Riced, kung pao spiced, stuffed in a pita — we’ve asked so much of this cruciferous vegetable.
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By Tanya Sichynsky
On a résumé, in an airport or on a date, it’s a dangerous game trying to be someone you’re not. It’s always a safer bet to be yourself. That is, unless you are a head of cauliflower.
This cruciferous vegetable is the ultimate master of disguise. Enterprising cooks with a lot of patience, and little to lose, have dared to transform it into foods like gnocchi and pizza crust. And, when done right, cauliflower can effectively stand in for starchy sides like mashed potatoes or rice.
For instance, the key to silky puréed cauliflower is to gently simmer the florets in garlic- and herb-infused milk, rather than steam them with water as you would a potato. The florets will become soft enough to pummel with a potato masher, but you’ll want to break out an immersion blender for perfectly whipped results.
While riced cauliflower can be eaten uncooked, it’s much tastier after it’s been tossed with a little olive oil and roasted, spread out on a sheet pan, for 15 to 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Like most everything, it’s even better with a sauce: Ali Slagle’s recipe for cauliflower rice includes steps for making a ginger-garlic sauce, a tahini-Parmesan sauce and a Thai-style sauce.
But cauliflower is at its best when it steps into roles usually reserved for well-spiced chicken. In dishes like Hetty McKinnon’s vegan kung pao cauliflower, the vegetable’s edges frizzle and char, and the florets soak up the sweet-spicy sauce. In trying to be something it is not, cauliflower becomes an even better secret third thing.
The same can be said for Melissa Clark’s five-star cauliflower shawarma with spicy tahini, another vegan banger. The classic blend of cumin, paprika, coriander and turmeric that usually adorns spit-roasted meats works exceptionally well on tender florets for the ultimate pita filling.
And then there are the traditionally meat-based dishes that aren’t even about the meat. Anything is delicious in a luscious sea of buttery hot sauce and three cheeses. That may be why Ali Slagle’s Buffalo cauliflower dip beat out chicken-based versions in the hearts of several commenters on the recipe.
Cauliflower’s résumé may be long and unwieldy, but a ruse it is not!
Kung Pao Cauliflower
View this recipe.
Cauliflower Shawarma With Spicy Tahini
View this recipe.
Buffalo Cauliflower Dip
View this recipe.
One More Thing!
Often, spring cleaning also means spring restocking. As I’ve been slowly ridding my kitchen of past-their-prime wooden spoons and useless, impulse-purchased “aesthetic” cookware, I finally have room to pick up a few new items. I’m in the market for new sheet pans (quarter sheet pans especially) and a two-burner griddle for optimal tortilla toasting, and you can bet your Bundt pan I’m heading to a restaurant supply store for all of it.
My colleague Christina Morales recently reported on the growing popularity of restaurant supply stores among home cooks, as inflation-weary consumers hunt for bargains. As part of her reporting, she teamed up with Lesley Stockton from Wirecutter to create a helpful list of what to buy (and what to avoid).
If you’re considering a trip to one of these warehouses, keep in mind that supply stores are ideal for items where the brand is really of no consequence. Grab your cooling racks, whisks, commercial dry storage containers and, yes, sheet pans here.
Happy bargain hunting, and see you next week!
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