Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that refuses to be cooked unobtrusively. But what else would you expect from a member of the cabbage family? Robust as it is, however, cauliflower must be treated with delicacy if it's to be eaten at its best. Once the creamy white head of cauliflower is cooked to the proper degree of tenderness, it should be served immediately or cooled down and chilled right away. The longer it sits, the grayer it becomes. Cauliflower, actually the flower of one type of cabbage, tastes as good raw as when it's cooked. Broken into crisp florets and mixed with other raw vegetables, it is a standing favorite with those who make an art of nibbling. When you're buying cauliflower, look for a firm head that has rich, green leaves. The white should be very white or slightly creamy and have no brown blemishes. You can break the head into florets before cooking it, or you can leave it whole, depending on how you want it to be served. In either case, cook it only until it is barely tender; when it's even slightly overcooked, it turns into a mushy blob. Delicious with simple seasonings such as butter and a touch of salt and pepper, cauliflower can also become an elegant side dish for a party when it's topped with a cheese sauce or spiced with Far Eastern flavors such as turmeric and cumin. For a delicious snack, serve the florets raw with your favorite dip; or dredge them in bread crumbs, deep-fry them and serve them hot. On the following page you'll find a number of suggestions for preparing this most glamorous member of the cabbage family.
1 head cauliflower, separated into florets1 red pepper1 stalk celery, slicedWater1 cup oil3/4 cup lemon juice1 clove garlic, crushed1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds8 mustard seeds1/2 bay leaf8 peppercornsSaltSugar, optional Cut any large florets into halves. Cut red pepper into -inch rings, discarding seeds and ribs. Cook cauliflower, pepper and celery in boiling water 5 minutes, then drain.
Combine 2 cups water, oil, lemon juice, garlic, fennel, mustard seeds, bay leaf and peppercorns in saucepan. Bring to boil. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Pour over vegetables in bowl. Cover and chill at least 24 hours. Serve as a relish, meat accompaniment or appetizer on lettuce or other greens. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1 medium head cauliflower, separated into floretsBoiling waterLemon juice2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil leavesChopped parsley, optional Place 1 inch boiling water in bottom of steamer. Add cup lemon juice and tarragon leaves to boiling water. Place cauliflower in top part of steamer and steam, covered, until tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain. Sprinkle lightly with additional lemon juice and parsley, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
FRENCH FRIED CAULIFLOWER
1 head cauliflower, separated into floretsBoiling salted waterBread crumbs1 egg1 tablespoon waterOilPaprika Cook cauliflower in boiling salted water until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, cool and pat dry with paper towels.
Dip cauliflower pieces into bread crumbs, then into egg beaten with water. Roll again in bread crumbs. Fry in oil heated to 375 degrees about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain florets on paper towels and sprinkle with paprika. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
CHILLED LEMONY CAULIFLOWER
1 medium head cauliflower, separated into floretsBoiling salted water1/3 cup oilGrated peel and juice of1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped green pepper2 tablespoons chopped pimiento1 small clove garlic, minced1/4 teaspoon crushed oregano leaves1/8 teaspoon black pepper Cook cauliflower in 1 inch boiling salted water until tender-crisp, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, combine oil, lemon peel and juice, green pepper, pimiento, garlic, oregano and pepper in bowl. Stir in cooked cauliflower. Chill, stirring occasionally. Makes 8 servings.