What do you do when you walk into a farm stand and see the most gorgeous, pearly white cauliflower you have ever seen in your life?
You buy two, ignoring your husband’s raised and questioning eyebrows. They are each ten inches high. He knows there is no room in the fridge, but you can’t help yourself; their color and texture are gorgeous. My mother always said, “Buy what you love and you’ll always find a way to use it.” She was talking about decorating her home and purchasing clothing accessories, but I feel the same way about vegetables.
I found the cauliflowers at my favorite Mennonite farm stand, Garden Patch Produce located at 1515 Buffalo-Cerulean Road in Cadiz, Kentucky. Do not bother to Google it as this electricity-free community of farmers adds up purchases with tally marks, so you can be sure they don’t subscribe to any form of electronic or print advertising. Note the “Bargain Table” along the back wall. It is full of yesterday’s vegetables at half price. There is no refrigeration in the building, so they don’t sell yesterday’s produce with their fresh produce.
To Roast, Blanch or Saute the Cauliflower? That is the question.
That is the question I ask when I look at any vegetable when I’m getting ready to cook dinner.
Regardless of which cooking method you choose, you’ll first need to prep the veggie. In this case, after washing the cauliflower, cut it in half and carve out the center core. As you do this, the florets will detach from the stem. You’ll need to chop the large florets in half for even cooking.
One of the extra-large cauliflowers yielded three pounds of florets. It took two two-pound cauliflowers from Kroger to yield the same amount.
To Roast Vegetables:
Out of habit, and because it is easier, I decided to roast one of the cauliflowers. I roast most vegetables in a hot 425º oven for about 30-45 minutes. I season them with these three ingredients that you may recognize from my blog posts A Simple Everyday Salad Dressing and Easy Roasted Salmon.
- Chop the florets so they will all be about the same size for even cooking.
- Mix florets in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon each of sea salt and garlic pepper. Toss until florets are well-coated. I tend to be heavy-handed with olive oil, and 1/3 cup is the minimum amount I would typically use.
- Bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 425º for about 40 minutes. Toss once or twice while roasting to encourage even browning.
Roasted cauliflower should be called Disappearing Cauliflower or Gone in Sixty Seconds Cauliflower. When you roast vegetables at high temperatures like this, they caramelize as they cook and their natural sweetness emerges. It becomes like eating candy; you can’t stop until they are all gone.
To Blanch Vegetables:
Officially, blanching is a method of cooking vegetables quickly by putting them in a pot of salted, boiling water for a short amount of time and then, if desired, plunging them into a bowl of ice-cold water, a technique known as “shocking” which halts the cooking process. I hardly ever do the shocking step unless I’ve lost track of time, allowed the vegetables to boil too long, and need to stop them from cooking any longer and changing color to blah.
Why and when would you blanch a vegetable?
1) To retain color. Blanching string beans, for example, “fixes” the color as bright green. Alternatively, if you were to boil them for 15 minutes, they would turn that army green color that may not be as appealing.
2) To achieve “fork-tender” texture. Blanching cooks vegetables quickly so they don’t get water-logged, mushy and tasteless. Blanched vegetables are usually firm, hold their shape, and if you poke them with a fork, the fork tines will slide in easily indicating doneness.
3) To loosen the skin off of a vegetable or fruit. Let’s say you want to peel a lot of tomatoes, or peaches, for canning purposes. An easy way to do so would be to boil them and then move them into a cold water bath. The skin will simply blister off.
4) To prepare vegetables for freezing. Blanching destroys enzymes that cause color, texture and flavor deterioration.
How I Blanch Vegetables
1) Fill a large pot with hot water. You’ll need enough water to cover the vegetables you plan to cook.
2) Add one tablespoon of salt to the water. Bring water to a full rolling boil.
3) Add washed and chopped vegetables, cover, and bring water to a second boil. It could take 3-5 minutes for the water to return to a boil. Once the water returns to a rolling boil, set your timer and cook for one minute.
4) Remove vegetables from heat and drain in a colander. Let vegetables stay in the colander for five minutes. Vegetables will continue to cook as they steam in the colander. The steam will also evaporate the moisture around the vegetables. If you do not wish for the vegetables to continue cooking, shock them in a container of cold water.
I’ve been hearing a lot about mashed cauliflower lately and decided to try making it. I read about five different recipes and came up with my plan. I had to tweak the plan quite a bit to get it to taste right. Let’s just say I now know my chickens like smashed cauliflower!
3 pounds blanched cauliflower florets
¼ cup cream cheese with chives and onion, or plain cream cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
Put cooked florets in the food processor. I could only fit about ¾ of the florets in the bowl of my processor. Add olive oil, cheeses, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Process until chunky and then add remaining florets to the mix.
Process until it looks like mashed potatoes.
Serve hot. You may need to heat it up before serving as the mixture tends to cool down quite a bit in the food processor. I used cream cheese with onions because I already had it in the refrigerator. You could use plain cream cheese and add chopped herbs instead. I used chopped garlic chives as a garnish.
Make it Whole30
Whole30 has a version of this that includes 1/2 cup of coconut cream instead of other dairy products. Additionally, any Whole30 recipes that call for ghee, I use olive oil instead.
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