Fresh and in season: Cauliflower

Mashed, topped with butter, or plain, cauliflower is a favorite vegetable for many. This nutty tasting vegetable is common year round, but is most fresh and plentiful from October through April; making it the perfect veggie for meal planning in the winter months.

Cauliflower is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. It differs from other veggies, in that it lacks green chlorophyll because the leaves of the plant shield the florets from the sun.

Many people believe that only vegetables with a deep green or bright red color provide vital vitamins and nutrients. However, even in its pure white form, cauliflower is considered a powerful 'super food'. Providing vitamins C and K, as well as manganese, and beta carotene; cauliflower provides cardiovascular support, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory benefits, supports a healthy digestive system, and is a helpful detox food.

When purchasing cauliflower, look for a clean compact curd with tight bud clusters that are creamy white in color. Cauliflower heads that are surrounded by thick green leaves will be fresher and better quality. Raw cauliflower should be stored in a plastic bag, stem side down, in the refrigerator. If properly stored, cauliflower will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator or can be blanched and then frozen for up to a year.

Cauliflower can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and can be eaten raw or cooked. While the florets are the most popular part of the cauliflower to be consumed, the stem and leaves are also edible and make great additions to soups and stocks. To cut cauliflower, remove the outer leaves and then slice the florets at the base where they meet the stalk. You can then chop the florets into more uniform bite size pieces. Because of cauliflower's natural nutty flavor it pairs well with cheese, broccoli, carrot, mustard, cream, coriander and cumin.

Steamed cauliflower can be pureed into a nice fluffy mixture that adds extra texture and flavor to everything from mashed potatoes to risotto! Try the recipe below for a nice creamy cauliflower risotto!

Cauliflower Risotto

Prep time: 20 minutes.Cook time: 25 minutes. Serves 6.

7 cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cup Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1 (16.0 ounce package) frozen cauliflower or 1 head of fresh cauliflower (cored and cut into florets)

1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and ground pepper

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Place cauliflower in large bowl. Add 1⁄2 cup broth. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until softened. Let cooked cauliflower cool and place in blender or food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down side as needed (add more broth for a thinner consistency, if desired). Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add rice and garlic. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes.

Add 1⁄2 cup broth to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat, gradually adding broth 1⁄2 cup at a time and stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy (you may not need all the broth), 20 to 25 minutes. Add cauliflower puree and thyme and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.

• Chef Heather attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother's kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site


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