Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sometimes we all get bored with the everyday staples like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions and such; and it's nice that there's an alternative to spice up the dinner menu.

"Romanesco Cauliflower" aka "Romanesco Broccoli" or "Coral Broccoli" is one of the most unique, eye appealing and tastiest of the cauliflower and broccoli family and native to Italy. This variety is much more tender than its cousins and easy to overcook so you need to keep a close eye on it. Nice nutty flavor I think you'll enjoy and also very good served raw.

Varieties of colored cauliflower aka "Carnival Cauliflower" include purple, orange and green. These varieties and are NOT genetically modified.

A important side note... scientific studies prove with proper farm management, organic produce is safer than conventional when it comes to the "E. coli O157" bacteria. I recommend checking out the safety practices of your organic growers before eating their produce though. There is evidence some growers do not dry their manure for the recommended period which can have the opposite impact "E. coli O157" can survive in soil 1 - 6 months depending on the variety of vegetable. You know the old story of how a few can ruin it for the whole.

Purple cauliflower is very high in anti-oxidants (anthocyanin) and a healthy additon to any diet. This heirloom variety will turn whitish color if it's pan fried or boiled, better to serve it steamed or raw if you want to show off the beautiful color. It has a milder flavor than the white and is also more tender so be careful with your cooking time. I used to kid my staff and tell them it was a blend of cauliflower and beets and ask them if they could taste the beet flavor when they ate it LOL!

The orange variety is not only beautiful to look at it's very high in beta-carotene which causes the orange color and has 25 times more Vitamin A than the white variety. Discovered in a farmer's field of white cauliflower in Canada more than 30 years ago, this naturally occurring mutant variety has a mild delicious flavor similar to the white but is much more tender.

Green Cauliflower aka "Broccoflower" is actually very delicious though not very popular with the masses. I suppose it's because the retail is usually about twice that of the white variety and it reminds us of white cauliflower and green broccoli. Yes, this variety is a cross of broccoli and cauliflower but NOT genetically modified . The term "Broccoflower" was coined by California growers Tanimura & Antle to market this crop more effectively.

When buying any type of cauliflower you should look for the following traits:

The heads should be firm and the leaves surrounding the head crisp not limp or yellow. The vegetable itself should be hard and firm when you press your thumb against the head. Softness is a sign of age. Check the center of the butt for slime and brown decay. The closed buds of the flowers should be tight, compact and no brown or black spots should be visible. The best test of all is to smell it, bad or old product will have a bad and stale aroma. Organic cauliflower and broccoli... pests love to hide in the heads so always thoroughly wash and clean. Cauliflower is best stored in your refrigerator.


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