Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Starting to think about your Thanksgiving menu? Now’s the time to stroll the Culver City Farmers Markets and see what’s at its peak of flavor and nutrition.
I saw some very cute looking organic cauliflower at the Finley Farm stand at the Tuesday market the other week. While we have become accustomed to seeing it available year round, cauliflower is naturally a cool-weather vegetable, and is at its peak during the fall and winter.
As a kid, I needed to be coaxed to eat my cauliflower. Far too often it was served slightly overcooked covered with cheese sauce. Cooked properly, however, cauliflower does not have to be disguised by melted cheese, milk and butter. The cauliflower I bought was perfect for roasting, a technique which enhances the vegetable’s natural flavor and adds a note of sweetness and sophistication.
Cauliflower is naturally low in fat – especially if it is not drenched in cheese sauce. It is also high in dietary fiber, folate and vitamin C. Cauliflower is related to other cruciferous vegetables in the brassica family, including broccoli and cabbage. Like them, it contains phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health. The beneficial anticancer compound sulforaphane and other nutrients can be leached out if the cauliflower is cooked in boiling water. Boiling it until it is al dente will reduce the level of anti-cancer compounds by approximately 30 percent. Thirty minutes of boiling, however, causes 75 percent of the healthy phytochemicals to be leached out. Thankfully, steaming, microwaving, roasting and stir-frying help retain cauliflower’s healthy compounds.
I’ve seen elegant presentations of cauliflower at holiday meals. The simplest one is also the most stunning, in my humble opinion. A large head of cauliflower is steamed whole, with leaves removed and most of the core scooped out to help all parts to cook evenly. It is plated alone, with decorative garnishes, and passed around the table for all to enjoy. My friend Laurie, who is vigilant about her carbohydrate count even at celebrations, will serve cauliflower mashed potatoes instead of real mashed potatoes. She swears it tastes just as good as traditional mashed potatoes.
I found the following “mashed potato” recipe at the website. Two cauliflower soup recipes follow, in case you like your cauliflower pureed and served hot or cold.
Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”
1 head cauliflower
1 clove garlic (optional)
1/8 cup skim milk, plain yogurt, or good butter
Salt & pepper

Steam cauliflower (optionally with a clove of garlic) until tender. Cut the cauliflower into pieces and place in a blender with the milk, yogurt or butter. Season with salt and pepper and whip until smooth. Alternatively, continue steaming in pot until the water has evaporated and it is slightly brown on the bottom. Mash with a potato masher. Season to taste. Pour whipped or mashed cauliflower into small oiled baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until it is bubbly. If you care to, garnish with paprika, parmesan cheese or an additional sprinkling of powdered garlic before baking.

I have always enjoyed cauliflower soup. With the inconsistent weather we have been having, I thought I’d post a recipe for a hot cauliflower soup and a chilled one to cover all potentialities.

Cauliflower Vicchyssoise
2 T butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
6 c water
1/3 c Greek-style plain yogurt
2 T cucumber, diced very fine
2 T green onions, finely chopped, green ends only
1 small shallot, diced very fine
1 T rice or white balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the leeks. Cook over low heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Do not brown. Add the cauliflower and the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the cauliflower is soft, about 25 minutes. Add the yogurt, stir well, then remove from heat. Puree until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then chill until very cold (allow around 8 hours for this). Just before you serve the soup combine the cucumber, green onions, shallot, vinegar, and olive oil in a small bowl. Ladle out a bowl of soup and top with a little of the cucumber/shallot mixture on top and serve. (Adapted from Jonathan Miller’s recipe in Two Small Farms newsletter.)

Simple Cauliflower Soup
(serves 4 to 6)

1 cauliflower, leaves trimmed, broken into flowerettes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T. unsalted butter
chicken or vegetable broth/stock
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in saucepan. Add chopped onion, cook over slow heat until onion starts to soften. Add cauliflower pieces. Add enough chicken broth or vegetable broth or stock to cover pieces. Cover and bring to boil. Cook over medium heat until cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Puree. Season to taste. Serve hot. (Adapted from Two Small Farms newsletter.

Culver City Farmers Markets are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Tuesday market is held on Main Street between Venice and Culver Blvds. From 2 to 7 pm. The Culver South market is held from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Hannum and Slauson, in the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot. Entertainment for children and wonderful coffee are available.

Katie Malich also enjoys her cauliflower in an Indian curry as well as in pureed soup.

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