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Brightly colored cauliflower appeals to taste buds, and sports fans

Last Saturday, Tony paid a visit to his good buddy Jim Driscoll of Driscoll Farms at the Northern Plains Farmers Market, which takes place in the west parking lot at West Acres mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Cauliflower salad with kalamata olives and capers.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Cauliflower salad with kalamata olives and capers. Dave Wallis / The Forum
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Last Saturday, Tony paid a visit to his good buddy Jim Driscoll of Driscoll Farms at the Northern Plains Farmers Market, which takes place in the west parking lot at West Acres mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Jim had an abundance of cauliflower on display at his stand, in a rainbow of vibrant colors beyond the standard white, including purple (Graffiti), gold (Cheddar), green (Susanna). Our son, Giovanni, noticed right away that there was enough color variety to satisfy fans of the Minnesota Vikings, North Dakota State Bison and even the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

Unable to choose among them, Tony brought home one of each color, and over the weekend we enjoyed two different cauliflower dishes: Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower and a Warm Cauliflower Salad.

A member of the cruciferous family, cauliflower is one of Tony's favorite vegetables and has been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries, if not millennia. Until I met Tony, my only real experience with cauliflower was in its raw state, among other vegetables on a crudité platter. But over the years Tony has introduced me to a variety of new ways to prepare cauliflower including giardiniera, cream of cauliflower soup, mashed cauliflower and cauliflower gratin.

Loaded with vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, fiber and phytonutrients, cruciferous vegetables are the rock stars of the produce world. This group boasts a diverse sampling of green leaf goodness including cauliflower, broccoli, kale, arugula, radish, turnip, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts, to name a few, as well as being a good source of protein. In other words, we should all be looking for ways to regularly incorporate these potent veggies into our food regimens.

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Today's two recipes are perfect for showcasing the natural beauty of cauliflower. Unlike a giardiniera, where the cauliflower can get lost among the other pickled vegetables, or the pureed texture of a soup or mashed cauliflower dish, both recipes feature florets of cauliflower, which bring a lovely elegance to each dish. Use care and be gentle when handling cauliflower florets, as they are somewhat delicate and can easily break apart.

When roasted, cauliflower is slightly sweet and mildly pungent, and the addition of grated Parmesan cheese brings a wonderful nuttiness to this simple dish. We use whole sprigs of thyme, which are scattered around the cauliflower florets, along with whole garlic cloves and quartered shallots. The florets roast in a 425 degree oven for 35 minutes, then are topped with grated Parmesan cheese and returned to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown and tender.

Tony's Warm Cauliflower Salad is surprisingly full of flavor for such a simple dish, and thoughtfully accented by the lively tang of Kalamata olives and capers. The cauliflower is cooked at a gentle simmer until al dente, or fork tender, and then tossed in a simple dressing of olive oil, garlic and capers. For a rustic flair, instead of uniformly chopping the parsley with a knife, Tony tears it into pieces by hand and sprinkles it over the florets along with the olives.

The colorful varieties were such fun to use in these dishes. We noticed a subtle difference in flavor among the four colors, and a slight change in color once cooked, but the results were still vibrant, beautiful and delicious. I wonder what the farmers will have for us next week.

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, divided into small florets and cut into slices ½-inch thick

¼ cup olive oil

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2 shallots, peeled and quartered

5 sprigs thyme

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cauliflower slices on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil to coat each slice. Place the quartered shallots, thyme sprigs and garlic cloves around the sheet and lightly coat everything with the zest of 1 lemon. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven at 425 degrees, tossing occasionally, until tender, about 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle cauliflower with grated Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and continue roasting for 10 to 12 minutes until cauliflower is lightly golden brown and tender. Serve immediately.

Warm Cauliflower Salad

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons capers

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, torn into small pieces

Directions:

Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer (medium-low heat) and add cauliflower florets. Cook until tender, but not mushy, about 5 to 6 minutes.

As the cauliflower cooks, in a small bowl mix the olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper until combined. When cauliflower is ready, transfer it to a serving bowl and coat entirely with dressing. Add olives and parsley and gently toss to mix, being careful not to break the florets. Taste and add seasoning as desired.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni.

Related Topics: RECIPESFOOD
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