Supermarket Score is all about taking a look at the great deals and delicious meals that are hidden in lesser-known – yet commonly found – supermarket staples.
OK, I know what you’re thinking: “he’s supposed to be helping me out with lesser-known grocery store items. I buy cauliflower all the time!”. And you make a fair point. But I’m taking the chance this week to taste my way through a “Supermarket Score” that always gets one-trick-pony status.
When I was growing up, cauliflower only ever made it onto my mom’s table as a raw chunk of white vegetable abandoned on a crudite platter like the last kid picked for dodgeball. While a great cook in many other regards, the cauliflower was just something that she never mastered. It was an after-thought; bought exclusively for its color diversity and left to play second fiddle to high-flavor contenders like tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Such was my relationship with cauliflower for many years. It just never made it onto my radar. So imagine my surprise when my husband and I started dating and he’d request cauliflower for dinner. Frequently, no less! There’s only so many bags of steamed “brocco-flower” vegetable medley one guy can handle before it’s time for some diversity. It was in that moment of need that cauliflower’s true powers showed themselves to me, and here I am today to share them with you.
From off of the party platter and into the light, cauliflower is a vegetable I’ve come to truly enjoy for its versatility, mild flavor, and – well, frankly, I just don’t think people expect to see it used that often. The element of surprise is always a great reaction. Turn your refrigerator’s forgotten head of cauliflower from “boring” to “scoring!” with these simple (and summer-friendly!) ideas.
TUSCAN-STYLE CAULIFLOWER SALAD
Sure we all love a good greens salad to round out the meal. But try switching up your routine with a crunchy and satisfying raw vegetable salad based with cauliflower (which, as an aside, travels flawlessly to a Labor Day BBQ). A perfect complement to the flavors of almost any meal, the secret here is to slice your vegetables very thin. If you’re adept with a mandolin, I say use that, but know that a few good slices with a chef’s knife work just as well. Take whatever assortment of vegetables you like (I add in red onion, bell pepper, and kale) and season them up with a few hearty splashes of EVOO and red wine vinegar. A few minutes of marinating later and you’ve got yourself an Instant side dish, no oven required.
RESTAURANT-QUALITY CAULIFLOWER PUREE
I’ve actually got to attribute this one to my father-in-law, as it’s totally up his alley of delicious, restaurant-quality cooking. Each holiday season he manages to somehow transform mundane vegetables into amazing roasts, mashes, or – in this case – purees. High-class enough for a 5-star restaurant but simple enough for everyday, shake up your ordinary mashed potatoes with a half-and-half blend of spuds and cauliflower. (This tip, by the way, is a great use for that bit of cauliflower that has spent a little too much time in refrigerator and is starting to soften up a bit) Boil and puree it all up in a food processor with a little milk or stock and your side dish just kept all the delicious creaminess of mashed potatoes while ditching half of the starch for a hearty boost of fiber.
CAULI CAULI CHOW CHOW
If you’ve been cooking along with Rach at home, you know that she loves Chow Chow – and why wouldn’t you!? This simple, tangy slaw is a great swap-out for standard relish and beautifully balances a delicious summer platter of grilled chicken and sausages. Just take a few knobs of cauliflower to the large holes of a box grater and shred it up. Toss that with some store-bought dill pickle relish and chopped up banana peppers. Adjust the wetness to where you like it with a few splashes of EVOO and vinegar, give it a 10 minute rest to marinate, and you’re good to go! Kids will love it on their hot dogs as much as dad will be piling it on his grilled steak.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has. Probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team on Rachael’s daytime talk show, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day, and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest twEATs on Twitter at@patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.