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Cauliflower of any color is a canvas for creativity

Recipe: Roasted and spiced, this vegetable is 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.

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. 

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

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

Ingredients:

1 pound florets from cauliflower, broccoli and/or romanesco that have 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 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.

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.

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

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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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