This is my first year growing cauliflower here in Denver, and I was thrilled to harvest my first head of "Cheddar" cauliflower this week. A beautiful vegetable begs for an equally beautiful way of cooking it, and a rich puree seemed especially fitting. Purees are easy and make the perfect canvas for a meaty main dish. The addition of goat cheese and thyme in this recipe lends a summery freshness. For more information about growing cauliflower in the home garden, click here or scroll down.
Total time: 25 minutes
1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tbs unsalted butter
2 oz goat cheese*
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Bring one inch of water to boil in pot with steamer basket. Steam florets in basket for 8-10 minutes until fork-tender. Add half the florets to the food processor along with 1/4 cup of the steaming water. Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add remaining steamed florets and another 1/4 cup of steaming water to food processor. Process until smooth. Add butter, goat cheese, thyme leaves, and salt and process until mixture thickens slightly. Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil or hazelnut oil.
(NOTE: This recipe is currently in secondary testing and will be updated as necessary. Comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated!)
*I used Fleur Verte, an herb-coated French chevre from St. Kilian's Cheese Shop and gourmet market across the street. It makes me feel so good to support local, independently-owned small businesses, especially ones that I don't have to burn an ounce of gasoline to get to.
Growing Cauliflower in the Home Garden
Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable that thrives when temperatures average 60 degrees. Here in Denver, cauliflower is grown in spring and harvested in early summer before the heat sets in. (This year I transplanted seedlings on April 29 and the first head of cauliflower was harvested on June 19). In warmer climates (like my home state of Texas) cauliflower is grown in the fall.
Cauliflower is best grown from transplants. Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting out into the garden. Amend soil with compost before planting, and side-dress with a balanced organic fertilizer (I like Happy Frog for Vegetables) one month after transplanting to give the plants a boost as they direct energy into forming heads. Give plants plenty of space - the leaves will grow quite large and cauliflower does not like to be crowded. 18-24 inches between plants is ideal. Keep soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. The cauliflower heads can turn slightly brown when exposed to sunlight. To prevent this, loosely tie leaves around the developing head with a rubber band when the heads are 2-3 inches in diameter. This is called "blanching". This year I grew a variety called "Cheddar" that produced golden yellow heads and did not need blanching.
As cauliflower starts to form heads, watch for signs of cabbage worms. Cabbage worms are bright green and leave behind a trail of dark green worm poop, which you will likely notice first. These worms can simply be picked off of the plants, but if you must resort to chemical control try Bt which is the least harmful to beneficial insects or other wildlife. Pull out any plants with heads that are disfigured or showing signs of insect damage. (This is why I always plant twice as many cauliflower as I think I will need.)
Harvest cauliflower when heads reach a diameter of 6-8 inches. Cut entire plant at the base (or carefully remove entire plant including roots, being careful not to disturb roots of neighboring plants) and remove the outermost leaves, leaving a few leaves around head for protection. Store cauliflower heads in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Cauliflower can be steamed, roasted, or sauteed.