You mean that white, knobby looking thing that mom made us eat? That steamed and flavorless thing that save for the ranch dressing would have been pushed off the plate?
Yup. The very same cauliflower is the newest darling of chefs from the East to West Coast. Roasted, grilled, charred, fried, smoked, or seared the cauliflower is the veg every chef wants a piece of. And while we’re on the subject, did you know, cauliflower is part of the Brassica oleracea species of plant? A close relative of cabbage, broccoli, kale, savoy and Brussels sprouts, the cauliflower is known as “wild cabbage” in its uncultivated form (it looks quite different too). It also comes in an array of different colors and there’s an absolutely stunning romanesco cauliflower, which if you find one, ought to be at the center of any table. High in nutrients, vitamin C and dietary fiber, this once unpopular vegetable is also gaining traction as a staple member of the paleo diet. As a most forgiving, flexible and affordable vegetable, it can be made in almost any manner imaginable. Just see how the chefs are cooking it up.
James Ta of Fickle which is located in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, serves his cauliflower charred and mixed with yesteryears hottest veg—Brussels sprouts. The charring of the cauliflower served along with the bitter and crispy leaves of the Brussels sprouts and an accompanying lemon aioli results in a medley of complex flavors that has people deeming the dish “as addictive as potato chips.”
Justin Schwartz of Mulberry and Vine in NYC, makes a roasted cauliflower with green sriracha that’s served cold and a hot Curried Freekeh of cauliflower, Mango and Cashews that has veg-heads banging down the doors. Freekeh or Freekah, in case you’re wondering, is an ancient Middle Eastern grain cereal made from green wheat and is regarded as a super-food by some.
Chef Jason Stoneburner of the aptly named Stoneburner in Seattle, Washington is known to make a mean cauliflower à la agnolotti. Delicate pillows of pasta are stuffed with caramelized cauliflower and tossed with peas and balsamic. Eaters say the dish makes one take notice of the creamy texture and distinctive flavor of the oft overlooked and even disdained vegetable.
Head south to Chef Kevin Naderi’s Roost in the town of Montrose and you’ll encounter an Asian-inspired cauliflower that’s roasted then fried. Miso broth coats each chunk of cauliflower with a rich and salty flavor and flakes of bonito lend a briny bite while green onion and pine nuts all to the overall zesty appeal of the dish. Even though the Roost menu is largely seasonal, the chef has kept Roasted Cauliflower on the list of offerings, for fear the locals might riot.
Chef Matthew Dolan of Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco has Yelp reviewers going nuts over his cauliflower crème brulee. So what does it taste like? Is it more sweet or savory? Alas, I wish I knew. We’ll just have to wait for the next S.F. excursion to find out.