Crave That Crunchy Cauliflower
Broccoli’s bright cousin is ready for its shining hour.
Chances are you’ve been munching cauliflower at salad bars for years without fully appreciating this super food. It’s a pleasant-tasting, versatile veggie that’s low in calories — just 29 per cup — and full of vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower belongs to the species Brassica oleracea along with broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens and kale. And yes, whether munched from a salad plate or served as a side dish, it’s familiar. But as the British newspaper The Guardian recently declared, “It’s time for the dowdy old cauliflower to have its moment to shine.” For example, restaurants now offer popular cauliflower entrées, and clever cooks realize that in puréed form the veggie can be a lean, healthy pinch hitter for mashed potatoes.
One cup of raw cauliflower, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides 77 percent of the vitamin C you need for the day, 20 percent of the K, 11 percent of the B 6 and smaller amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s a good fiber source too, and fiber helps you feel full, control your weight and keep your digestive tract healthy. Cauliflower and its cruciferous kin contain glucosinolates, which break down to form compounds that have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in rats and mice.
Did you know?
Most cauliflower is white, but not all. You can often find green, purple and orange varieties at farmers’ markets. Chemicals account for the differences — there’s more of the pigment chlorophyll in green cauliflower, for example, while the purple plant gets its hue from the antioxidant anthocyanin, also found in red cabbage. Because it has more beta carotene, orange cauliflower has about 25 percent more vitamin A than the white variety, and green cauliflower — sometimes called broccoflower — is higher in protein than either white cauliflower or broccoli.
White cauliflower is widely available at supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Look for a firm vegetable with compact florets and crisp, fresh leaves with no sign of yellowing or wilting. (The size of the head doesn’t affect quality.) Tightly wrap your raw cauliflower; it’s good in the refrigerator up to five days. Before using, wash and remove the leaves at the base and trim the stem as needed. Cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled or lightly steamed. It’s usually broken into florets before cooking and served in soups (such as cheddar cauliflower soup), salads, casseroles or with creamy sauces (say, Gruyere sauce) for dips and salads. If you’re ambitious, try preparing a cauliflower pizza (look online for recipes) or the increasingly popular cauliflower “steak.” (With a large knife, slice the head vertically into slabs about ¾˝ thick and sear in a skillet with olive oil, then place in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.)