I’ve been leery of cauliflower for most of my life. Despite my early penchant for devouring white foods, there was just something about cauliflower that seemed a bit wrong. To me, it looked like albino broccoli and no matter how much cheese you added to a steaming plate of it (because growing up that was the only way it was served—smothered in cheddar cheese), it felt like an imposter, a genetic mistake that no amount of dairy could improve.
Then a few years ago, I dated a guy who was on a low-carb diet. And if you’ve ever spent time preparing low-carb menus you know that mashed cauliflower is a highly recommend substitute for the off-limit potatoes. I’d puree them with roasted garlic, fresh rosemary and a bit of butter, and if I closed my eyes I could pretend that they were almost as good as the real deal. But I always felt this seemed unfair to the cauliflower—making it work as something it wasn’t. Surely there had to be a way to eat this vegetable where its essential cauliflower-ness was retained and yet would still be satisfying.
Enter pan-roasted cauliflower. After tossing a couple of chopped heads with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and cooking it at a high heat in the oven for about half an hour, the cauliflower came out tender but with a bit of a snap, nicely caramelized in spots which added a sweet depth to the flavor. I was hooked. But I was still a bit put off by the color.
So imagine my surprise last Wednesday when I went to the farmers’ market and they had purple and orange cauliflower on display along with the usual white heads. I was struck by their beauty, but was even more impressed by the name for the orange: Cheddar cauliflower. A vegetable named after cheese? Now that’s something I can support! The farmer said they wouldn’t be in season very long, probably for just a few more weeks, so I grabbed one of each, brought them home, threw them in the fridge and then forgot about them.
Such is my life that from Wednesday onward, I’m working late hours at the office and too tired to come home and cook. But Sunday after having a marathon baking session (I was trying to find a perfect cookie recipe for my homemade banana pudding) I was in sugar shock. I needed something fresh, flavorful and healthy, yet a dish that would be a cinch to prepare as well. I peeked into my fridge and there in the back of the crisper drawer sat my two colorful cauliflower heads, forlorn and forgotten and quickly going bad. I then knew what I would have for dinner.
After doing a bit of research on the Internet, I learned that the purple cauliflower has a tendency to lose its vibrant color when cooked, sometimes turning completely gray-green. Well that’s no fun, I thought to myself—I wanted purple food! I did discover, however, citric acid or vinegar would keep the color intact, so after I tossed my florets with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, I also added some white wine vinegar to the mix.
Now before I continue, I just wanted to mention that Kalyn over at Kalyn’s Kitchen is celebrating the second anniversary of her food event—Weekend Herb Blogging. I’m a huge fan of Kalyn and her blog, and as I’m never one to miss a good party, I decided that this colorful cauliflower dish would be my offering to her big bash. But what herb should I include?
Last spring, I purchased many herb plants with high expectations. A few months have passed, and sadly I’ve had to say good-bye to a few due to the compromised conditions of apartment gardening. But fortunately, the purple sage, one of my favorites (OK, it’s really the favorite, but as with children I can’t say that out loud or the other plants will be upset. So let’s just keep that between ourselves, shall we? I’d hate for, say, my rosemary plant to get rebellious and stop growing!) has stayed lush and lovely, and provided me with a quick fix of fresh flavor whenever I needed it. Plus, the name matched my food theme for the evening. So I tossed the purple and orange florets with some purple sage, and it added a woodsy accent that’s perfect for autumn.
A note about purple sage, lest you think this post is a bit out of the ordinary for me. Did you know it’s the state shrub of Texas? In a large portion of the state it grows wild and is also often used in yards as bushes. Some people even call it Texas sage. Contrary to its name, however, the leaves of purple sage are not purple at all—instead they’re a silvery green, soft and velvety to the touch. But the stems are purple and the leaves when they first appear have a lavender hue as well. But it’s the bright purple flowers this perennial produces that give the herb its name. Mine hasn’t flowered yet, but I look forward to when it finally does.
So happy birthday to Kalyn’s creation: Weekend Herb Blogging—I hope you enjoy this roasted cauliflower and purple sage dish I’ve brought to the party. Matter of fact, I loved it so much I’m planning on preparing it at Thanksgiving as well. But you don’t need a special occasion to whip this up, as it’s quick and easy with a sweet and tangy reward. Not a fan of cauliflower? Don’t worry: I’ll soon be serving up some homemade banana pudding (but only if you at least try your vegetables first!)
Do you like cauliflower? How do you prepare it? And what dishes do you add a bit of sage—purple or otherwise?
2 heads cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch-sized florets
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
Preheat the oven to 425° F and line a large baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the chopped cauliflower with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and sage. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Spread the cauliflower evenly onto the baking sheet and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4 to 6 servings