A season for everything, including cauliflower

Margaret
Margaret Prouse
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Remember when we were waiting for the first garden crops of the season? In our garden, that meant rhubarb and asparagus, and I couldn’t wait for them to offer themselves up for dinner.

It wasn’t that long ago.

It was exciting to see each new crop appear in the garden, or if not there, at the vegetable warehouse, the Farmers’ Market or the grocery store.

The pleasure of dining on fresh local strawberries, radishes and Asian greens gave way to the enjoyment of versatile green and yellow beans, until many of them became too mature to eat fresh. Then came the time of the summer squash, including the champion of all summer squash, the zucchini. My nephew expressed what I think many people feel as they do their best to use up the abundant zucchini harvest, when he told me that he was convinced that, at one point a few weeks ago, about 80 per cent of his body was composed entirely of zucchini.

It feels to me as if summer came and went at breakneck speed, and now my husband is hurrying to pick the ripe tomatoes before the squirrels get them, and we are waiting for the butternut squash to mature. Crisp little carrots, juicy ripe tomatoes, early new potatoes, smooth young beets, mild summer turnips, sweet wild blueberries all vie for attention. We have gone from a time, not yet four months ago, when we could easily keep track of how many tips of asparagus had broken through the cool soil on their slow journey to our dinner table to the current spell of luxurious abundance.

Cauliflower, fresh from Island fields, is one of the local foods that I have been enjoying during these late summer days. While in previous years I’d served it boiled, either with a little butter, or, more often, topped with cheddar cheese sauce, this year I have been enjoying the flavour and texture of cauliflower that has been roasted in a hot oven. Unlike boiling, which softens the texture of cauliflower, often too much, roasting makes cauliflower tender while still maintaining some body.

In the following recipe, a sauce drizzled over the cauliflower florets midway through the roasting time adds lemony accents that harmonize with the mild flavour of the vegetable. When I found myself without a working oven one day, I also learned that cauliflower florets, boiled briefly until crisp-tender, make a nice salad when tossed with a dressing flavoured with lemon and mustard.

A few halved cherry tomatoes are a good addition to this impromptu salad, as well.

Cauliflower with

Mustard-Lemon Butter

Adapted from Fairchild, Barbara: “The Bon Appétit  Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook,” John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2008.

1 small head cauliflower, about 800 g (1¾ lb)

2 mL (½ tsp) coarse kosher salt

25 mL (2 tbsp) butter

15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil

30 mL (2 tbsp) whole grain Dijon mustard

30 mL (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

7 mL (1½ tsp) finely grated lemon peel

15 mL (1 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Butter rimmed baking sheet. Cut cauliflower in half, then cut crosswise into 6 mm (1/4-inch) slices. Arrange slices in single layer on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle with coarse salt. Roast until cauliflower is slightly softened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and lemon peel.

Spoon mustard-lemon butter evenly over cauliflower and roast until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes longer.

This can be made two hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. If desired, rewarm in 180 C (350 F) oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Transfer cauliflower to platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Cauliflower takes well, also, to Indian spices, as in this quick-to-prepare, tasty dish. Note that the spices are cooked in oil with the garlic and onion before the cauliflower is added, allowing the flavours to develop and combine.

Depending on the size of “medium” cauliflower, this recipe could produce more than 4 servings.

Cauliflower Bhaji

Adapted from Mazurek, Crystle: “The Curry Original Cookbook”. General Store Publishing House, Renfrew ON, 2011.

10 mL (2 tsp) vegetable oil

5 mL (1 tsp) minced garlic

1/2 large onion, chopped

2 mL (1/2 tsp) salt

2 mL (1/2 tsp) turmeric

2 mL (1/2 tsp) ground cumin

dash cayenne pepper

2 mL (1/2 tsp) dried fenugreek leaves

1 medium cauliflower, chopped

1/2 green pepper, roughly chopped

½ tomato, roughly chopped

10 mL (2 tsp) minced fresh cilantro

125 mL (1/2 cup) water, optional

Heat oil in fry pan. Add garlic, onion, salt, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper and fenugreek leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add cauliflower. Continue to simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is cooked.

Add green pepper, tomato and fresh cilantro.

Cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes. If too dry, add water.

Remove from heat and garnish with a few extra leaves of cilantro.

Makes 4 servings.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at margaret@islandgusto.com.

Organizations: John Wiley Sons, Store Publishing House

Geographic location: Iceland, Hoboken, New Jersey, North Wiltshire

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