Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
No one is really certain of what Mark Twain meant when he stated the phrase above, but I’m certain that cauliflower is one of those vegetables that many people, including myself, have long underestimated. Often seen on vegetable-and-dip trays, their mild flavor is often passed over for more exciting options. Although cauliflower may not be the most beautiful vegetable to ever grace one’s table, it can be beautifully prepared. Also, it has many interesting health benefits that are worth noting. Very low in fat and cholesterol, cauliflower is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. And, like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower contains powerful cancer-fighting nutrients that have linked diets rich in cauliflower to lowered risks of cancer.
Most people associate cauliflower with its creamy white color, but colorful variations of cauliflower are plentiful—yellow, orange, green, and purple can often be found at farmers’ markets or specialty foods stores. Recently I came across lovely purple cauliflower, also known as Sicilian Violet, Violet Queen and Graffiti Cauliflower. It’s beautiful color is due to the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with my head of purple cauliflower—purée it into a soup? Shave it? Mash it up like potatoes? Form it into a pizza crust? I was happy to explore the options. Finally, I decided to roast it and prepare this pretty Sicilian salad. Its Italian name, Insalata del Rinforzo, indicates that it is quite energizing (rinforzo means “reinforcement,” as in nourishment). I was energized just by looking at the mélange of colors—deep purple, creamy winter whites, greens, and gold. Even Mr. World Citizen was impressed with the final presentation.
Sicilian Cauliflower Salad
Adapted from a recipe found in the Wall Street Journal
2 heads of cauliflower, one purple and one white
1 small bunch white or green asparagus, peeled and cut in thirds
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for dressing
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup raisins
white wine vinegar
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets with asparagus, olive oil, garlic and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread florets and asparagus across a baking sheet and roast until browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with white wine vinegar. Let sit 30 minutes. Rinse and drain capers and set aside. Meanwhile, spread almonds across a baking tray. Roast until aromatic and darker in color, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and roughly chop. Set aside. Strain raisins, reserving the vinegar.
To serve, arrange florets on a large serving platter. Garnish with raisins, capers, thinly sliced red onions and mint leaves. Drizzle salad with olive oil, a few drops of reserved raisin vinegar and fresh lemon juice. Season with and salt to taste.