Ripe florets are tight and white. Black spots are a sign of age and should be cut away. To prepare, cut the florets away form the core and leaves. Cooked florets mixed with Gruyere cheese make a tasty gratin dish.
Cauliflower is grown in such a way that the florets never see sunlight, otherwise they would turn green. Available locally late summer into the autumn. The colder the weather, the sweeter the cauliflower becomes.
- The undeveloped flowers (florets) of the cauliflower are called the “curd,” a term you’ll see in some recipes.
- Cauliflower is delicious raw or cooked, but it becomes soft and mushy with a sharp cabbage-like flavor (and aroma) if overcooked.
- Oven roasting, steaming, sautéeing or stir-frying are great ways to cook cauliflower. Small heads can be cooked whole. Large heads should be broken into florets or quartered to ensure even cooking.
- To prepare cauliflower, trim away the base leaves. Using a small knife, trim out the core by cutting around the stem in a cone shape; this trick allows faster, more even cooking.
- Removing the core is also the easiest way to separate the curds into florets. Preserve their shape by wedging a knife between the smaller stems, then snapping them apart (not cutting through the buds).
- Add a handful of celery leaves or 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds to cauliflower cooking water to reduce the cabbage-like smell.
Handling & Storage:
- Choose cauliflower with a firm, compact head and crisp green leaves. Small leaves extending through the curd don’t affect its quality. Black or brown speckles on the florets are a sign of age (though surface spots can be cut away before cooking).
- Refrigerate cauliflower in a plastic bag (or in its wrapper). If you have more cauliflower than you need for a given recipe, refrigerate the extra in a plastic bag and trim off what you need in stages. Though it’s best enjoyed right after you buy it, uncooked cauliflower can keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.