Cauliflower’s mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a perfect partner for a range of other ingredients — bold spices, melted cheese and other wintry produce, to name a few. Its texture is just as adaptable, great for pureeing into soups or caramelizing in a hot pan. Here, we’ve rounded up our best tips for working with this versatile veggie, plus delicious ways to prepare it from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Cauliflower should have firm, tight heads without bruises or brown spots, with evenly colored ivory or cream florets. If any leaves remain, they should be green and fresh looking. Store cauliflower in a loose, perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or, you can freeze them; just blanch them first in lightly salted water for about 3 minutes, drain, and put them in containers or plastic bags in the freezer for up to 1 year. Once cooked, cauliflower keeps for only 1 or 2 days in the refrigerator.
Prep tips: Remove any leaves from the stem end of the head, separate the head into florets and rinse under cold running water. Trim off any brown spots. Cauliflower can be cooked whole as well and the florets separated after cooking. Adding a few drops of lemon juice or a little milk to the cooking water helps cauliflower retain its creamy white color.
Uses: Cauliflower can be roasted whole as a dramatic vegetarian main course. It’s delicious simmered and pureed into a soup, baked into a creamy gratin, or roasted with other vegetables as a simple side dish. It can also be tossed with pasta or cooked into a warm, aromatic curry and served over steamed rice.
Variations: A few varieties of cauliflower have a green or purple tinge, which is natural and doesn’t change the flavor. Use a range of hues to add visual interest to dishes. Light green romanesco is similar in appearance, but it has a firmer texture and a delicate, subtle flavor.
Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts: Toss purple, orange and white cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper; place on a baking sheet. Roast at 425°F, stirring once, until just tender and caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and lemon zest.
Spiced Romanesco Pasta with Capers: Saute diced onion and minced garlic in olive oil until softened. Add romanesco florets, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper; cook until romanesco is just tender and lightly browned. Sprinkle with capers. Toss with cook and drained penne pasta; top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Cauliflower Gratin: Steam cauliflower florets until just tender; drain well. Toss with bechamel sauce and shredded cheddar or Gruyere cheese. Transfer to a baking dish; sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 400°F until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Cauliflower Curry with Chickpeas and Potatoes: Saute diced onion in olive oil until softened. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, Madras curry powder and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant. Add cauliflower florets, drained canned chickpeas, diced red potato, canned diced tomatoes with juices and vegetable stock. Simmer until tender. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over steamed rice.
Cauliflower “Tabbouleh”: Pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until pieces resemble grains of rice. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in chopped parsley, diced cucumber and diced tomatoes. Whisk together minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over vegetable mixture and stir to combine.
Cauliflower Steaks: Stir together minced parsley, minced garlic and grated lemon zest. Cut cauliflower through stem end into planks 1/2 inch thick. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a nonstick pan, sear, turning once, until well browned. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 450°F until tender. Sprinkle with gremolata.