Cauliflower, which literally means cabbage flower –  is not the flower of the cabbage. The history of cauliflower is traced to the origin of wild cabbage. This wild plant used to have a similar look to kale and is believed to have originated in the ancient times in Asia Minor. After a lot of transformations, the vegetable, as we know it, developed in the Mediterranean region around 600 BC.  It has been widely accepted in Turkish and Italian cuisines.

Described by Arab botanists and known to the Romans, the cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Today, food writers are extremely fond of quoting Mark Twain’s contention that  “Training is everything,” he wrote, “A peach was once a bitter almond; a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.”  Twain could be saying that a cauliflower is just a cabbage that resembles a brain (which, indeed, it does); the absence of many other quotes about this vegetable, however, speak clearly to the cauliflower’s humble status in the food world.

Though cauliflower has a bland taste of its own, it is highly regarded by vegetarians, however, in Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with sausage in pasta dishes or other meats. Cauliflower tends to absorb flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing cauliflower recipes. As a vegetable, it is often used in stews, casseroles and even in salads. Usually, cauliflower is eaten as a cooked vegetable that can be boiled, steamed or fried before adding to any dish. Baked cauliflower dishes are quite popular in Western cuisine. Cauliflower, like broccoli and cabbage, belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables which has been shown to be effective in fighting certain forms of cancer, however, these vegetables also contain sulfur compounds that can smell unpleasant. 

PREPARATION:

Remove the green leaves. Core out the stem. Then cut the cauliflower in florets.

The florets can be steamed, which takes between 12 and 15 minutes, or microwaved, which takes 8 to 10 minutes. Remember, shorter cooking is better for retaining nutrients and reducing the smell in your kitchen.

The best way to prevent these compounds from turning your kitchen into a chemistry lab is to minimally cook the cauliflower. For stir-frys and in salads, cook the cauliflower about halfway, then refresh in cold water.

A majority of recipes cover cauliflower in cheese sauces. A healthier option is lemon butter with chives. In addition to putting florets in omelets, try them in quiches.

In addition to the smell, overcooking also diminishes the nutrients significantly. In fact, you can reduce the levels of some vitamins in vegetables by cooking them with one method over another. A while back, food writer Mark Bittman quoted a Cornell University study in a New York Times article, that stated that 100 grams of cauliflower had 55 mg of vitamin C after boiling, 70 after steaming, and 82 after being cooked in the microwave oven.

Unfried Cauliflower Italian Style

This recipe is an adaption of my mother’s Italian Breaded Parmesan Cauliflower  recipe which she fried. The trick with baking them is to make sure they don’t overcook or undercook. The recipe  features an egg dipped cauliflower with a simple coating of flour, spices and cheese. No breadcrumbs needed, and while being lower in fat than the fried version, it tastes just as good.


Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower broken into small pieces

  • 3 eggs or ¾ cups egg substitute

  • 2 cups flour

  • 3 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


Directions

Cut apart the Cauliflower into small pieces.

Rinse them off and drain them.

Grease 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl beat the eggs with a fork or fill with egg substitute, and then fill another bowl with the flour, cheese, and spices that will be used for the coating.

Dip each piece of cauliflower first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

Put them on the greased baking dish, and bake for a half hour, flipping them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. You can also add more oil to the baking dish if it gets too dry.

Cauliflower  Fritatta

Serves 4

5 whole eggs plus 3/4 cups egg substitute

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper taste

3 cups steamed  or microwaved cauliflower florets

2 teaspoons butter

Combine eggs, cheese and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Mix well and stir in cauliflower. Turn oven to broil.

Put butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until hot – when it stops sizzling. Add egg mixture and reduce heat to as low as possible. When the eggs are set on the bottom but the top is still slightly runny, put the pan under the broiler at least six inches from the flame. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just set. Be careful not to overcook. Turn the pan to cook evenly. When done, remove from the broiler and slide onto a plate. Let cool until warm or room temperature and cut into 4 wedges.


Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 – 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower, garlic and chickpeas with the olive oil along with the salt and red pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast in a single layer, turning once during cooking, until chickpeas are golden and starting to turn crunchy, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Roasted Peppers and Cauliflower

Directions
Place the cauliflower, red peppers and onions in a shallow roasting pan. Add the oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 20 minutes. Stir; bake 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a serving bowl; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Yield: 6 servings.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Cauliflower and Rosemary

Serves 4
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound whole wheat penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 links Italian sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-28oz. container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of water and the salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot and shimmering, add the onions and sausage and stir briefly. Leave the sausage alone to brown for 2 minutes. Stir it again then add the rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn soft, another 2 minutes.

3. Add the cauliflower and season it with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and a splash of the pasta water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender, 6 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta and toss it with sauce, adding more pasta water if it looks too dry. (There should be just enough liquid in the pan to coat the pasta.) Stir in the parmesan.

 

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Onions

Serves 4

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1⁄2 lb), cored and sliced 1⁄2-in. thick
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1⁄2-in.-thick wedges
  • cup fresh sage, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • ½  cup golden raisins
  • 12 ounces whole-grain penne
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  1. Heat oven to 425ºF. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower, onion, sage, oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper; roast for 15 minutes. Add the raisins and toss to incorporate. Continue roasting until the vegetables are golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  3. Add the vegetable mixture, pasta water and Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.


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