Once the food of kings, cauliflower rewards a delicate touch with nourishing and toothsome dishes.
Originally cultivated in the Middle East, cauliflower is well loved by chefs and eaters alike from India to France. Cauliflower is a near cousin to broccoli but is significantly more sensitive and requires the delicate touch of an experienced farmer. Made up of tightly clustered flower buds, known as curds, this emissary of the brassica family, does well in curries and stews. More recent recipes invite cauliflower to stand in for potatoes to reinvent gratins and creamy mashes. While most varieties are white (purple, yellow and green sorts are just gaining speed) don’t be fooled by its pale color, cauliflower rivals citrus fruits in vitamin C and other cancer fighting antioxidants.
Like broccoli, look for heads with tight, dense buds and heavy stalks. Leaves should be green and firmly attached. Store, stem side down, in the refrigerator for up to five days. Older heads may show black spotting from spoilage or water damage. In general, cool lightly or until just tender, if cooked too long cauliflower can release photochemicals that have an odor reminiscent of sulphur. Likewise, if cauliflower is cooked in cast iron or aluminum cookware the florets can take on a brownish hue.