Schell: Renaissance of the humble cauliflower

Happy New Year.  Hope that you all enjoyed a delicious holiday season and that you had some fun experimenting with new tastes and recipes.

As a cooking magazine junkie, I am always pulling out new recipes to try.  It is interesting how, like fashion, there are serious trends in eating.  Currently, the good news is that the healthy foods are still trending with kale and quinoa going strong and Brussels sprouts shooting to mega stardom.

The retro cheese ball has made a comeback headlining many holiday tables this season (including mine) and believe it or not, the Boilermaker has returned to many of the hippest bars. Flashback to college years—drop a shot of whiskey into a pint of beer and chug it down (blech). Thankfully, the boilermaker has evolved its serving procedure to pouring the shot alongside the beer to sip together (good grief).

Other news: Fish is the new chicken and salt is the new pepper for 2014.  Embrace salts many different flavour offerings on the shelves these days, from smoked sea salt to roasted garlic flavour, that new salt is ready and willing to transform your dishes into something special in just a pinch.  No need to stray from your locavorian lifestyle either.

Did you know that we have a local salt available? Vancouver Island Salt Co. located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island are creating sea salt in a plentitude of flavours. Love that.  Check them out:

More on fish next instalment.

Cauliflower has also swept onto the main stage making strong comeback on the veggie scene.  My euro foodie magazines are loaded with delicious ways to glam up this member of the Brassica family.  Incredibly versatile, no longer is a gooey cheese sauce the only choice for serving it.  Try it mashed, grilled, broiled, barbecued, stir-fried, roasted, pureed into soup and, of course, it is also great raw.

India and Italy are two food cultures that have consistently embraced their cauliflower. Vegetarian cauliflower and potato curry, or Aloo Gobi is a popular vegetarian Indian curry dish.  And in Italy, cauliflower fritters or fritelle di cavolfiore are found on many menus as antipasti—yum.

Locally, our farmers markets offer beautiful colourful variations of cauliflower—orange, purple or green with pointy horns.  These are not GMO, they are a result of traditional selective breeding practice—which is safe and perhaps even offer bonus health benefits.

Recent reports say: “The orange cauliflower has higher than normal levels of beta carotene, a form of vitamin A that encourages healthy skin. The purple colour comes from anthocyanin, which may help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting. Tests of the orange cauliflowers in America found that they contained 25 times the concentrations of beta carotene in normal cauliflowers.”  To be sure of this information, ask your farmer.  Next Farmers Market in Kelowna at the Parkinson Recreation Centre is Saturday Jan. 11.  I can’t wait.

In the meantime, try this delicious fritter recipe care of my friend Teresa Kuhn of The Olive Oil Merchant.  If you have not been to their website to check out the amazing variety of the BEST olive oils (and other Italian specialties) you simply must.  I always have a three-litre jug on my counter:

Fritelle di Cavolfiore

Start by cleaning the cauliflower: remove the external leaves and cut the florets from the stem. Steam the florets with salted water for a few minutes making sure they are still firm and not overly cooked. Let them cool while you prepare the batter.

Separate two eggs, beating the egg whites until stiff and whisking the yolks with a pinch of salt. Add 30 grams of grated Parmesan cheese, 200ml of milk and 150 grams of flour to the yolks, alternating a bit of each at a time. When the batter is creamy add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Delicately fold in the egg whites so they don’t deflate.

Heat enough oil in a pan to submerge the florets completely. Dip each floret in the batter then fry in the hot oil (between 160 and 180 C) using a fork to help keep them down. Drain the cauliflower letting them dry on absorbent paper and serve warm.

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