10.20.2008

Cauliflower dreams

When I see a vegetable like this, a flamboyant cauliflower, I am reminded that there is so much that I do not know about food.

For example: where do these colors come from? Why do some vegetables do double-duty in the design department, appearing now green, now orange, now purple? It is humbling to know so little about a vegetable, and yet to like it so much.

Of course, it's an antioxidant, anthocyanin, which is responsible. If there weren't already so much talk about antioxidants in the nutritional news, I might be excited by the prospect of eating a colored vegetable with health benefits. But I don't need to know that this vegetable is good for me to know that it tastes delicious and is nourishing in other ways.

This is what I do with cauliflower when I can get my hands on the freshest sort:

Fragrant Purple Cauliflower -- Ai Lu's recipe

Take one head of purple cauliflower, or yellow or white cauliflower, or broccoli even (they're almost the same -- did you know?). Wash, trim, and discard most of the thick stalk. Cut the florets into managable, Chinese-stirfry-sized pieces. Blanche in salted, boiling water for about 5-8 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Drain in a colander. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon spicy paprika, then add 1 tablespoon pinenuts or other fragrant nut, and stir for another minute. Add the drained cauliflower, and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a side to hearty stews, medium-rare beef, and fettuccine alfredo.

This was the cauliflower that we couldn't stop eating in the last few days, the one that has me happy about the arrival of cold weather in New York, and the harvest that I'll see at the Morningside Heights farmers' market tomorrow morning, granted I get there in time.

What else are you looking forward to this fall, as the nights get longer and the days get colder? What dreams of cauliflowers and kings do you harbor?

10 comments:

jenny said...

I am a little jealous of your cauliflower, Al Lu! We have yet to see the purple here, or any cauliflower for that matter.

Thanks for the welcome back!
jenny

Emily Jolie said...

Hmmm, that sounds delicious! I love cauliflower, and your way of preparing it sounds great!

My grandma introduced me to a way of eating cauliflower I would have never dreamed of, and it tastes so good! She steamed it, then melted roquefort cheese on top of it, and then poured a classic vinaigrette on top. I was surprised by how delicious that was! I also like to just drizzle some rice vinegar on top of my steamed cauliflower, alongside some beans and a grain.

I have been starting to roast squashes and sweet potatoes. They go hand in hand with fall for me. I stick my sweet potatoes or yams in the oven for at least an hour at 400 degrees, until they are nice and caramelized on the inside of the skins. I eat them as a side to my meals, or just as a snack. They make the perfect snack on the go! You don't need utensils to eat them, and you can even eat them in your car while driving if you're in need of something to tide you over! Sometimes, I'll have them as a treat for dessert. :) I love them!

Hope you're doing well, Ai Lu!

much love,

~ej

Carrie Arnold said...

That is a beautiful cauliflower- I will, however, content myself with looking at it. That's one of the two foods (olives being the other) that I DO NOT like, period. Other things I will eat prepared some ways, but not others. Olives and cauliflower, however, I just haven't figured out a way to like.

Sigh.

Tiptoe said...

Beautiful picture. I have an affinity for most of the cruciferous vegetables, though broccoli still tops my list. I like cauliflower, but it's hard to find the ones I like without any brown marks.

As for winter coming up, I really look forward to hot chocolate season. It's one of my favorite beverages to have on a cold winter's day.

Victoria said...

I made turnip and parsnip puree last weekend - yum, yum, yum. Also delicious with stews.

Anonymous said...

I've read that anthocyanin is water-soluble, so boiling or steaming the cauliflower causes some of the antioxidant to be lost. The article I read recommended cooking it in a skillet, and then it steams itself before browning from the water in the vegetable itself (after a bit of salting and covering it). What do you think?

Also, you might enjoy this post - http://www.cakespy.com/2008/10/cake-carbs-and-cream-cheese-love-story.html

Anonymous said...

Sorry, by "enjoy" I think I meant more you might be interested in the post - I'm not sure I agree with everything said, but it's an intriguing perspective.

Ai Lu said...

Thanks to the anonymous reader for directing me to the Cakespy site -- I think that she is "right on" in some ways, about letting herself eat dessert every day, and not worrying about it -- by facing our food fears, we "deactivate" them in a sense, robbing them of the power that they have over us. I don't know if this technique would work for everyone, but I believe that it can work for some people.

As for lost antioxidants through boiling -- that's OK by me. That cauliflower looks like it has PLENTY of health benefits, no matter its form of preparation.

I don't take the idea of anti-oxidant power too seriously these days; because I eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits anyway, so I never feel that I'm in serious need of more nutrients. And, for me, focusing on the nutrients can take away some of the pleasure in food itself, which I find more detrimental than the loss of some nutrients through boiling.

Sometimes I do save the blanching water and freeze it to use later as a soup broth, more for convenience than for the health benefits.

On the other hand, sauteed cauliflower, however, may have a more intense flavor than if it is boiled -- boiling does tend to make vegetables a bit bland, which is why, in this recipe, I cook the 'flower in butter and spices after it has been blanched. I'll have to try sauteeing it next time to see if there is a difference.

Victoria -- parsnips and turnips sound delightful!

Carrie -- I would never force someone to eat cauliflower who doesn't like it. I'm happy, however, that you can enjoy the image.

Tiptoe -- any suggestions on good hot chocolate brands?

Ai Lu said...

Emily Jolie:

I was going to say: I love baked sweet potatoes too! When I didn't eat gluten I ate them almost every day, and I am surprised that pro-gluten folks don't eat them more often: they are so good!

I am going to write about the most amazing sweet potato I ever ate, in China, on a future post. Thanks for reminding me.

Best,
Ai Lu

Cakespy said...

Ai Lu, thank you for finding Cakespy. I am so glad to have discovered you too. Especially with this gorgeous cauliflower photo front and center. I love cauliflower--your recipe sounds delicious and spicy, but not so much that it overpowers the flavor of the 'flower--I can't wait to give it a try. I love the site!!!