Cooking with Carmelo featuring Cauliflower

Simple, Healthy, Delicious

Cooking with Carmelo featuring Cauliflower

There are so many ways to use cauliflower as a super healthy way to put vegetables into your diet and use them as healthy energy carbs. Here are a few recipes and preparation tips that keep it simple and provide suggestions for preparing the vegetable ahead of time.

Cooking & Preparation Tips

  • Preparing cauliflower at the beginning of the week makes it easy to incorporate the vegetable to many baked or cooked dishes. To do so, simply break the heads, or curds, into florets and add to boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and cool, then refrigerate and use as directed in other recipes.
  • Roasting cauliflower with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is a great way to add a depth of flavor to any dish that calls for the vegetable. Roasted cauliflower makes the soup puree, for example, so much better. However, roasting does add in another step, so if you’re pressed for time and want a healthy pureed soup, eliminate the roasting. To roast, simply place cauliflower florets on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and mix gently to coat. Roast in a 500F oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Waste not, want not: Cauliflower’s core, just like a broccoli stalk, can be cooked along with the florets. Just remember to peel off the tough outer layer with a knife, then slice the stem into bite-sized pieces.
  • Also, if you’re so inclined, you can use the green cauliflower leaves in soups or other dishes that call for leafy greens. My grandmother would cook the cauliflower greens to take full advantage of the nutrients, and to keep her budget in check.

Romanesco with Green Olives and Capers

This dish is good hot or at room temperature, as a side or as part of an antipasto platter. Adapted from The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium heads Romanesco (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup cured green olives, pitted
  • 2 TBL capers, drained
  • 4 TBL fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled

Directions: Cut Romanesco into small florets and soak in ice water to cover for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop together the olives, capers, 3 TBL of the parsley, and the lemon zest. In a small pot, heat the oil and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat until hot. Remove from the heat and stir in the olive mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the lemon juice. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain Romanesco, drop it into the boiling water with the garlic cloves, and cook the florets until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well. Chop the cooked garlic with the remaining 1 TBL of parsley, place in a large bowl, add the florets and olive-caper dressing, and toss well. Taste and adjust with salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. If serving at room temperature, adjust seasoning again before serving.

Sicilian-Style Cauliflower with Whole Wheat Pasta

My favorite way to incorporate cauliflower into a meal is based on a simple Sicilian pasta & cauliflower dish – it takes me back to family gatherings as a child. I also use this cauliflower preparation with a brown/wild rice mixture or Farro, a super whole grain with a firm texture and nutty taste that pairs nicely with cauliflower. This is a healthy staple dish that gets better and better.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower**
  • ½ lb of shell or penne pasta (or whichever cut you prefer), whole wheat if possible (I use half the amount of pasta that would normally be used)
  • ¼ c Sigona Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil (*see note)
  • ¼ c grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese,
  • 2 TBL flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets, optional (this really adds to the Sicilian flair)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Red pepper flakes

Directions:

Wash and break up cauliflower. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add in cauliflower to cook for about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower while it’s still firm or al dente (you don’t want it to get mushy at this point) and set aside. Reserve the cooking water for boiling pasta.

**Remember, you can prepare cauliflower to this point and refrigerate for the rest of the week to use in other recipes. If you have room, you can always prepare two heads of cauliflower, using one for this recipe, and reserving the other in the fridge.

Begin to boil pasta in the same water, following directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, to desired spicy-ness. Add anchovies, if desired (this is part of the Sicilian touch), and stir until they melt into the oil.

Next, you’ll want to crush your cauliflower into little tiny bits. I find it’s easiest to wrap the florets in a kitchen towel — to keep the cauliflower bits from flying — place it on a cutting board and then mash them with a tenderizing mallet.

After all the cauliflower is crushed into tiny little bits, stir into the olive oil mixture and cook for a for several minutes.

When pasta is done and drained, add it to the cauliflower mixture, along with half of the parsley and half of the cheese. Add salt to taste and mix well.

Pour mixture into a platter top with remainder of he cheese and garnish with parsley.

Cook’s Notes:

  • I use the same cauliflower mixture without the cheese when using a different whole grain other than pasta, such as a brown/wild rice mixture or Farro.
  • *One thing that really is important to the flavor of this dish is the olive oil. A great tasting, fresh press oil give this full flavor. We have just-pressed Sicilian oils in store now, including, Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice varieties. Either oil would be a wonderful choice.

Cauliflower Mash

The recipe below is another simple way I use cauliflower in a way that’s quick, healthy and easy. These are a must during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter for our family. Occasionally I’ll use the colored cauliflowers in the same way to mix it up.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • Paprika

Directions:

Break up cauliflower into florets and place in a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes (when you can easily prick them with a fork).

**Remember, you can prepare cauliflower to this point and refrigerate for the rest of the week to use in other recipes. If you have room, you can always prepare two heads of cauliflower, using one for this recipe, and reserving the other in the fridge.

Drain cauliflower and place in a large mixing bowl. Pour in milk and, using a hand mixer or potato masher, whip or mash potatoes until smooth. Add salt & pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into an appropriately sized baking dish (small to medium), smooth the top and sprinkle with paprika. Reheat in the oven or microwave until warm throughout.

Cook’s Note: To add extra flavor, you can add a bit of butter and/or evaporated milk.

Creamy Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo

I love that this recipe makes for a creamy Alfredo-like sauce without using a heavy cream and added calories. It’s the cooked and pureed cauliflower that provides a similar creaminess to the dish. I make a dish similar to this at home, but have adapted the following recipe from Food Network as I often “shoot from the hip” with this recipe every time I make it.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. whole grain fettuccine pasta
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets, about 8 oz.
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled and/or thawed, (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 TBL butter
  • 1 TBL chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Directions

1. Put the cauliflower, broth, and 1 cup water in a small pot; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is very soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool 5 minutes. Carefully puree cauliflower and all the liquid in a blender until very smooth; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower puree and evaporated milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas until heated through, 2 minutes. Toss in the cooked pasta, Parmesan cheese and about 1/2 cup of pasta water until the noodles are coated but the sauce is still loose. Remove from the heat and toss in the butter, chopped parsley and lemon zest. (If the sauce seems thick, adjust the consistency with the remaining pasta water). Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Cauliflower Soup

Don’t limit yourself to only using white cauliflower in dishes — this soup would be lovely using green or any other of the cauliflower colors available. Adapted from a recipe by Yael Nissan on AllRecipes.com, it’s noted that the thickness of the soup is determined by the proportions of cauliflower to water as sizes of cauliflower vary so add more water if the soup seems too thick. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 TBL Sigona’s Fresh Press extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped (any color you prefer, such as green)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cubed
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion, white and light green parts only, about 2-3 stalks
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

1. In a large pot heat olive oil (or butter) over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add in nutmeg, pepper and salt and cook 30 seconds more. Pour in the water and then add the cauliflower. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

2. Place the cubed carrot in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover the carrots. Bring to a low boil and cook until just tender. Drain and set aside.

3. Puree cauliflower soup in a blender, a food processor or with an immersion blender. Stir in reserved carrots, green onion and parsley. Add more water if it’s too thick. Serve warm.

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