Mark Twain wrote, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” For years, cauliflower was just the culprit in disappointing kitchen aromas. Typically served raw or overcooked, in florets or pureed, this mild-mannered vegetable eventually began creating buzz by masquerading as mashed potatoes — or even hiding in cake batter. And now, the brainy stepsister of broccoli has secured its spot as a low-carb superstar. This cruciferous cancer-fighter contains about 25 calories a cup, is a source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K, and has fiber to boot. In 2013, the new “it girl” is making her way onto the center of the plate in some of the trendiest eateries in town.
1. The Classic
Old-school roasted and pureed cauliflower pair up with the Seared Diver Scallops at Embers in Boca Park (740 S. Rampart Blvd. #7, 778-2160, emberslasvegas.com). Bacon lardoons (can anyone say “lardoons” with a straight face?) add necessary richness to the conventional presentation of the vegetable.
2. The Renegade
Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan incorporates cauliflower into two menu items: the Salpicon De Cangerjo, mingled in with jumbo lump crab meat, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and brandy sauce. The cauliflower is more prominent and particularly tasty sautéed with savory and sweet olives and dates in the Coliflor con Olivas y Fruitos Secos.
Fellow foodies will no doubt have heard about cauliflower “steak.” Clean a head of cauliflower, cut off the stalk and leaves. Cut cross-sections of the head into half-inch slices (all of the florets should stay attached), creating 4 “steaks.” Sprinkle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, spreading oil on both sides. Grill on medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side until tender and serve.
4. But can I drink it?
I challenged the mixologists over at Charlie Palmer Steak in the Four Seasons to use cauliflower in an adult beverage. I assumed they’d come up with pureed cauliflower with a paper umbrella and call it a day. Wrong. The result? “Hot Pepper Vodka with Spicy, Marinated Cauliflower and Bleu Cheese Olives.” They even shared the recipe: Pour a bottle of vodka into a jar. Wearing gloves, slice and remove seeds from five jalapenos, five chilies (Serrano or Thai) and five habañeros. Add to vodka and infuse for 5 days. Purchase a jar of hot cherry peppers. Replace some of the peppers with same-sized cauliflower florets. Add 2 each of jalapeno, chili, & habañero. Marinate for 5 days in the fridge. Strain chilled vodka over ice into a glass. Skewer a large cauliflower floret between two bleu cheese olives and serve. Take a sip — you’ll truly taste the flavors of each pepper beyond the simple heat. The infusing turns the more subtle cauliflower into a real beast. Your mild-mannered vegetable is now
cabbage with a kick.