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Have you noticed how popular cauliflower has become? For a while, whole roasted cauliflower or thick slabs of sliced and grilled cauliflower were all the rage on restaurant menus but now we’re also seeing cauliflower used as a substitute for rice, pasta and even couscous.

Vegetarians and vegans love it, of course, but so do people avoiding gluten or following a paleo or Atkins diet.

Cauliflower does have an appealing nutritional profile. It is very low in calories, high in fiber and contains substantial amounts of both vitamin C and folic acid. Most people enjoy it lightly cooked but there is no reason not to nibble it raw, if you like it. Unlike certain foods — mushrooms and spinach, to name two — its nutrients do not need cooking to be available to us.

If you have a highly sensitive palate, you cannot simply substitute cauliflower for a carbohydrate without making other adjustments, as its flavor can be quite aggressive, especially if it is cooked too long. Cauliflower is best with strong flavors that match its boldness. Mustard, anchovies, olives, hot chiles, brined green peppercorns, and red wine vinegar all pair well with this brassica.

Roasting, grilling and sautéing tame cauliflower’s flavors and intensify its rich texture; all three techniques produce better results than steaming or boiling, which can make its slightly sulphuric qualities blossom.

You can enjoy cauliflower as a simple side dish or even a main course, especially if you pair it with a flavorful sauce. It is delicious with mustard vinaigrette, anchovy vinaigrette, Italian style salsa verde, chermoula, chimichurri and your favorite olive tapenade.

A classic dish from the 1950s, boiled cauliflower in cream sauce, is not the best way to serve it, especially to anyone wary of it. This dish ruined it for a lot of kids raised in the 50s and 60s, some of whom are just now beginning to warm to cauliflower. The memory of both the smell and taste and, to some, the feel of a metal spoon trying to pry our little mouths open, is a hurdle many of us can’t clear. But, honestly, these recipes are safe, even if you hated cauliflower as a child.


Here’s an easy pasta dish for a busy weeknight. If you have leftovers, be sure to let them come up to room temperature before serving.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Green Onions, Olives and Anchovies

Serves 6 to 8

— Kosher salt

1 pound dried pasta, a medium shapes, such as gnocchi or capatelli

3-4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

— Small florets of 1 cauliflower

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1 bunch green onion, trimmed and cut into thin rounds

1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small dice

Fill a large pot half full with water, season generously with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until just tender. Drain and tip into a wide, shallow bowl.

While waiting for the water to boil, put the anchovies, garlic and red wine vinegar into a small bowl and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, put the olive oil into a medium sauté pan on medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, turning frequently, until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Add the cauliflower and green onions to the pasta, toss gently, and set aside.

Add the olive oil and several turns of black pepper to the vinegar mixture and stir in the olive oil. Taste and adjust for salt and acid.

Pour the dressing over the cauliflower and pasta and toss gently. Add the parsley and feta and toss again.

Enjoy right away.


This salad is quite similar to some of the bread salads we enjoy, but without the bread. The cauliflower that replaces it goes beautifully with sausages, especially spicy smoked sausages such as andouille. But use whatever sausages you like. The same applies to mustard; instead of Dijon, you can use whole grain mustard or any other mustard that you love, though I don’t recommend one that is sweet for this particular salad.

Cauliflower and Sausage Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8

2 cauliflower, cut into medium florets

— Olive oil

— Kosher salt

4 sausages of choice

1 red onion, cut into small dice

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into small dice

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (omit when not in season)

½ cup black olives oil choice, pitted and halved

— Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

— Black pepper in a mill

1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt, and toss gently. Tuck the sausages here and there on the sheet, set in the oven and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the sausages cooked through.

Remove from the heat and let cool.

Cut the sausages into half-inch wide diagonal slices.

Put the cauliflower and sausages into a wide shallow bowl. Add the onion, cucumber, tomatoes, if using, and olives and toss gently. Set aside.

Put the lemon juice and vinegar into a small bowl, add the garlic and mustard, and mix well. Stir in the olive oil and several turns of black pepper. Taste and correct for salt, mustard and acid, adding more olive oil if it is too sharp or a splash more vinegar if it isn’t bright enough.

Pour the dressing over the salad, add the parsley, toss, and enjoy at room temperature.


Cauliflower and wild rice go together beautifully and can be served as a main course or as a side dish, especially alongside roasted chicken and with grilled mushrooms.

Cauliflower with Wild Rice, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

Serves 4 to 6

4 cups water, mushroom stock or vegetable stock

— Kosher salt

1 cup raw wild rice, rinsed and drained

6 tablespoons clarified butter

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets, large stems discard

— Black pepper in a mill

4 tablespoons lightly toasted shelled hazelnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons snipped chives or minced fresh Italian parsley

Pour the water or stock into a medium saucepan, season with a generous tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Stir in the wild rice, reduce the heat to very low, and simmer gently until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from heat, cover, and let the rice rest undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the clarified butter into a medium sauté pan and set over medium-low heat. Cook gently until the butter takes on a golden glow and smells faintly of hazelnuts.

Remove from heat and cool slightly. Return to medium-low heat and add the cauliflower florets.

Cook gently, turning frequently, until just tender. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.

Tip the cooked wild rice into a wide shallow dish, add the cauliflower and any pan juices, and toss gently. Season with black pepper, add the hazelnuts and parsley, taste and correct for salt.

Enjoy hot or at room temperature.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “California Home Cooking.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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