But color isn’t the only thing that differentiates cauliflower varieties. The vegetable can also be classified according to geographic origin. There’s Italian, Northern European, Northwest European and Asian cauliflowers.
Then, there’s the Romanesco which is sold either as Romanesco cauliflower or Romanesco broccoli, but which is neither real cauliflower nor real broccoli. Rather, it is a flower bud of Brassica oleracea to which both cauliflower and broccoli belong.
But this isn’t a blog about horticulcture so I’ll leave the nitty gritty to the experts. Here at home, we have access to white cauliflower and that’s the only kind we’ve ever cooked with. I saw Romanesco in a high end grocery once and although it was tempting to try it (I’ve heard that the taste is part-cauliflower and part-broccoli), the price tag made me turn away.
So, white cauliflower. First, a tip for buying. Choose a head that is firm with no dark and soft spots. The leaves should be bright and crisp with no frayed edges. Dark and soft spots, and frayed edges of leaves are all signs of a cauliflower that is way past its prime. Most likely, it had been sitting on the grocery shelf for several days.
How do we prep and cook it at home? Cauliflower is almost always sold as a whole “head” wrapped in leaves. You’ll rarely find a recipe that includes the leaves and thick stalks but, like broccoli, cauliflower stalks and leaves are edible too.
The most common way to prep a cauliflower is to first peel off the leaves. The “head” is cut into halves, the core is removed and the remainder of the head is cut into florets.
Cauliflower florets can be steamed, roasted, grilled, stir fried, boiled… Because it is low-calorie and also gluten-free, it has become so popular in the 21st century as cooks find so many ways to cook it and, often, turn it into a substitute for meat and even rice.
It’s the age of cauliflower. It’s low carb and low fat, so it’s the darling of dieters. But we’re not dieters here at home. We love cauliflower because of its texture and its versatility. There are just so many ways to cook it.