Friday, August 18, 2017

What's Up with Cauliflower?



This is a really dumb question, I know, but why have the big frozen vegetable manufacturers started mashing cauliflower? And other vegetables too, but cauliflower seems to be leading the pack. Is it trying to take over the world, and this is a subtle way to try to eradicate it before it succeeds? Or were the giant vegetable companies running out of new ideas and thought consumers would buy anything that says "NEW!" on the package?

Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?

A couple of months ago, I noticed some television commercials--happy mom cooking dinner, happy child watching with admiration--which were celebrating a new dish: mashed cauliflower. They kept appearing, and then I noticed the packages in the freezer section of my local supermarket from more than one maker. And they kept multiplying.

Cauliflower doesn't make a pretty presentation in a commercial. It kind of sits there on the plate and looks like mashed potatoes. (Although I suppose it could be done with yellow cauliflower or purple, which are fun to eat.) 




I like cauliflower. I like it semi-crisp, steamed rather than boiled to death. With some butter and a bit of salt. It has a nice flavor of its own. What's wrong with it?

I will admit that I was reminded of a time many, many years ago when I was traveling in France, and sat down to one of those prix fixe dinners for $3 that you could get back in the last millennium. Three courses plus a glass of wine--those were the days! Anyway, I've forgotten what the main course was, but it came with a side dish of green mush. Ah, mashed peas, I assumed, and tasted it. Nope, not peas. But I couldn't identify it. I finally had to ask the waiter, and it turned out to be pureed string beans. Really? Something about changing their shape also changed their flavor. 

Cauliflower doesn't seem to work that way. It still tastes like cauliflower. Which probably explains why the manufacturers keep adding things to their blah white mashed cauliflower. Like sour cream and chives. Or cheddar and bacon. Maybe the cauliflower has potato envy?

If you're really into it, mashed cauliflower is really pretty easy to make. Take a head of cauliflower and divide into florets. Steam until tender, or boil if you must. (Make sure the florets are soft.) Mash or puree with whatever your favorite tool is--food processor, potato masher, food mill, even a fork will work. Add some butter and milk or cream, and taste for seasoning, adding salt if you think it's needed. 

Florets

Puree in food processor
Done. Wasn't that easy?

After that you can go wild. I added diced chives simply because I have some growing outside my kitchen door, but there are plenty of other choices. Experiment!

But as I said, it's really quick and easy to make, so why have the frozen food giants jumped upon this product? Beats me. But there are the same people who make powdered mashed potatoes. I think it's a marketing ploy, and one I don't respect.

The family heirloom ricer

Oh, and then there's "riced" cauliflower. My family has always riced their potatoes (and I have inherited the family ricer and use it), because it gives the mashed potatoes a little more texture than just pureeing them, but the result is smoother than taking a standard potato masher to them. Well, lucky us, we can now buy bags of frozen riced cauliflower, and even one with both cauliflower and broccoli, which is a pretty pale green. Or peas and carrots.




I still like plain old cauliflower, though. In a time when farmers markets are thriving, and people are eating fresh, chemically clean vegetables, why are manufacturers producing glop? (And it's not cheap--a bag of mashed vegetables costs over $4). Or is there a silent war going on, trying to suppress the cauliflower invasion? Any ideas?


In the next Orchard Mystery, A Late Frost (coming November 2017), Seth Chapin helps organize Granford's first WinterFare, a community fair that is intended to brighten up the dull month of February.

Things don't work out quite as planned.  But the apples are fresh (many varieties hold well in cold--not frozen--storage).

www.sheilaconnolly.com


Here's a sample from my own crop this year!





21 comments:

  1. I like using cauliflower for cauliflower-based pizza crusts. EMS591@aol.com

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    1. That's something I've never heard of! If you're not using a starch (like flour), what holds the crust together?

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    2. Sheila - Eggs and cheese hold it together. It's work, but tastes great, and a nice way of enjoying pizza on a low-carb diet. (Better fiber and nutrition, too.) FYI, here is a link to the recipe post I did a few years back. The post also mentions the probable sources for the original, oddball idea...

      Click here for CAULIFLOWER PIZZA CRUST recipe.

      I'm also fascinated with the many incarnations of cauliflower I've seen in the grocery of late! The pre-made riced cauliflower would definitely speed up the pizza crust-making process. Fun post today, have a great summer weekend! ~ Cleo

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    3. Thanks, Cleo--I had forgotten that one. I'll have to try it. Think it could work with quiche too?

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    4. Interesting idea! I'd probably brown the crust first (per the pizza crust recipe), then lay it into the pan, fill it, and bake a second time. The herbs and spices in the crust could be coordinated with your quiche filling, as well. OR...it could be a disaster, LOL. That's an afternoon of experimenting, for sure. But it would be nice if it worked. If anyone's tried it, feel free to chime in!

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  2. I love using riced cauliflower in place of real rice in oriental food. It's a great low-carb alternative.

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  3. Hey Sheila! I think they're jumping on the low carb, heat & eat band wagon! People are using cauliflower in place of just about anything white, starchy & high carb. Personally, I think it's like using spaghetti squash to replace spaghetti pasta, it kind of looks the same, but the flavor just ain't cuttin' it. LOL!!!

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    1. I'd like to see an analysis of the carb count for each. I do love vegetables and eat plenty of them, but pasta and rice and potatoes have flavors of their own which contribute to a dish.

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  4. I have made all of the cauliflower varieties and my husband and I especially prefer the cauliflower roasted. I roast with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh garlic and we yse it as a delicious sude dish. I also have an air fryer and veggies are great cooked in it. But roasting with garlic and any herbs too is perfect. I think it is great to put forth awareness of alternate ways to use vegetables.

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    1. Please excuse my typos. Have had two eye surgeries in less than 7 weeks and have had lots of complications and can't get new prescription glasses until things are more stable. I keep trying though. And Sheila, I am truly antipicating your fall release in one of my very favorite series...the Orchard Mystery series!!

      Cynthia B

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    2. You don't need to apologize, Cynthia! I'm just glad you're reading.

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  5. Had lunch at Whole Foods yesterday. One of the things I tried was cauliflower mac and cheese. It was melt-in-your-mouth! I asked the chef there for the recipe and he sent it to me. Can't wait to try it!

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    1. So you swap out the noodles and replace them with cauliflower? Or mix the two?

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  6. Sheila, I've been on the cauliflower bandwagon for a few years, but never frozen. Too funny. Love this post. Love your apples, too. ~ Daryl

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  7. Sorry, I'm not fond of cooked cauliflower to begin with and this new food fad of it mashed instead of mashed potatoes seems silly. I would rather have it raw on the side. To each their own, but I'm sticking to mashed potatoes with and without skin and various other permutations.

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    1. Since I'm 3/4 Irish (so says my DNA test) of course I'm prejudiced toward potatoes, which are very versatile to cook with, have plenty of Vitamin C, and are lower in calories than a lot of people think. (Yes, I usually eat the skin.) But it's fun to experiment now and then.

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  8. I love roasted cauliflower. Much better than the frozen boiled to death stuff my Mom made when I was a kid.

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