Five Ways to Cook With Cauliflower | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian

Five Ways to Cook With Cauliflower

Roasted, grilled or pureed, the versatile vegetable can be served many ways beyond one mother's love of deep-frying it

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Roasted cauliflower. Image courtesy of Flicker user Andrew Scrivani.

Should you ever encounter my Mom’s mom and get her on the subject of cauliflower, she will go on to tell you about the best deep-fried cauliflower recipe in the world, the one with the nutmeg in the batter that made the snack sing and how she could sit down and eat a whole bowl if she didn’t watch herself. She will then go on to tell you how, after making up a batch, she spent an entire workday thinking about diving into the leftovers in her fridge only to come home and find that one of her daughters beat her to it. Due to dietary restrictions, she hasn’t had it in a number of years and she, always with good humor, will never let go of the cauliflower that got away. I’ve yet to have the fabled fried treats for myself, but it’s a wonderfully versatile fall vegetable that I love roasting or using in soups. If you’re planning on getting your cauliflower fix, here are five ways to put this high-fiber piece of produce through its paces.

Roast it: The means of cooking may be simple, but you have lots of options in how you execute a dish—namely through how you season the cauliflower and if you pair it with other veggies. It can be as simple as florets dressed with olive oil and paprika gunning it solo in a roasting pan. You can find companions for your cauliflower: broccoli is fairly traditional, but explore other options such as onions and fennel or even Brussels sprouts and sunchokes.

Grill it: Cauliflower really doesn’t require a ton of elbow grease to make it a flavorful companion to a meal. Throw in those endorphin-producing flavors that only a grill can provide, and you’ve got it made. A little salt, pepper, parmesan and those endorphin-producing flavors that come from food fresh off the grill make this recipe an attractive option. You can also cut the head into steaks and put them directly over the heat—and I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of serving them up with a little A1.

Soup it: I have my go-to family cauliflower soup recipe that gets made up a few times once the weather turns cold and it’s a perfect comfort food. Now, I’m fussy—I prefer soups that have a bit of body. For those of you who are agog for for hot purees, you can try this deliciously simple version from chef Paul Bertolli. If you’re like me and like your bowl teeming with discernible bits of veg buoyed by a rich stock, this might be more up your alley.

Sweeten it: Yes, you can use cauliflower in un-savory ways. Cauliflower has a very mild flavor, so it’s easy to sneak it into desserts, like chocolate cake or jam-topped thumbprint cookies. You can also dip them in a basic batter, deep fry and top with sauce made from honey and butter. It’s a fair start at curbing any guilt you have from indulging your sweet tooth.

Don’t Forget the Greens: Well, it can actually be quite easy  to forget the greens. Whenever I see heads of cauliflower in my local supermarket, the leaves are pruned back so that the white flesh of the vegetable is the main attraction. But if you grow your own or have access to freshly-harvested veg (e.g. a CSA or farmer’s market), you can use the greens to make a great side dish. With a little oil and garlic in a frying pan, wilt the greens and cook them up or add a few other vegetables and spices for a pungent stir fry. You can also season and roast them with the rest of the cauliflower.

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