Cauliflower is now the king of all vegetables. Not that we really need to keep score, but it’s true. Cauliflower has officially nudged kale off its throne and is enjoying the major buzz that kept kale on the top of superfood lists for so long.
I’m not really a big fan of the superfood concept. There’s not a vegetable on earth that doesn’t deserve that descriptor. I’m in favor of eating lots of different vegetables – in various forms – not just because they’re trendy.
Even so. Cauliflower deserves the attention. [And I predicted that cauliflower would be the new kale back in 2013.]
Long in the shadow of its bright green cousin broccoli, cauliflower was once dismissed for its pale color – which is often erroneously linked to a lack of nutrients. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a category of plants named for their cross-shaped leaves. Cauliflower is joined in the cruciferous family by broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and yes, even our old friend kale.
What’s unique about cruciferous vegetables are the sulfur-containing compounds they contain called glucosinolates. That’s why these vegetables often give off a pungent smell when they’re cooking, especially when steamed.
It’s all worth it. These compounds are converted into indoles and isothiocyanates that have been found to inhibit the development of certain cancers. The evidence on the potential role of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention continues to grow.
You’ll never be short of ideas on how to prepare cauliflower. Recipes are trending on Pinterest and continuously featured on food blogs. Do a search for cauliflower on Healthy Aperture and you’ll find more than 1,000 unique cauliflower recipes, including several that are featured below.
The unique thing about cauliflower is how it’s being cleverly converted into so many different things, from rice to pizza crust, and it’s going incognito in everything from pasta, soup and meatballs to smoothies and desserts. A real sign that the trend has gone mainstream is when I spotted a pouch of cauliflower crumbles at the grocery store – pre-shredded fresh cauliflower that’s ready to be steamed and transformed into something new.
Cauliflower, is there anything you can’t do?
If you haven’t explored cauliflower’s ability to take on different roles at your dinner table, here are 10 ways you can get in on the cauliflower trend:
Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic by Garlic & Zest
Mash it. This may be the original cauliflower transformation, which rose to popularity during the height of the South Beach Diet, which featured a recipe for mashed cauliflower as a lower-carb substitute for potatoes. Simply steam cauliflower with chicken broth and garlic, and mash until smooth. Add shredded cheese and herbs, if desired.
Seared Cauliflower Steaks with Red Pepper-Walnut Sauce by Foxes Love Lemons
Steak it. Cauliflower steaks are great as a side dish – but they’re also meaty enough to be the main event on your plate. You’ll even find cauliflower steaks on restaurant menus, including Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant in New York, which serves the roasted vegetable steak on a bed of cauliflower puree. To make at home, cut cauliflower into 1-inch slices and roast, broil or grill. Try topping with an herb sauce like chimmichurri, pesto or gremolata.
Rice it. To make cauliflower rice, add fresh cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until you get small crumbles – about the size of rice grains. Then microwave in a covered dish or saute in butter until softened (but not mushy). Season as you desire, turn it into fried rice or use as a base for stir-fries and curries.
Cauliflower Crusted Calzone by The Iron You
Crust it. This might be the most surprising use of cauliflower – a crust for your pizza. You start with your riced cauliflower, then cook and drain it well. Add to a bowl with a beaten egg, salt and other seasonings, along with grated cheese, such as mozzarella and Parmesan. Combine until it forms a soft dough, and then roll out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until browned, and then add your favorite pizza toppings.
Dip it. Pureed cauliflower makes a fantastic base for dips. Roast or steam and then puree until smooth. Try combining with Greek yogurt, and add all sorts of flavorings, like curry or buffalo. Or make a spinach dip, baked artichoke dip or hummus with pureed cauliflower.
Popcorn it. Turn cauliflower into a tasty treat by roasting popcorn-size florets until golden brown. Sprinkle with garlic salt, a pinch of cayenne and grated Parmesan cheese.
Skinny Cauliflower Mac & Cheese by Damn Delicious
Pasta it. Pureed cauliflower can help fortify your pasta dishes with an extra serving of vegetables. Use in macaroni and cheese, combine with whole-wheat penne or layer in a vegetable lasagna. Swap in the creamy cauliflower in place of traditional Alfredo sauce for fettuccine.
Bread it. Bite into a cauliflower bread by using riced or pureed cauliflower. A quick online search will turn up recipes for cauliflower buns, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles and a delectable-looking cauliflower-crusted grilled cheese. Use the technique for cauliflower pizza crust to make cheesy cauliflower bread sticks to dunk into marinara sauce.
Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Avocado Dip by Well Plated
Buffalo it. Instead of buffalo wings, make this famous party appetizer with cauliflower. Roast cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil until browned, and then toss in buffalo sauce. Serve with toothpicks to dip into blue cheese dressing, along with celery sticks.
Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup by Running to the Kitchen
Soup it. A creamy bowl of cauliflower soup is a simple and satisfying way to enjoy this super trendy vegetable. All you need to do is roast and blend and you’re in business.
Or instead of transforming cauliflower into another form, try it whole in all its glory. A whole roasted cauliflower, slathered in an herb butter or drizzled with olive oil and spices, makes for a dramatic presentation at the table. Try this Garlic and Herb Crusted Whole Roasted Cauliflower from Connoisseurus Veg.
Article adapted from my original column for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog. All photos are featured on Healthy Aperture, with credit to the individual bloggers.