflower still wrapped in their protective leaves, which should feel moist and crisp, and they keep the cauliflower itself tender and fresh. Keep cauliflower wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. It is advisable to store cauliflower with the stem facing down to help prevent moisture from collecting in the florets and spoiling them. Cauliflower will stay fresh in the fridge for about a week. Freezing or pickling are good options for long term cauliflower storage. Always wash fresh produce prior to use.