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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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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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