O.K., ya’ll, I promise I’ll get off this stinky vegetable kick. But it’s fall, the weather’s cool and all this stuff is in season now and it’s darn good. Here’s some trivia for you from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. The cabbage family – of which Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and radishes are members in good standing – has something called sulfur pungency precursors. I’m no scientist, but that doesn’t sound good, does it? Now, here’s the interesting thing to me. Harold says that warm temperatures and drought make the precursors even more nasty. So that’s probably why these vegetables are consumed mainly in cold weather (if you’re buying in season and not some stalk of broccoli from Venezuela or someplace).
Harold even has a rating system for stinkyness. On the old stink-o-meter, Brussels sprouts is at the top with a 35. Green cabbage is next with a 26, then broccoli with a 17 (of course, when the broccoli is hidden away in a broccoli, rice and Cheez Whiz casserole, the odor is completely undetectable!). At the bottom of the list is cauliflower at 2.
So here’s the absolute best way to fix cauliflower. Buy a nice big head of it. I got one at the Farmer’s Market the other day for $1.50. Cut off the green leaves and start slicing it in about 1/2 inch slices. The florets will start to fall apart, which is right where you want them. Lay the cauliflower out on a cookie sheet covered with foil. Now give it a nice olive oil bath. Not too much, just enough to lightly coat the florets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. This is what it looks like before you roast it.
Pop the pan into a 400 degree oven and roast the cauliflower for about 15 minutes. You want to see parts of the cauliflower turning brown and crispy.
Then get some seasoned breadcrumbs and sprinkle them on the cauliflower. Back in the oven until the crumbs start to turn brown. I cannot stress enough how delicious this is. This roasting method works just as well with broccoli.
Alright, we’re done with the stinky vegetables. Now on to turnips, rutabagas, parsnips and fennel. We’re going to have so much fun this winter!