Cauliflower—making a side dish into a star entrée.
by Kendra Murray.
How did you eat cauliflower when you were growing up? If your household was anything like mine, cauliflower was served as a side dish, slathered in bright yellow cheese sauce. As a child, I loved it that way. In retrospect, though, I wonder if it was the cauliflower or the cheese that I was really enjoying. Either way, cauliflower seems to have come a long way in a short time. Sales of cauliflower and cauliflower-based foods are up nearly 40% in the United States as compared to 2016. In 2019, sales hit $700 million. That’s a lot of cauliflower! Why the big jump?
One reason is the popularity of low-carb diets, such as the keto diet. While I personally think unrefined carbs are an important part of a balanced diet, many people disagree with me. For these folks, cauliflower can be a game-changer. On its own, cauliflower is a fairly bland vegetable. (This is why it is so good covered in cheese!) And that’s what makes it such a great foundation for recipes—its subtle flavor allows for a lot of flexibility in cooking. It has become the basis for countless innovative twists on classic dishes. Cauliflower pizza crusts are one of the trendiest ways to use the veggie. Cauliflower “steaks,” cauliflower “rice,” and “cauli-flour” are also gaining in popularity. I’ve even seen recipes for cauliflower hot pockets. You really can do almost anything with cauliflower.
Although I haven’t tried many of the more exotic cauliflower recipes, I do have a fondness for buffalo cauliflower. It’s a great appetizer, and much healthier than any deep-fried hot wings will ever be. However, when I’m cooking for just myself or one other person, I don’t usually make appetizers. So how, I asked myself, do I turn a yummy snack into a delicious dinner? My first choice— cauliflower tacos.
I’ve cooked vegetarian tacos before with a mixture of sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and chickpeas. For this recipe, however, I felt that the cauliflower could stand on its own. Rather than top the taco with your standard boring iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes, I added some diced grape tomatoes and made a crunchy slaw bound together with the perfect complement to buffalo sauce: homemade bleu cheese dressing. If you’re on Team Ranch, I suppose that could work as well, but bleu cheese truly tweaks my taste buds. Plus, Great Hill Blue is the best bleu cheese I’ve ever eaten, and it is easy to find because it’s made in Marion, Massachusetts and carried in most local markets.
I highly recommend making your own dressing. Bottled dressings often contain palm oil, emulsifiers, preservatives, and food dyes. Homemade dressings take just a few minutes to whip up, and the flavor is fresh and delicious. Although your homemade bleu cheese won’t keep quite as long in the fridge as the bottled type, it also won’t last quite as long because you won’t be able to resist it. The leftovers disappeared quickly at my house.
While you might not guess it from other articles I’ve written, I eat a mainly vegetarian diet. My partner, Matt, on the other hand, is quite a carnivore. Upon serving these tacos to him, I got the best response to any vegetarian dish I’ve cooked so far. He took one bite, looked up at me, and said, “I love it.” I hope you do too.
Kendra Murray loves experimenting in the kitchen and is psyched when her vegetarian creations sate her family’s more carnivorous palates.