I'm going to admit something that isn't easy, particularly for a writer blogging about his healthy eating/weight-loss journey. I'm not a fan of cauliflower. Or, at least, wasn't.
Sure, sure, I know many people would nod their heads in agreement and feel their position justified. Well, it isn't.
Cauliflower isn't easy to love. For one thing, it's white, which just doesn't seem right for a vegetable. Secondly, of all the veggies, from what I have read, it isn't tops when it comes to nutrition. Oh, it's healthy and nutritious, but when compared to some of the "super food" traits ascribed to some other vegetables, its characteristics lack the real "wow" factor.
The thing is, though, it's incredibly diverse in handy when used in different applications, which really ups that wow factor. Think kapow!
And this time of year, it really has a chance to shine. The key is application.
Winter is soup season – or should be, even for those of us who are single and don't have a brood for which to cook. For a single, it's practical and economical. Spend a couple of hours on a weekend making fresh, healthy soup and have the basis for take-to-work lunches the rest of the week and a quick dinner option. If you think soup isn't a potential dinner, consider partnering it with a salad and a wedge of locally produced whole-grain bread and you'll have a cold and flu season nirvana.
The thing with soups for me is, while I love lighter varieties, I have a love of hearty, rich and creamy soups. Obviously, prepared your usual ways, cream and flour based soups don't qualify as the healthiest of home cooking. That's where, of all things, cauliflower steps in.
It isn't glamorous but cauliflower is a great natural thickener that can "replace" cream and flour in crafting a hearty bisque, chowder or other "creamy" soup – while adding nutrition, not bleached carbs and dairy. The specific recipes are potentially limitless, but it's the application that is most important.
Brown, steam or roast a head of cauliflower, broken into as small of pieces as possible until fairly soft. If you brown, consider using a little olive oil to start for its health benefits and underlying taste in the final product. I brown mine with chopped garlic and shallot because, basically, garlic appears in almost everything I cook. I also use a little salt and pepper and perhaps a dried herb, depending on which soup I am whipping up. Once softened, remove and let cool. When cooled a little, toss the cauliflower into a blender with a little bit of water or broth and blend to the point where is has nearly the consistency of mashed potatoes.
By this day and age, many people have tried mashed cauliflower as a mashed potato substitute. However, this is just a base.
From there, the sky is the limit. In future blogs, we will discuss specific recipes but they are almost moot – the sky is the limit. What's important is that virtually any soup can be transformed into a creamy bisque or chowder by adding the pureed cauliflower in lieu of things like butter, flour and cream. Cauliflower absorbs the flavors around it, so it isn't obvious in the final product unless you want it to be. It's effectively a taste-neutral, healthy way to enjoy the kinds of soups we shouldn't if we're committed to everyday healthy eating.
So, cauliflower might not be the sexiest of vegetables. But in the right environment, it can help you reach a sexier you.
-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. Neither a medical nor a nutrition expert, he shares his personal weight loss journey exclusively with Oklahoma Magazine readers. Reach him at [email protected].