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The milk, sweet, almost nutty flavor of cauliflower is at its best from December through March when it is in season and most plentiful in your local markets. Cauliflower has a compact head (called a "curd"), usually about six inches in diameter that is composed of undeveloped flower buds. The flowers are attached to a central stalk. Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, is in the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage. When broken apart into separate buds, cauliflower looks like a little tree, something that many kids are fascinated by. Raw cauliflower is firm yet a bit spongy in texture. It has a slightly sulfurous and faintly bitter flavor.
Wash cauliflower well just before using and cut it into large florets by pulling away the leaves. Separate the florets by cutting them apart from the inside of the cauliflower. Place whole head or florets in pan filled to about 2 inches deep with boiling salted water. Cover and blanch just until tender, for about 10 minutes.
Boiled cauliflower florets
To boil the cauliflower florets, cut the cauliflower into big florets and remove the thick stems. Boil some water in a deep pan, add a pinch of salt and put the florets in boiling water and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or till the florets are soft. Depending on the freshness of the cauliflower, they can turn soft even earlier, so keep checking as per the recipe requirement. Strain and discard the water and use as per the recipe.
Wash and clean it thoroughly. With the use of knife or hand segregate the large florets from the roots. Cut it into small, if needed.
Chopped and boiled cauliflower
First clean the cauliflower and cut into big florets. Place the florets on a chopping board and chop into small or big pieces as required using a sharp knife. Boil enough water in a deep pan, add little salt if desired and put the cauliflower in water. Boil for about 4-5 minutes or till the cauliflower is tender and soft. Drain the water completely.
Wash and clean it thoroughly. With the use of knife chop it coarsely into small or large pieces as required.
Grate the cauliflower by grabbing the whole thing by the stem, and grate it using your coarsest grater. The florets should quickly crumble away to rather fine bits, leaving you with the tougher stem; you can grate this too, though for a more even size you might want to use a finer grater.
How to Select
Divide cauliflower into small florets. Chop off any bruised portion. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slices can be cut of the desired thickness.
Cauliflower should be dense and heavy with a satiny stem. The leaves surrounding the florets should be fresh and green. Choose cauliflower that is tight and compact, with no dark spots or mildew, and with firm, straight leaves.
Did you know that cauliflower can also be orange or purple?
" Orange cauliflower, slightly sweet and rich in beta-carotene, is perfect for pies and soups.
" Purple cauliflower, rich in tannins, is best enjoyed raw or "al dente." A quick in-and-out in the skillet will release all its taste. Culinary Uses
" Cauliflower adores sauces: white, curry or cheese sauce. Cauliflower can simply be boiled or steamed, whole or broken into florets, or it can be added to soups, stews, purees, gratins and pasta dishes. It can also be eaten raw, served with dipping sauce or added to salads
" Steam or boil until the center is tender, but without overcooking. Add a little lemon juice to the cooking water to preserve the cauliflower's whiteness.
" Begin cooking uncovered so the sulfurous odors can dissipate more quickly.
" Don't throw away the green stems. They add good flavor to vegetable soup.
" For a change of pace, crumble the cauliflower and use as you would couscous.
" If you like fritters, dip a small bunch of florets in batter and deep fry in hot oil. Serve with a curry mayonnaise.
" Healthy sauté cauliflower with garlic, minced ginger and tamari.
" For cauliflower with a vivid yellow color, "healthy sauté" it briefly with a spoonful of turmeric or generous pinch of saffron.
" Puree cooked cauliflower, add fennel seeds and your other favorite herbs and spices and serve as soup. How to Store
Keep in a cool dark place. Wrap the leaves around the flowers and place in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, head down. It will keep for 5 days if not washed but 3 or 4 days is the maximum in order for cauliflower to retain its quality. You can also wrap it in a damp cloth to prevent dehydration. If you purchase pre-cut cauliflower florets, consume them within one or two days as they will lose their freshness after that. Since cooking causes cauliflower to spoil quicker, consume it within two to three days of placing in the refrigerator after cooking.
To freeze cauliflower, separate it into small bouquets. Blanch them for 3 minutes and drain well; place in freezer bags. Once blanched, the florets lose a significant amount of their sulfur which is responsible for their odor. Health Benefits
" Cauliflower contains compounds help prevent cancer. These compounds increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens.
" Vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron… cauliflower has many healthful things in its favor!
" Cauliflower is naturally low in calories, stimulating, and even an appetite-suppressant making them a perfect diet food.
" It's a source of energy and a natural boost to the body's defenses.
" It's excellent for the body, rich in vitamin C, particularly when eaten raw, and provides strength and vitality. Its fiber and potassium promote good intestinal transit and limit water retention. It's an excellent source of folic acid and potassium.