Roasted Cauliflower & Cauliflower Greens (RECIPE)

November 10, 2010 § 10 Comments

I’m a huge fan of using every part of a vegetable or animal versus letting useable parts go to waste. For instance, when we buy a chicken to roast at home, my husband teases me because I clean the wings, drumsticks and thigh bones like nobody’s business, and I even go so far as to pick extra meat off of his serving. The carcass and innards go into the freezer until I have enough to make a big pot of stock.

So when I went to the farmers’ market this past weekend and picked up a lovely lime-colored cauliflower, I was intrigued when the farmer told me he’d heard that I could cook and eat the cauliflower greens. No more cutting off the protective leaves and throwing them into the compost? I was in.

The lovely lime-green cauliflower with its leaves

Unfortunately the farmer didn’t have cooking ideas for the greens, so…onto the Internet! After looking at different methods for cooking — primarily, sauteeing, roasting and using in a variety of Indian dishes — I decided on roasting, because I love the caramelized flavor and texture of cauliflower roasted at high heat.

Click here for the very simple “recipe” (it’s more of a method than a recipe) that I used.

I like to taste my ingredients raw before I cook them so I can imagine their flavor when cooked via various methods, or with different seasonings. To me, the cauliflower leaves tasted like a union of chard and kale (so if you like earthy greens, you’ll like these).

Cauliflower head and greens separated, ready to be chopped

I cut off the base of the cauliflower, discarded the tough outer leaves, then chopped the head into florets and the leaves into bite-sized pieces. I replaced the spring, or green, onions with one big shallot that I sliced into 1/2-inch thick wedges, because I didn’t have green onions. I separated four cloves of garlic, smashed them lightly with the bottom of my glass measuring cup (if you lightly smash garlic cloves with something heavy or the side of your knife blade, it makes peeling them a breeze) and peeled them.

I then tossed everything in the recipe together in a large, shallow baking dish and roasted the mix for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (at the 20 minutes indicated in the recipe, my cauliflower was still hard). I checked it halfway through to make sure it wasn’t burning (if it is, cover it with foil).

Cauliflower and greens tossed with garlic, shallots, soy sauce and oil, before roasting

The cauliflower was just fork-tender with lovely browned bits, and the leaves crisped into cauliflower green chips, kind of like freshly-fried kale. (If you’re a subscriber, you won’t see the photo of the finished dish in your email but you can see it if you click the link to this post.) It was a perfect side dish for a lamb leg steak that we’d also bought at the farmers’ market from a local rancher and grilled simply with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Three Other Recipes for You (well, actually five!)

I found a bunch of recipes online, but here are three that, although I haven’t tried them yet, are the ones that I’d try in the future:

1 — Sauteed: Simple method for sauteeing cauliflower greens, with helpful photo-by-photo guide (click here)

2 — Curried: Indian-style dish of cauliflower and greens with potatoes, spinach, watercress and carrots (click here)

*Note: Given the volume of veggies in this recipe and my husband’s and my enjoyment of spice, I’d probably end up using closer to 1 1/2 teaspoons each of cumin and coriander (more or less, to taste) and adding a generous pinch of cayenne or chopped serranos.

3 — Fried: Three Indian snacks (pakoras, bhajias and patode/alu wadi, or leaf spirals), for those of you with a hankering to deep fry (click here for all three recipes and here for brief background on patode/alu wadi and the original recipe)

*Note: This blogger also shares a great tip: if you see cauliflower greens being snipped off and discarded at farmers’ markets or grocery stores, try asking if you can have the greens for free.

History and Nutritional Info

Cauliflower traces its ancestry to the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in ancient Asia Minor, which resembled kale or collards more than the current-day form. The cauliflower went through many transformations and reappeared in the Mediterranean region, where it has been an important vegetable in Turkey and Italy since at least 600 B.C. It gained popularity in France in the mid-16th century and was subsequently cultivated in Northern Europe and the British Isles. The United States, France, Italy, India and China are countries that produce significant amounts of cauliflower. Cauliflower is loaded with vitamin C and is a good source of vitamin K and fiber.

When in Season and How to Choose & Store

  • When in season: In the San Francisco Bay Area, cauliflower is in season all year except for July and August.
  • How to choose: When purchasing cauliflower, look for a clean, compact curd in which the bud clusters are not separated. Avoid spotted or dull-colored cauliflower and those that have small flowers (these are signs that the cauliflower is beyond its prime). Heads that are surrounded by many thick green leaves are better protected and will be fresher. As size is not related to its quality, choose one that best suits your needs.
  • How to store: Store uncooked cauliflower in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week. To prevent moisture from developing in the floret clusters, store it with the stem side down.
  • And, an interesting “who knew?”: Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that release odorous sulfur compounds when heated. These odors become stronger with increased cooking time. If you want to minimize odor, retain the vegetable’s crisp texture, and reduce nutrient loss, cook the cauliflower for only a short time.

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