It’s cauliflower — and the cruciferous vegetable is more popular than ever.
“You’re going to see it done a million ways — especially now in the colder months,” says Ryan Ratino, the chef de cuisine at Masa 14.
For years, the white florets were relegated to steamer bags in the frozen food aisle. Now, cauliflower is popping up on restaurant menus across the country, and home cooks are subbing it in for everything from pasta to pizza crust.
At Rose’s Luxury, Chef Aaron Silverman serves his hand-cut chitarra pasta with caramelized cauliflower and white wine soffritto. Across town, Brad Deboy of Blue Duck Tavern fries it up and serves the crispy florets with vadouvan and caper raisin vinaigrette.
Baseball fans can even grab a bite of cauliflower while catching a game at Nationals Park with Mike Isabella’s roasted cauliflower sandwich at G’s stadium stand.
In the D.C. area, cauliflower comes into season in the early fall months and hangs around through January, making it a common ingredient in cold-weather dishes. And it’s especially appealing to those who want a taste of classic comfort foods without all the guilt.
Cauliflower is low in calories and packed with vitamin C, potassium, fiber and folic acid, but mashed and combined with olive oil, it tastes similar to a pile of mashed potatoes. Chopped and baked with cheddar, it passes for a rich and creamy spin on macaroni and cheese.
Grated cauliflower can even be baked and used in place of a traditional pizza crust.
“Everyone’s trying to put a spin on it,” says Masa 14’s Ratino.
At the 14th Street restaurant, Ratino brines cauliflower in a saltwater solution, dries it and roasts it in the oven. Once it’s nice and tender, he throws it in a hot wok and adds in some chili, caramelized shallots and ginger. He says this method is simple to recreate at home: If you don’t have a wok, just finish off the cauliflower in a hot saute pan.
Lambert says an easy way to incorporate cauliflower into your next weeknight dinner is to throw it into a soup. Start by softening some onion and garlic in a Dutch oven or stockpot. Next, add in cauliflower florets, along with salt and pepper and combine it with vegetable or chicken stock. Purée the ingredients with an immersion blender and finish it off with a bit of dairy, Lambert suggests.
Want to give cauliflower a try? Click through the recipes in the gallery to the right and find a dish that hits your cravings, or click on one of the tweets below.