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'Nothing But A Cabbage With A College Education': Cauliflower And Brussels Sprouts

Pulled pork with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

According to Mark Twain, “A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”. 

"We know everything already about cauliflower and Brussels sprouts; we just steam them and maybe put some butter on them and we're done, right?" asks Jon Jackson of Greg Patent. Greg gamely takes the bait: "I used to only put cauliflower into soups, or cook Brussels sprouts with chestnuts at Thanksgiving. But I've discovered how well they both profit from browning."
Cut Brussels sprouts in half and cauliflower into separate florets. Brown in olive oil in a skillet. They won't cook completely; browning is a first step that brings out a different level of flavor. Roast with a chicken, whose flavor they'll absorb. Or add sliced potatoes, small onions or small, whole, peeled shallots to the skillet to brown before adding all the vegetables to the roasting pan.

One Italian method of cooking cauliflower yields a particularly creamy texture: heat up olive oil in a skillet, add salt, and cook large (2") florets on the stovetop, letting them become evenly, deeply brown by turning the florets while they cook. Turn the stove to low, cover the skillet, and after five minutes, they're done.

Chopped Brussels sprouts can be stir-fried using only their own moisture. Or you can cook them with oil and strongly-flavored companions like onions and garlic. As the oil heats, add a couple of anchovies, which will melt into the oil and form a rich flavor base. Include strongly-flavored herbs like rosemary, or a tablespoon of pine nuts.

Cauliflower does well with cheese, either gratinéed (brown the cauliflower, then sprinkle it with a hard cheese and bake in the oven) or as a white sauce (melted cheese and browned cauliflower are baked in the oven). Add a small amount of flavorful stock.

As Jon says: "Voila - you'll have a new dish and people will be saying, 'Gosh - you can really cook.'"

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 5/8/11, 3/13/16 and 3/17/16. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)