Cauliflower is certainly the most glamorous member of the cabbage family right now. The cruciferous veggie has been dubbed the next kale of 2015 and is popping up on restaurant menus resembling everything from tabbouleh to buffalo chicken.
It’s a good thing, too, because unlike a bitter, leafy green, cauliflower is extremely versatile. The white florets can be used raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, even pulverized in a food processor.
The following recipes vary wildly in flavor and texture, but in each of them, cauliflower is undoubtedly the star.
This is a sumptuous and simple soup. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups chopped cauliflower florets, 2 cups low-fat milk, 2 cups water, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk another ½ cup milk and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour in a small bowl. When the cauliflower is soft, remove the bay leaf and stir in the milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the soup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. (Recipe from Eating Well.)
We’re not going to pretend these taste just like chicken wings, but they sure are can’t-eat-just-one good. Break a head of cauliflower into small florets and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour and 2 teaspoons garlic powder in a bowl and stir until combined. Dredge the cauliflower pieces in the flour mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes. While it’s baking, combine 1 cup hot sauce or buffalo wing sauce and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. (Recipe adapted from food.com.)
With a large grater or food processor, grate a head of cauliflower into grain-sized pieces. If using a food processor, pulse it gently so as not to overprocess it. You don’t want to end up with mash. The pieces will resemble a grain, like couscous or quinoa. Toss the entire amount with 2 diced tomatoes, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 chopped scallions, 1 bunch chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons chopped mint in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (Recipe adapted from Food Network.)
Cut a whole cauliflower into florets, then place in a large saucepan with a few inches of water. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until soft. Drain, then put cauliflower into a food processor, season generously with salt and pepper and process until smooth and thick. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and grated Parmesan cheese, to taste. Your diners will probably mistake it for mashed potatoes.
One of our favorite ways to eat cauliflower is the simplest: a thick, roasted slab dubbed a “cauliflower steak.” To make, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a whole head of cauliflower stem side down on a cutting board. Cut into thick slices, about ½ inch wide, the flatter the better. Place one or two of the largest pieces (the ones from the middle of the head are best) in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until sides are browned and cauliflower is soft.