On my last foray to the grocery store, I was stopped dead in my tracks by this gorgeous cauliflower. Vogue magazine recently told in no uncertain terms that purple is the new black, so in spite of the fact that I don't often have a yen for cauliflower, I dropped it in my cart. It's not that I dislike cauliflower, mind you, it's just not on my go-to veggie list. No matter, I couldn't resist it's sensual color and shape.
Once home, I gave myself a mini-tutorial on brassicas . A quick look at Wikibooks reminded me that cauliflower is in the same family as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccolini, broccoli rabe, and broccoflower. I'm mad about all those, especially Brussels sprouts, so rather than simply putting my gorgeous purple purchase on display, I knew I'd have to prepare it for dinner.
The day, which arrived gray, cold, and slushy, practically begged for comfort food. I decided to roast a chicken and while it was in the oven, bathing the house in the familiar aroma of garlicy, oniony, chickeny goodness, I thought about my lovely round brassica.
Ordinarily, roast chicken cries out to be partnered with potatoes. But tonight, my chicken was destined to be paired with something less prosaic, something, well...perfectly purple! But no matter how pretty, plain cauliflower just didn't seem all that interesting.
Fate intervened in the form of a phone call from an old friend. The call lasted two hours, and when I was finished, it was dinner time. The chicken was ready; I made the salad earlier that day. But I needed to get the cauliflower ready ASAP. After breaking it into small florets, I steamed it for about 7 minutes, until it was very tender. Then, in a fit of inspiration, I grabbed the potato masher, a bag of Extra Sharp Cabot shredded cheddar, and cream cheese.
It couldn't have been easier. I mashed the cauliflower, which was transformed from deep purple to a less intense, more subtle hue. Adding about 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar and 4 oz. of cream cheese turned it into a fluffy mashup of beautiful rich lavender. I thought I might have to add cream, but with the moisture in the cauliflower, it wasn't necessary. A quick shake of sea salt and a few turns of the pepper mill and it was the perfect pairing for the roast chicken.
The cheesy mashed cauliflower was a complete hit. It was as tasty as it was pretty. And here's more good news. The purple color isn't just glamorous, it's good for you. It's caused by the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, also found in red cabbage and red wine.
When I was in the store, I noticed that there was an orange cauliflower next to my pretty purple one. I just learned that orange cauliflower has 25 times the amount of Vitamin A as the white kind. I guess that means it's next on my veggie bucket list.