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Monday, August 24, 2009

Cauliflower--Special Buy of the Week

One of the supermarkets in town had huge heads of cauliflower on special this week for $1.50 each, so I bought several (they keep for weeks in the vegetable drawer). When I got them home, I weighed them, as I often do, just because I'm like that! They weighed in at over 3 1/2 pounds each, after trimming, a little over 40 cents a pound.

When I speak of "trimming," I don't mean throwing half the cauliflower away! Here's a hint to keep in mind with cauliflower--and broccoli too. All too often, cooks use only the flowerette parts of both broccoli and cauliflower, throwing away perfectly good food. Except for very woody sections (rare in cauliflower and uncommon even with all but the largest broccoli), the entire head can be used after cutting off the outer leaves. Broccoli leaves that haven't wilted don't have to be cut off either.

Yes, the stems may not be as attractive as the flowerettes, but you can slice or dice them and use them in stir fries, toss them into salads for extra crispness, or add them to soups, stews, and casseroles where their shape will blend in with the other vegetables. (If you don't have a use for these "extra" parts right away, steam the diced stems briefly in the microwave and put in the freezer for adding to dishes later.) Learning to use all the edible parts of the food you buy can be a quick way to stretch the budget!

So what did I do with this week's bounty? The first one was cut into flowerettes to go on a vegetable tray with baby carrots, fresh green beans, and some cucumber slices from the garden. One of the women at church had brought fresh dill to share, so there is a yogurt dill dip to go with the veggies. The stem sections were diced and added to a stir fry with--of course--zucchini, corn, carrots, onions, sweet banana peppers, Swiss chard, garlic, and lots of herbs and seasoning.

Next up will be the following dish that has become a favorite side at Thanksgiving. It's easy, colorful, and high in nutrition. Note that there is no salt or fat; the mixture of flavors makes any such additions unnecessary.
I'm not sure what is the magic in the lettuce leaves, but they do seem to make the peas especially taste very fresh. If you cut the onions in thin rings, the dish is especially attractive, but you can also chop them if that is quicker and easier.

Cauliflower and Peas
1 small to medium head cauliflower
12 to 16 oz frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 large sweet onion, cut in thin rings
1 t Italian seasoning
2 to 3 T water
3 to 4 large lettuce leaves (the darker green, the better)

1. Cut or break the cauliflower into small flowerets about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
2. Put the cauliflower, peas, and onions into a large heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Sprinkle with seasonings and add water. Lay the lettuce leaves over the top, completely covering all the vegetables.
3. Cover and bring to a boil; turn heat to low and simmer 12 to 18 minutes, until the cauliflower is just tender--do not overcook.
4. Remove and discard lettuce leaves before serving.

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