Thanks to several weeks of mandated “stay-at-home” here in Colorado, my wife and I limit our trips to the grocery store to every ten days or so. In turn, we’re digging deeper into our freezer, discovering a rather exotic world of forgotten foods. We found a box of gourmet croissants the other day that hadn’t quite earned their expiration date (score!) We also found ingredients to a “healthy” dog food recipe, which will probably never become dog food. But mostly we’re unearthing frozen vegetables; the ones passed over for months (years?) in favor of peas and carrots. And now that we’re out of peas and carrots? Suddenly we’re eating more cauliflower. Cauliflower?
Here’s my earliest
nightmare memory of cauliflower; maybe yours too. 1) steam the florets fresh in a big pot. 2) sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top. 3) call it good. News flash: cauliflower isn’t good that way – not at all. It’s just colorless and tasteless, and I remember thinking what in God’s name am I eating here – tree roots? In my childhood evaluation, cauliflower rated below spinach and broccoli. Miles below peas and carrots.
Today’s cauliflower is a whole different animal (er, vegetable). It’s being described as “the new kale”. You see, someone discovered how to “rice” cauliflower a few years ago and suddenly it’s a trendsetting side dish. Someone else discovered how to make crust out of cauliflower and suddenly it’s an option for pizzas. Cauliflower’s popularity surge is probably because of what it doesn’t offer. 85% fewer calories than white rice. 23 times fewer carbohydrates than a wheat pizza crust. There’s even a vegan form of Gruyère cheese out there, with cauliflower as the main ingredient. Keto and Paleo fans are flocking to this great imposter.
The data backs up the newfound power in the flower. Sales of cauliflower are up 40% in the last four years. We’re now buying less cabbage and garlic than cauliflower (in my case, way-y-y-y less cabbage). Cauliflower’s green leaves are the latest addition to salad bars. Aldi, the German company with a delicious cheesy-cauliflower rice (more cheese, less flower), claims it’s now its top-selling product. Aldi capitalizes on this volley of cauli with other products, like tortilla chips and gnocchi. Tortilla chips made out of cauliflower? Now that’s just wrong, people.
Cauliflower falls under the same veggie species as the Brussel sprout (as well as broccoli, cabbage, and kale), and I think those little green buds deserve a debt of gratitude. Brussel sprouts may be the original edgy veggie. Back in the day, Mom prepared them the same way as cauliflower (and the same way she prepared every other legume in the world) – steamed with a sprinkle of canned cheese. They were awful. But years later we have sliced and diced Brussel sprouts buried within liberal helpings of grilled bacon and onions. Genius. It’s like you’re only eating bacon and onions, with a slight aftertaste of Brussel sprouts.
Taken the same way, cauliflower now lands on my “consumables” list. I prefer the riced version with cheese (cheese makes everything better). The hybrid pizza crusts aren’t too bad, like cauliflower with cornmeal. Maybe I’ll even give the vegan Gruyère a try. In other words, as long as cauliflower is an ingredient – not the whole enchilada – I’ll bite.
Kale may now be passé, with white becoming the new green (although cauliflower also comes in orange, green, and purple). Take your pick: roasted, grilled, fried, steamed (aka boring), pickled, or raw. Plant cauliflower seeds in your garden and you’ll have full heads in 30 days or less. With all this demand for stand-in veggies, your next bite may beg the question, “is it flour or is it flower“?