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Cauliflower comes is many shapes and colors, and is quickly becoming the hip new vegetable. Dreamstime photo

The buzz among food pundits is that cauliflower will be the next big vegetable, usurping kale’s recent reign as king of produce.

It’s not clear how these food fads develop, but there’s no question that kale has been big.

Trendy chefs, food writers and TV food celebrities have been serving up kale Caesar salad, kale chips, kale slaw and kale dolmades, touting the health benefit of the sturdy green

Oddly, they’ve mostly missed traditional Irish colcannon and Portuguese caldo verde, perhaps because all the excitement is about dark green cavolo nero — otherwise called Tuscan or dinosaur kale because of it’s crinkly, reptilian-like texture — not other varieties long eaten here and elsewhere.

Although a fellow member of the cabbage family, cauliflower has a number of advantages over kale:

Cauliflower can be mashed like potatoes, minced into ricelike crumbs, roasted or cut into steaks and grilled or broiled, served with cheese or Hollandaise sauce on its own or raw in salad or tossed with herbs, vinegars and oils.

Just don’t boil it, which releases fumes lethal to the appetite and makes it mushy and waterlogged.

For those avoiding gluten, the Internet even offers pizza with cauliflower crust, though that may be a bit much.

Perhaps best of all, cauliflower comes in gorgeous colors of purple, orange, yellow and green as well as creamy white, and Romanesco cauliflower has bizarre pointed spikes.

And while some nutritionists tell you to avoid white foods, they’re really talking about those made with white wheat flower, white rice and, unfairly, potatoes. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, and a good source of vitamin K5.

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A cup of plain-cooked florets contains only 30 calories, assuming you avoid the butter, cream and cheese it often attracts, yet fills you up. It also contains 2 grams of fiber.

Cauliflower may even have cancer-fighting properties. The sulfur-based glucosinolates that release pungent aromas when you overcook them are broken down into indoles, isothiocyanates, nitriles and thiocyanates that may have anti-cancer properties. They may help inactivate carcinogens, thus protecting your cells from damage.

As an ingredient, cauliflower is pretty bland and can take on other flavors or serve as a backdrop. If you don’t see it before it’s chopped or mashed, and no one tells you, you might mistake it for other foods, even grains. In this way, it can be used to make a “cream” soup with even fewer calories than potatoes or other starch.

You can use any color or variety of cauliflower in these recipes, though some — like purple — might not do for imitating potatoes or rice.

But be aware that some Italians may call broccoli cauliflower “cavolfiore,” and vice versa.

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