The ancestor of the wild cabbage, cauliflower originally resembled kale or collards more than its present appearance. Going through a number of transformations, cauliflower has been an important vegetable in Turkey and Italy since 600 BC. It gained popularity in France in the mid 16th century and was eventually cultivated throughout Europe
Although it lacks chlorophyll, it has compounds which may help prevent cancer, protect against rheumatoid arthritis, and assist with the liver's ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances (glucosinolates).
When purchasing cauliflower, select firm, compact heads that are white to creamy white. The leaves that remain (called the “jacket”) should be firm and green. Avoid cauliflower where the heads are bruised, spotted or florets are separated. A medium sized head that is 6” in diameter should equal roughly 2 pounds --- enough to serve four to six people.
Wrap cauliflower in a plastic bag and keep refrigerated. Store cauliflower keeping the head stem-side up. This will reduce molding from water droplets that collect on the head. Pre-cut cauliflower florets do not store well and should be consumed within a day after purchase.
First, remove outer leaves and then slice the florets at the base where they meet the stalks. Cut florets down to preferred size. If any brown color should occur on edges, trim this off and discard. If you wish to cook the head whole, trim the head even with the bottom of the head of cauliflower.
Cauliflower contains sulfur compounds and will omit odors that become more intense with increased cooking time. Rapid cooking reduces the odor and keeps cauliflower crisp, prevents loss of nutrients, and preserves the white appearance. Cook until crisp and tender. Drop a bit of lemon juice in cookware to reduce browning during the cooking process.
Cooking cauliflower in a large uncovered pot will reduce the odor that will occur in the preparation process but will also reduce the amount of Vitamin C by half the original content. If you elect to boil cauliflower, reduce prep time to keep crisp and reduce loss of nutrients.
Use a conventional steamer for florets. Place the whole cauliflower stem side down in a pot with 2” of boiling water. After the first few minutes of steaming, remove and let sit 10 to 15 seconds allowing odor to escape.. Cooking times: florets, three to five minutes; for whole heads weighing 1- 1 ½ pounds, 15 to 20 minutes.