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Cauliflower of any color is a canvas for creativity

Recipe: Roasted and spiced, it's a winner

Green cauliflower head
Cauliflower is often a big white cooking challenge. At least
this one is green. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

I was a latecomer to cauliflower. Too bland, either boiled to death or steamed and left plain -- uh, no thanks. And I can’t eat cheese, so forget about drenching it in gooey sauce.

But roasting was a revelation: Those white florets were suddenly interesting. Wow. Still, the white vegetable in winter, when so much is colorless, can be a turn-off. And the ones in the supermarket are HUGE — my husband and I never finish one head before it begins to deteriorate.

This is all to explain why I was thrilled to find small heads of cauliflower — both white and green — at the farmers market Saturday. They were all 1 pound or less; the already-trimmed green cauliflower weighed just half a pound. I snapped up one of each.

Green fractal vegetable
Not an alien vegetable, despite its cameo in a "Star Wars" film,
romanesco is delicious.


For good measure I added a small head of Roman cauliflower, aka broccoli romanesco or just romanesco, its pointy florets looking like some kind of alien creation. In fact, this last brassica is so unusual-looking that the prop crew put it in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," aka Episode 7, as a snack served to Rey at the pirate castle of Maz Kanata. (Yes, bit of a "Star Wars" fan here.) Romanesco has a nutty flavor when cooked.

I was pan-searing ahi tuna for dinner, so chose the two greenish veggies to serve with it. Roasted, spiced and garnished as inspired by a New York Times recipe,  they were wonderful.

Try this recipe with any brassica, including broccoli. It can easily be doubled for one of those big heads of cauliflower. Spice as much or as little as desired.

Roasted cauliflower with spices and almonds

Serves 4 as a side dish

Red chile, green chopped herbs and garlic
Some of the magic ingredients to use on the brassicas.
Ingredients:

1 pound florets from cauliflower, broccoli and/or romanesco that has been trimmed and cored

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Zest from 1/2 a lemon

1 to 2 tablespoons almonds, sliced or chopped

1 small red chile or 1/2 of a large one, thinly sliced, for garnish, optional

Lemon juice, for sprinkling after cooking

Instructions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure the florets are roughly the same size; slice in half any that are too large. Place the florets in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Scatter them across a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet with a rim. Roast florets 15 minutes.

Cooked green veggies in a red bowl
The finished dish, roasted, spiced and sprinkled with lemon juice.


Meanwhile, mix together in a small bowl the minced garlic, minced parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. When the florets have cooked for 15 minutes, sprinkle the spice mix over them and stir gently, so other sides of the florets will be browned. Cook for 10 more minutes and test for doneness.

Sprinkle the almonds over the vegetables in the pan. (If using the red pepper slices, you can also add them to the mixture now to barely cook them, if desired.) Cook for up to 5 more minutes, being careful not to burn the almonds.

Place the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle on a bit of fresh lemon juice while they're still hot.  Stir and serve.

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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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