October is the beginning of the “cooked vegetable” season for most of us. We have been eating salads, tomatoes and cucumbers all summer but those have sadly come and gone and we are turning to warmer foods for these cooler nights. Broccoli and cauliflower are at their best this time of year and although great raw, when cooked both their texture and spunky flavors mellow.
Unlike some of the lesser known cruciferious vegetables like kohlrabi, broccoli and cauliflower are vegetables that are familiar to us from a young age. Most people enjoy them, or at least accept them, which is great because they offer a lot of health benefits. They are both high in immune-supporting vitamin C – funny that we start to crave their earthy flavors right at the beginning of the flu season! Both are also good sources of potassium and folic acid and dietary fiber.
Broccoli and cauliflower are almost always available at the grocery store both fresh and frozen. When selecting fresh broccoli, choose those with firm, bright green heads that have tightly packed florets. The more open the florets are, the older and closer the broccoli is to actually flowering (remember you are consuming clusters of the unopened flowers and the stalk of the plant). Same goes for cauliflower but instead look for the color to be creamy white without brown spots. If either broccoli or cauliflower have a very strong odor in the store they are likely past their prime.
Storing Broccoli and Cauliflower
To store, first unwrap cauliflower if it came tightly wrapped in plastic which can trap moisture and promote rot. Place both broccoli and cauliflower in a loosely sealed plastic bag (they need to breathe!) in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A folded paper towel placed in the plastic bag can help absorb excess moisture and prevent the vegetables from spoiling. Both the taste and nutritional value of cauliflower and broccoli start to decline when they are stored so try to use them as soon after harvest as you can.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Recipes
This month’s recipe uses cauliflower as an alternative to potatoes for a twist on a favorite mashed side dish. The recipe for creamy mashed cauliflower calls for steaming cauliflower and processing with garlic and onion powders to add flavor as well as a little potato starch to add body and prevent runniness (cauliflower has a higher water content than potatoes). The touch of cream really adds to the dish by providing more richness of taste and texture. This recipe could also be made with roasted cauliflower if you prefer that flavor. You could also use cauliflower (or broccoli) in place of potatoes in other dishes like cheesy gratins or hash-browns. Or try shredding cauliflower with a box grater and sauteing into a stir fry with other vegetables, tofu or meat to make ‘stir fried cauliflower’ instead of fried rice. Another interesting way to use cauliflower and broccoli include roasting and tossing in buffalo or hot sauce for a healthier alternative to wings. They are also great in curries, casseroles, soups or stews.
For more broccoli and cauliflower including recipes, factoids, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower
- 2heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 1/2cupswater, divided
- 2/3cupheavy cream
- 2tspgranulated sugar
- 1/2tspwhite pepper
- 1/4tspgarlic powder
- 1/4tsponion powder
- Steam cauliflower florets over boiling water (15 to 20 minutes), or until tender. Drain and place in bowl of ice water until cool.
- Place cauliflower and 1/2 cup water in food processor. Puree on high until mostly smooth.
- Combine pureed cauliflower, 1/4 cup water, and corn starch in medium sauce pan. Add rest of ingredients and stir.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes or until thick. Serve as a side vegetable.