According to what I read online, cauliflower was the “it” vegetable for 2014.
Where was I?
Don’t get me wrong. I love cauliflower. I just didn’t get the memo.
No problem that I missed the big party, though. Cauliflower continues to be “hot” in the culinary world. In fact, cruciferous vegetables of all sorts– from broccoli to brussels sprouts to kale to cauliflower–are enjoying a surge in popularity.
That is very good news! This is a group of healthful vegetables that was pushed to the side of the plate (or passed under the table to the eager pup) for far too long.
It’s been quite a remarkable turnaround, too. Remember when President George H. W. Bush went on that infamous petulant rant about broccoli? “I do not like broccoli and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” He subsequently banned broccoli on Air Force One.
And, cauliflower (the subject of this post) hasn’t always gotten a lot of respect either. Mark Twain famously quipped: “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” That’s pretty harsh.
Here’s your history lesson. Cauliflower is related to wild cabbage and is believed to have been cultivated as early as the 6th century B.C. It was introduced into Spain in the 12th century via Syria where it had been cultivated for a thousand years and eventually became popular in Northern Europe. In the 17th century, France’s Louis XIV reportedly was so taken with the vegetable that he pressured his celebrity chef La Varenne to prepare “chou fleur” regularly and often for his table at Versailles. His successor, Louis XV, continued the Bourbon love affair with cauliflower—literally. His chefs were instructed to showcase cauliflower à la du Barry at royal functions–cauliflower napped in a mornay sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese and breadcrumbs and browned. It was a nod to his mistress, the voluptuous Madame Du Barry. (Call me sentimental, but what could be more romantic than to have your special guy name a cauliflower casserole after you?)
Cauliflower has gotten more beautiful over the years, too. Modern growers now produce a kaleidoscope of cauliflowers in addition to the basic white. The colorful ones–orange, green and purple cauliflowers–are more nutrient-rich than white cauliflowers. Orange cauliflower, for instance, has twenty-five times more vitamin A than white cauliflower. Purple cauliflower is rich in the same antioxidants that are found in red cabbage, red wine and blueberries. Interestingly, for the home cook, the colorful cauliflowers hold their color when cooked. (By the way, the “flower” sections of the cauliflower are called “curds.” )
Whatever color you choose, cauliflower is low in fat, high in fiber and a half-cup serving provides 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Cauliflower also provides vitamin K which is believed to have anti-inflammatory benefits and B vitamins as well. The Centers for Disease Control ranks cauliflower among the thirty top powerhouse vegetables (nutrients vs. calories).
Cauliflower is versatile, too. In an article in the Los Angeles Times in 2014, food writer Russ Parsons extolled cauliflower’s virtues: “…cauliflower has two distinct personalities. Cook it quickly and you’ll see its aggressive, brassy side; it’s a vegetable that you can pair with all sorts of big flavors–garlic, capers, chiles, anchovies. Cook it slowly and you won’t believe how sweet and mellow it becomes, with a hint of something that smells very much like white truffles.”
It’s that good.
And, whatever you do, don’t let anyone try to pull that “I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more cauliflower” stuff on you.
This cauliflower soup has gotten excellent reviews from my friends.
This is my adaptation of a Food Network recipe by Ree Drummond. The link to the original recipe appears at the end of this post.
Ingredients: Cauliflower Soup
1 stick butter
1/2 large onion (finely diced)
1 carrot (finely diced)
1 celery stalk (finely diced)
1 head of cauliflower (cored and roughly chopped)
2 T. finely minced fresh parsley
8 C. vegetable broth
6 T. all-purpose flour
2 C. whole milk
1 C. half-an-half
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper
1 C. sour cream (at room temperature)
Chopped parsley for garnish
Directions: Over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick of butter in a heavy pot. Sautee onions in butter until translucent (about 3 minutes). Add diced carrots and celery and briefly saute. Add cauliflower and stir into butter-vegetable mixture. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add parsley and vegetable broth. Simmer soup for 10 minutes.
While soup is simmering, melt 1/2 stick of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. When the butter is melted, whisk in flour and cook flour-butter mixture for a few minutes. (Don’t let it burn.) Whisk in milk. Remove this white sauce from the heat and add half-and-half. Pour the milk-half-and-half mixture into the soup. Your soup will thicken slightly but will stay relatively thin. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes.
Stir in (room temperature) sour cream.
Garnish with chopped parsley.
Here is the link to the original Ree Drummond recipe: