So what’s a cook to do when all the produce of summer is now $27 a pound and the stuff like asparagus and strawberries are probably five months and two paychecks from being affordable? My advice, look to the cauliflower.
A strange-looking kind of vegetable, the cauliflower is part of the mustard family (its cousins are cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi) and can be found in such colors as white, purple and green. The cauliflower has an earthy, mellow flavor that can be appreciated in both its raw and cooked state.
Most parts are edible (yes the leaves and stalks are edible), but most of us just go for the flowerets – the part known as the curd. You can boil, steam, microwave or even eat it raw but make sure it’s thoroughly clean before you cook it; dirt and bugs can find their way into its crevasses.
Cauliflower releases a sulfur smell when cooked. The longer you cook it, the stronger the smell. To keep the smell to a minimum and keep it crisp (not mushy), cook it in as little time as possible.
The recipes below are easy to prepare, delicious to eat, and most of all, affordable when the cost of all other vegetables may break the bank.
Cheese and Crunch Cauliflower
2 heads of cauliflower, washed and cut into flowerets and steamed crisp tender
1/4 to 1/3 cup minced onions
1 stick butter or margarine
1/4 to 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. While the cauliflower is cooking, melt the butter in a small pan and then sauté the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until everything is lightly golden. Remove the mixture from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle a little of the bread crumb mixture on the bottom of the pan. Drain the flowerets, pat them dry and place them in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumb mixture over the top. Sprinkle the top of casserole with the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
Creamy Mustard Baked Cauliflower
2 heads cauliflower, cut into flowerets, steamed to crisp tender
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 to 3 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a bowl, combine mayonnaise and mustard. Add the steamed flowerets and mix to combine. Place the coated cauliflower into the prepared pan. Drizzle the melted butter over the top of the flowerets. Sprinkle the cracker crumbs and parmesan cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden brown. Serves 6 to 8.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
2 heads of cauliflower
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of minced onion
2 celery stalks, minced
1/4 cup of butter or margarine
1/4 cup of flour
4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups of cream or non-dairy substitute
Dash of nutmeg
Salt for taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Wash the cauliflower and break into flowerets. Cook with the lemon juice in a small amount of boiling water until tender. Drain and whirl cauliflower in blender until pureed or force through a food mill. Sauté the onion and celery in the butter for 2 to 3 minutes. Blend in the flour and stir in broth. Cook, stirring, until slightly thickened. Stir in the cauliflower, cream, nutmeg and salt. Garnish with cheese. Makes about 1 3/4 quarts or 6 servings.
Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower
2 heads of cauliflower, trimmed
1/3 cup whipping cream
5 1/3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 to 2 teaspoons oregano (optional)
Cut the cauliflower into small pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Cook the cauliflower until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander and press out as much water as you can; really press hard 2 or 3 times with a bowl or small plate. Put the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and add the cream. Process until you get the consistency you like – smooth or chunky. Return the mixture to pot. Add the butter, parmesan and cream cheese and oregano if using and stir constantly until totally combined. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 6 to 8.