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Get Creative with Cauliflower

Posted: 4/23/2012

Posted April 23, 2012

Cauliflower has come a long way from just sitting on a veggie tray. Several years ago, it was popular in low-carbohydrate diets. When cooked and mashed with milk or cream, it has the texture and nearly the taste of mashed potatoes.

Some may wonder whether you should blanch broccoli or cauliflower before freezing, and then, how to cook it.

These cruciferous vegetables contain properties that may help ward off certain cancers. They also are excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber.

Before freezing broccoli or cauliflower, it's best to blanch or steam them first. For broccoli, trim off the stalks and cut them into pieces; separate the crown into florets. For cauliflower, cut away the stem end and cut the florets from the core, cutting as close to the core as possible.

To blanch, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and have ready a large bowl of ice water. Place broccoli or cauliflower in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking. (The icy bath also helps retain the broccoli's color.)

To steam, cut as directed above and steam for 5 minutes. Chill as above.

Once chilled, pack the vegetables in containers or freezer bags. Keep 10 to 12 months in the freezer.

Boiling can make cauliflower watery because it already contains a lot of water. Sauteing works well, but perhaps the best choice is roasting, which brings out cauliflower's sweet flavor.

Choose cauliflower heads that are heavy and creamy white with no dark spots or signs of decay. The cabbage-like leaves should be bright green with no yellowing.

Cauliflower, well-wrapped, keeps a good week in the refrigerator.

To use, remove the leaves and trim the stem end from the core. Cut away the florets from the core, cutting as close to the core as possible. You also can cut the core into small pieces.

To roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place florets on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of kosher or sea salt; toss to coat. Roast about 20 to 25 minutes or until the florets are slightly golden.

Another roasting option is to cut the cauliflower into steaks. Trim the stem end away and steady the whole head, core side down. Slice into 1/2 - to 1-inch-thick pieces. Place on a sided roasting pan that's been drizzled with olive oil. Give the cauliflower another drizzle of oil and season as desired. Roast until nicely browned on both sides, about 10 minutes per side.

SAUTEED CAULIFLOWER WITH ISRAELI COUSCOUS

Makes: 6 side dish servings / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes

Look for Israeli, also called pearl, couscous in the ethnic aisle of some grocery stores. It's sold plain or tri-color. Israeli couscous grains are larger than traditional couscous.

1 1/2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups cauliflower florets

1 small shallot, peeled, sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch of cinnamon, optional

1/4 cup dried tart cherries or golden raisins

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup chopped parsley or snipped chives

Cook the couscous according to package directions until just tender. Drain if needed; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the cauliflower and shallots and saute about 5 minutes or until the florets are slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, if using. Add the cherries and saute about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked couscous and red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives and serve hot.

Adapted from Food Network magazine, January/February 2011 issue.

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

110 calories (21 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat), 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 67 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.

MAC AND CHEESE-STYLE CAULIFLOWER

Makes: 8 (1 cup servings) / Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Look for nutritional yeast at health food stores and some grocery stores. It's adds a cheesy and nutty flavor to many dishes. It's optional in this recipe. To make your own bread crumbs, tear firm, fresh bread into pieces and whirl in a food processor or blender until crumbs form.

8 heaping cups cauliflower florets

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 shallot, peeled, minced

2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk

2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup nutritional yeast, optional

1 pinch cayenne pepper

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs

Fresh chopped parsley or snipped chives for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets and boil 5 to 7 minutes or until just tender. Drain and reserve 1 cup cooking liquid; set aside.

In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and saute about 2 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid; cook 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened, whisking constantly. If the sauce is too thick at this point, add more of the reserved cooking liquid. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper and egg yolks until cheese is melted. Fold in cauliflower.

Spread cauliflower mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Spray bread crumbs with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes or until casserole is hot and bubbly and #bread crumbs are crisp and brown. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or chives, if desired.

Adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine, January/February 2012 issue.

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

273 calories (53 percent from fat), 16 grams fat (9 grams sat. fat), 18 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 314 mg sodium, 94 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

CRISPY CHEESE CAULIFLOWER

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes

To toast the panko bread crumbs, use a toaster oven. Or place them on a small pan and toast in the oven while it's preheating. Watch carefully, because they burn easily.

Nonstick cooking spray

2 egg whites

1/2 cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs, toasted

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1/2 large head cauliflower, separated into medium-size florets (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until frothy. In a pie plate, combine cheese, panko, cayenne, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Dredge cauliflower florets in egg white and then roll in the cheese mixture.

Place on the baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Remove to plate and sprinkle with parsley. Serve as a side dish.

Adapted from USA Weekend magazine.

Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

148 calories (29 percent from fat), 5 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 16 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 414 mg sodium, 11 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

©2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.
 
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