Cauliflower, it’s one those under-used, under appreciated vegetables, much like cabbage. It belongs to a family of vegetables known as crucifers or cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens and…..
What’s in it for you?
It’s also classified as a flowering vegetable. While it’s not green, it contains some of the nutrients you’d find in leafy greens, including phytochemicals, vitamin C, vitamin K, foate (aka folic acid), and lesser amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, mangenese, molybdenum, vitamin B5, and tryptophan. It’s a great source of fiber (12 grams of it for every 100 calories)
Eating more cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables can help your body detoxify, provide power antioxidants that help reduce chronic oxidative stress and damage to your cells and reduce systemic inflammation, major cause of most modern degenerative diseases. Cauliflower’s anti-inflammatory benefits can be chalked up to the glucosinolates/isothiocyanates and indole 3 carbinol it contains.
According to George Mateljan, author of The World’s Healthiest Foods, cauliflower contains sulforaphane, which can help protect the lining of your stomach from bacterial overgrowth from Helicobacter pylori.
Cauliflower, like other fibrous vegetables also has a lower calorie density and a high nutrient density, making it a filling food that can allow you to eat generous portions without overshooting your energy needs. I’ve come to enjoy this vegetable more and more over the past 25 years.
Raw meal, raw deal
But I don’t eat it raw. I’ve found, like many people, that it can produce painful gas and bloating when eaten that way. Research indicates that this and many other vegetables are not only easier to digest when cooked, gentler on our digestive systems and our thyroid glands, and that cooking breaks open the cellulose wall, allowing us to absorb more of it’s nutrients. Raw cauliflower contains much higher amounts of goitrogens, which can inhibit thyroid function.
Hail to cauliflower!
I like cauliflower blanched or steamed and tossed with Paleo Pesto, Lemonette or Vinaigrette, Homemade Mayo (or herbed mayo), or stir fried. See my Garden of Eating Cookbook for these and other recipes. However there’s another way I’ve come to love cauliflower that has wooed people who don’t normally like this vegetable to take first and second helpings! It’s a versatile low-carb, gluten free, paleo twist on mashed potatoes that uses cauliflower instead.
You’ll find many variations on this theme on the internet and in cookbooks. The first ones I tried years ago included cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, and others), which I found a bit heavy handed. The cheese seemed to mask and even overpower the cauliflower. Then the paleo cookbooks and blogs took off and included dairy free or at least cheese-free versions of this dish. I was hooked! The recipe became a staple for me and not just for the holidays or company.
Versatile Mashed Cauliflower (aka Mashed Faux-Tatoes or Mashed Potato Alternative)
I found that mashed cauliflower or what Diane Sanfilippo called Mashed Faux-Tatoes, could be varied in so many ways with different herbs, spices, broths, types of fat, and garnishes. The dish goes well with burgers, steaks, pork and lamb chops, meatballs, and salmon. Leftovers freeze well in a heatproof pyrex or corningware dish and they reheat well in a toaster oven. So, I encourage you to make a full batch even if you’re only cooking for one.
Mashed Faux Tatoes
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: about 15 minutes Yield: 4 to 6 servings
“This is the most amazing alternative to mashed potatoes you can make. My entire family was fooled when I served these up for Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago, and there were no leftovers!” says Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC, and author of Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Healthy and a Whole Foods Lifestyle.
Chef Rachel’s notes: You can vary the herbs, spices, the type of fat you add. I changed the recipe by steaming the cauliflower directly in bone broth (the best!) or commercial chicken or vegetable broth, then using that liquid to puree the cooked cauliflower, to preserve more flavor and nutrients. I also added the garlic variation. I find the recipe tastes great with half as much butter or oil added. Adjust to your tastes and dietary preferences.
1 head of cauliflower (about 4 cups when cut in 2- to 3-inch pieces)
about 2 cups homemade bone broth or commercial chicken or vegetable broth
4 tablespoons butter (you can use half as much; you can also sub coconut oil, ghee, or clarified butter)
1/2 teaspoon dried herb blend (rosemary, sage, thyme, and lemon peel blend) or dried rosemary, sage, or thyme used singly
1/8 teaspoon unrefined sea salt (Celtic or Himalayan Sea Salt, or Redmond Real Salt), or to taste; omit or use less with commercial broth; use more with homemade broth
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
* Mashed Faux-Tatoes with Garlic: In step #1 above, add 3 cloves of peeled, chopped garlic, making sure to remove and discard any green shoots or sprouts in the garlic, if present.