This brassica vegetable gets its name from the Italian term cavolfiore, or “cabbage flower.” Historically, only the head of tiny florets (known as “curds”) has been eaten, but more recent cultivars have been bred for tender, sweeter stems. While its appearance is similar to broccoli, cauliflower’s taste is much subtler, with a nutty sweetness that is amplified when roasted.
Cauliflower is believed to have originated on the island of Cyprus. Written about extensively in early botany texts, it was called “the most pleasant-tasting” of cabbages by Pliny the Elder. Cauliflower spread slowly across the European continent in the 16th century, always considered a delicacy in the garden and the kitchen, and became a favorite of France’s Louis XIV. Cauliflower was introduced to India in the early 19th century by British colonists, where it was quickly adopted into traditional recipes.
Cauliflower is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and Vitamin B6.
Whole, unwashed cauliflower can be stored for up to 7 days in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep the stem side down to avoid moisture build-up on the head.
Along with being a standard ingredient in hearty winter soups and Indian dishes such as aloo gobi, cauliflower has earned a recent burst of popularity as a substitute for starchy side dishes such as pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and potato fritters. Another popular preparation is quartering a whole head into cauliflower “steaks,” rubbing with a spice mix, roasting or grilling until tender, then serving with melted cheese or a flavorful sauce.
Separate cauliflower into smaller florets, toss with olive oil and salt and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until florets show some char and give off a popcorn-like smell. Remove and let cool, then combine with grated carrots, golden raisins, toasted sunflower seeds, and a dressing of olive oil, citrus, and curry powder. Serve cold, on its own, or over salad greens.
To avoid an unpleasant odor and mushy texture, cooked cauliflower should be eaten within 2 to 3 days.