Like beets and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower has often been written off as stodgy, bland and boring. While cauliflower is just as easy to make delicious as any other vegetable, it does need to be paired with aggressive flavors to shine. Think chiles, spices, mustard, ginger, garlic, capers and anchovies.
Here’s an easy, hands-on way to prepare a head of cauliflower. It requires just a few big cuts. Though broccoli’s a little softer, you can prep it in much the same way.
First, pull the leaves away from the head and toss them. Chop off the bottom of the core to just under the head of florets. Cut the core in half without cutting into the florets. Do the same with each half. Cut through the core and pull the two halves apart with your hands if you need to.
Next, slice the thickest part of the core away from each quarter. You can either discard the core and thicker stems, or slice them thin and cook them along with the florets. Like broccoli stems, cauliflower stems have a beautiful tender texture when cooked.
Now just pull the florets (of any size you like) apart with your hands. You may need to trim away some of the thicker stems with a pairing knife.
I pile the florets into a colander and rinse them well with cold water. You can wrap them in a kitchen towel and keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them, up to a few days depending on how fresh the cauliflower is.
I was down in North Carolina over the weekend and had a long talk with my mom and sister about unfashionable vegetables. They had seen TV chefs braising radishes and making delicious-looking cauliflower, and were curious to cook with them.
So for my brother-in-law’s birthday on Friday night, we braised radishes and parsnips with butter and parsley, and we tossed cauliflower with a bright mustard-tarragon vinaigrette (recipe). The spicy radishes and tangy cauliflower made a great contrast for a rich, deeply browned standing rib of beef.