Vail seasonal: Cauliflower can liven up a plate |

Vail seasonal: Cauliflower can liven up a plate

Sue Barham
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyVail seasonal: Heirloom cauliflower growing in Gypsum.

VAIL, Colorado –White cauliflower is generally available in Vail Valley grocery stores year round, and when selecting, look for heads that are firm, compact and heavy for their size. There should not be any speckling of discoloration on the head or leaves. Avoid cauliflower with brown patches. A medium-size head, six inches in diameter and weighing about two pounds, will serve four to six people.

But for all its crunchy hardiness, cauliflower is actually a delicate and temperamental plant.

It is considered a cool weather crop, typically growing in spring and fall. It thrives when temperatures are neither too hot or cold, and moisture is neither too heavy or light. To insure it is fully mature before the heat of summer or freeze of winter, plants are usually started in greenhouses or hotbeds, and then transferred to the garden.

As its name implies, this vegetable is a flower growing from a plant. In its early stages, it resembles broccoli, which is its closest relative. While broccoli opens outward to sprout bunches of green florets, cauliflower forms a compact head of undeveloped white flower buds. The heavy green leaves that surround the head protect the flower buds from the sunlight, thereby restricting the development of chlorophyll. Color is not produced, and the head remains white.

Colored varieties such as purple graffiti, orange cheddar and stunning green romanesco cauliflowers are not genetically engineered but rather a mixture of heirloom varieties. The plants shed seeds and the hybrids grow from them.

“These heirloom varieties visually liven up the plate,” said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. “And the mild flavor makes cauliflower a good accompaniment with any protein.”

Serving cauliflower raw is the most nutritional. It provides a large dose of Vitamin C to the diet and folate for efficient blood circulation. Research also shows cauliflower has cancer-fighting components.

“Served raw, it’s a healthy addition to salads or a crudite platter,” Kittelson said. “But it’s amazing how many times you find cooked cauliflower under a blanket of cheese sauce. My favorite cooked preparation is a creamy mash – it’s a great alternative to the higher-carb potatoes.”

8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Snipped fresh chives

Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot. Serves four.

1 large head fresh cauliflower, cleaned and trimmed, cut into small florets

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons capers, drained

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 Tb. fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup mixed fresh parsley and tarragon

Hot sauce to taste

Kosher salt to taste

Steam cauliflower over boiling water until it begins to barely soften about 5 minutes (just enough to allow it to absorb the dressing). Whisk together the garlic, capers, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil. Stir in the hot cauliflower and herbs. Season with hot sauce and salt to taste. For best flavor, let rest for 90 minutes and even overnight. Serves four.

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place florets and garlic in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil and toss to combine well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the mixture in a baking dish. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Serves four.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.

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