This time of year, our local farmers markets are loaded with fresh cauliflower.
From the standard white heads to the purple, orange and green specimens, there is no shortage locally during the fall, winter and early spring.
With regards to their development from start to finish, cauliflower plants go through six main stages of growth.
It begins with the germination of the seeds. Then a seedling is produced, followed by the production of foliage. Next comes the edible cauliflower head, tightly tucked between the broad leaves, some of which are wrapped around the cauliflower itself. Then the flowering stage begins, leading to the eventual final stage of the flowers producing seeds.
The seeds can then be collected and saved to restart the cycle.
When consuming fresh cauliflower, the edible portions are the florets, as well as the connected stems. Usually these florets are tightly compact, forming a united circular head.
However, overgrown heads, or a secondary growth from buds located in the bases of the older leaves, can produce what is called “sprouting cauliflower.”
Looking more like a bouquet of flowers than an actual head of cauliflower, the stems are much more separated from one another, more elongated, and the edible white portion wispier. Delivering a nuttier and sweeter flavor throughout the stem portion, I snatch up sprouting cauliflower any chance I get.
Sprouting cauliflower can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. This week I prepared a sautéed sprouting cauliflower side with some fresh broccolini and cubes of rosemary infused bread. I finished it with some shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese and aged balsamic vinegar.
This is a really simple but delicious side dish to enjoy throughout the holiday season.
Sautéed Sprouting Cauliflower and Broccolini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sprouting cauliflower, separated into 1-2 inch pieces (you want as much stem as possible)
1 bunch broccolini, separated into 1-2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
3-4 cloves garlic
2 cups bread squares (I used Roan Mills Rosemary Battard loaf from the Saturday Santa Barbara and Sunday Goleta farmers markets).
1/4 cup shaved parmigiano reggiano
Good aged balsamic vinegar
In a large sauté pan, turn to high heat and add olive oil. And cauliflower and broccolini, and toss to coat with oil in the pan.
Sear on each side for about 2 minutes, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Add bread cubes and toss in.
Try to position the bread so it has contact with the pan.
Cook for about 2 minutes. Then flip and cook for another 2 minutes.
Toss in garlic, and cook until desired tenderness of vegetables. The bread cubes should get nice and toasted in the pan.
Plate and top with shaved cheese and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
Yield: Makes about 4 sides.