By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor
Brussels sprouts and kale have each had their moments as ‘it’ ingredients, so it only seems fitting that cauliflower, from the same brassica oleracea family as its trendy predecessors, would have a moment, too. As far as vegetables are concerned, right now, cauliflower is as au courant as it gets.
Want a way to get a hefty dose of antioxidants, cancer-fighting compounds, and vitamins, just by eating one vegetable? Then eat a serving of cauliflower! A single cup of this nutrient-packed powerhouse delivers over 90% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, and contains vitamin B6 and vitamin K, as well. Cauliflower works as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and is rich in fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids. With Millennials making more and more food choices based on healthful intentions, it’s no coincidence that cauliflower has become so popular.
The gluten-free craze is showing no signs of slowing down, especially as people find replacements for their favorite wheat-laden foods. Take cauliflower pizza crust, for example, which is not only more nutritious than its glutinous counterparts, but the texture can withstand baking at high temperatures and produce a crisp crust that is still sturdy enough to be eaten by hand. On the other hand, when blended, cauliflower has a silky texture that lends itself well to creamy cheese sauces. In place of a traditional white sauce, cauliflower is being used as a lower-calorie alternative to Alfredo sauce, as well as the base for macaroni & cheese recipes.
Part of the reason that cauliflower has transitioned from humble ingredient to superstar status is that it’s so versatile to work with. Raw, roasted, grilled, steamed, or fried, this vegetable can be prepared any way you like it! It works well as a side dish, and can be ground and mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, and herbs for a fresh take on tabbouleh. Cauliflower can be made into ‘rice’ when pulsed in a food processor or grated by hand, creating a dish that will bulk up any meal, but not your waistline. When steamed and mashed, cauliflower has a similar consistency to mashed potatoes, or can be mixed with equal parts potatoes for a milder, yet innovative take on a mainstay side.
But don’t be fooled: Cauliflower also has the power to stand alone. Pictures of whole-roasted heads are circulating on Pinterest, smothered in butter and garlic. An easy recipe for the novice cook to make at home, a whole head will take a mere 20 minutes to roast, and requires little prep work. On the flipside, chefs are plating up thick slices of cauliflower, grilled like a steak. A quick Google search for ‘cauliflower steak’ currently produces more than 5 million results. Those are pretty impressive stats for a concept that was relatively unheard of a year ago! At Superba Snack Bar in Los Angeles, chef Jason Neroni created his own take on the steak, carving the cauliflower head into T-bone-like thickness before caramelizing it and serving it alongside an almond hummus and olive and orange pistou. Trend forecasters are calling cauliflower the ‘new kale,’ but before long it could literally become the ‘new white meat,’ too!