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Chef Martin’s Vegetable of the Month: Cauliflower

A great thing about being a chef in Rancho Santa Fe is being close to Chino Farms, where I’ve shopped almost every day since 1985.  It’s been my routine to start my work day at the Chino Farms stand. This time of the year you will notice the beautifully arranged cauliflower heads glowing in four different colors: there are yellow – or what some call “golden cauliflower” – green cauliflower, purple cauliflower and of course the popular snow white variety. I’m routinely asked which I like the most and my boring answer is always, “Ah, they’re all delicious. I like them all.”

However, I must say that I don’t enjoy eating cauliflower raw, and in all my years growing up in my home country of Germany I never saw anyone eat raw cauliflower. I think it tastes so much better when steamed, and if not steamed it should be parboiled in lightly salted water. It can be enjoyed still warm in a light dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan, or it can be pan fried in bread crumbs after being coated with slightly whipped egg whites (for this, use clarified butter or canola oil). Cauliflower can also be served with homemade mayonnaise, capers, anchovies and hard boiled quail eggs or chopped hard boiled hen eggs – and don’t forget to garnish your dish with some green leaves of arugula, frisée or mizuna.

During a recent dinner I served a small “amuse” of purple cauliflower soup sprinkled with toasted almonds and a dash of sharp parmesan. It was a big hit! Yet, I still think my mother made the best cauliflower preparation (of course, who doesn’t think Mom was the best cook?). She would remove the leaves and cut it up in big bite size florets, boil them in just enough water to get them soft and remove them from the (now tasty) water. Then, she would add our cow’s fresh milk to the water and boil it, thickening it with a flour and butter paste. After boiling this cream sauce for about 10 minutes, the cauliflower would go back into the sauce, which would be seasoned with very little salt and a pinch of fresh ground nutmeg, this preparation is so easy and tastes so good…

And, just one more note about steaming or boiling multi-color cauliflower: Keep the purple cauliflower separate from the other colors. Like red beets, it will stain.

I’ll tell you about my current favorite vegetable next month, but in the meantime I suggest you take the time to cook your cauliflower. It really tastes so much better than raw!

Happy cooking,

Chef Martin

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