Cauliflower recipes: Why you should give the underrated vegetable a try

Cauliflower with cheese and breadcrumbs. (Archives)

Cauliflower with cheese and breadcrumbs. (Archives)

Rita DeMontis, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

I have a guilty pleasure...cauliflower. And not just raw with some high-fat dip.

It's such a crazy-looking veg — billowy, porous in various shades of white, on occasion, a brilliant green, it just reminds me of a thinking person's food — yes, it does look a bit like someone's brain.

I love snapping off the beautiful florets into uniform bites and boiling them in salted water, draining and then and drizzling with good quality olive oil and red wine vinegar. Yum!

Or boiling the florets until firm, draining them and then dipping them in flour and egg mixture before frying into bite-sized fritters.

My mother, who would delicately pronounce the veg as "cavolfiore" used to make a simple casserole of fresh cauliflower florets, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and black olives, all steamed together. With big chunks of bread it was a taste of heaven, especially on a cold winter night.

Cauliflower tastes amazing tossed with garlic-infused bread crumbs and baked to crispy goodness. It's also a perfect base for a creamy soup and a wonderful stand-in for mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that draws much respect in the grocery shelves, yet people may still just see it as an addition to the obligatory vegetable platter. And, like the geeky guy you see hanging out at the school prom, this vegetable is one of layers and depth, and certainly full of surprises. High in fibre, low in fat, it's an excellent source of vitamin C with a taste and texture that lends itself to a variety of dishes.

So what if it has a bit of a, ahem, pungent aroma during cooking. It is, after all, a member of the brassica family, which includes such smelly cousins as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and rapini.

All is forgiven when you tuck into a delicious plate of this delicate vegetable.

Cauliflower Fritters

Easy to make — you can par-boil the florets ahead of time and refrigerate a day or two until you need. Just bring them to room temperature.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, about 3 lb. (1.5 kg), cut into bite-size florets
  • Flour for dipping
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. (15ml) flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. (5ml) dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. (15ml) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Boil florets in a large pot of boiling salted water, until just firm — do not overboil. Remove and rinse in cold water. Dry on paper towels. Set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs with remainder of ingredients.

Heat about 1-inch (2.5cm) vegetable oil in large frypan. Dip florets in flour and then in egg mixture and very gently place in hot oil (do not overheat oil or it will splatter.) Fry fritters in batches, turning to make sure fritters are completely cooked. Remove to paper-lined cookie sheet. Serve with side salad or as an appetizer.

Serves 4-6.

Parmesan Cheese Roasted Cauliflower

I've adapted this delightful dish from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home (Potter) with the addition of minced garlic, hot chili peppers and breadcrumbs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, about 3 lb. (1.5 kg), cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) good quality olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. (5ml) dried oregano
  • 1 cup (250ml) breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) grated Fontina cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). In a bowl whip olive oil with garlic and oregano. Place florets on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil mixture and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Toss well with breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing once, until cauliflower is tender and starts to brown.

Mix cheeses and prinkle all over cauliflower;2-3 more minutes, or just until cheese melts. Season to taste and serve hot or warm as a sidedish

Serves 4-6.


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