Thursday, 17 February 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

As it is winter--and what a winter it is!--I think we should continue our focus on cruciferous veggies, children. Why? Because winter is when many cruciferous vegetables really get going. Brussels sprouts, for example, are traditionally harvested just before Christmas here in England. And purple sprouting broccoli is grown all winter and harvested in early spring. Cauliflower can be grown all year round here in England, with careful planning. Because cruciferous vegetables have lots of strong flavors, they are nice to eat in the winter when fresh things are scarce, and the cold weather helps them develop a nice nutty, milky taste.

Did you know that cauliflower comes in different colors, not just white? You can get it in purple or orange or green. There is even a variety called Romanesco, which is really beautiful because it looks like a light green spiral. The different colored cauliflowers have different kinds of nutrients in them to help you grow, and all of them are good for you. Cauliflower is the same species as broccoli, but the plant grows in a different way, which makes it look and taste slightly different.

Lots of people have been led to believe that because common cauliflower is white, it must not be as nutritious as darkly colored vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Wrong! Like other cruciferous veggies, it is very high in fiber (and we all know what that's good for), and vitamins C & K. It's also got plenty of folate (which is extremely important for growing children), a vast array of antioxidants (which help keep you healthy as you get older), and a chemical called glucoraphanin, which your body uses to make other chemicals that help prevent tummy aches.

So, how to choose and prepare cauliflower? Well, the curd of a common supermarket cauliflower (that's the white part) should be uniform in color (not speckled with brown or yellow), and the leaves around it should be mostly tight around it. It should be firm to the touch, not soft. To prepare it, you can pull the outermost leaves off (these can be used to make vegetable or chicken stock). Then turn the cauliflower upside down, and using a sharp paring knife, cut out the big central stem. Then you can rinse the whole head in water, or you can cut it into florets, which look like little white trees, and then rinse it. From there it's up to you what to do with it. There are loads of recipes out there for cauliflower, and historically, it's been a favorite on Italian tables. You can eat it raw, which is nice with a little salad dressing. Raw cauliflower is highest in nutrition and very mild in flavor. Or, you can do an Auntie Megan Sicilian-heritage favorite, and roast it. Click here for a recipe!