Like its cousin, broccoli, cauliflower is a vegetable that thrives in cool climates, making it an abundant item in winter produce aisles (although it is available year-round). We’re most familiar with the white variety, but there are other types of cauliflower that come in shades of green, purple, brown, even yellow! A good source of vitamin C and fiber, cauliflower can be eaten raw or prepared using nearly any cooking technique. It’s especially delicious when the florets are tossed in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and oven-roasted at 425°F. until lightly browned and tender. Serve roasted cauliflower with your favorite entrée or use it as the base for soup. It’s also wonderful simmered briefly in Swanson® Chicken broth and served as a side dish or salad.
When choosing cauliflower, look for heads that have tight, compact florets with little or no signs of browning. Avoid those with wilting or yellowing leaves around the base of the head. Store it in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up to 5 days after purchasing.
Garlic is such a common ingredient in our kitchens that we hardly give it much thought. Choose heads that are plump, dry and very firm. The papery skin should be white or off-white, but some heirloom varieties may be streaked with purple. Store garlic in a cool, dry, dark spot, but not in the refrigerator where it tends to soften and lose flavor. It’ll keep for a couple of weeks but much longer than that and it’ll start to soften, shrivel and may even sprout. If that happens, just use a clove or two more than the recipe calls for (since it’s lost some punch) and pull out the green sprout before mincing.
Garlic can be added to nearly every savory recipe to add distinctive flavor—from vegetables, to soup and entrées, there are endless ways to enjoy its pungent taste. And if you’ve never tried roasting garlic before, now’s your chance! Take whole heads of fresh garlic and cut off the tops just to expose the cloves. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the cut part of the garlic head, then wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the cloves are soft when pierced with a knife. Unwrap the garlic and allow it to cool enough to handle, then remove the cloves from their papery shell by squeezing the whole head so the cloves slide out of the cut opening in the top. Roasted garlic is unbelievable spread onto sandwiches, stirred into sauces or spread directly onto toasted bread or crackers.
Like garlic, onions play such a pivotal role in our kitchens that they’re easy to take for granted. But what would we do without them? Sweet onions (Vidalia® from Georgia, Walla Walla from Washington and Maui from Hawaii) will start making more of an appearance in the next couple of months, but “storage” onions (those that were harvested in the fall and kept cool through the winter months) are plentiful now, and likely what most of us have been using for the last few months. They come in three colors: yellow, white and red (or purple, often called “Spanish” onions). Generally speaking, yellow and white onions can be used interchangeably, while red onions are best not substituted for yellow or white—their color can tint dishes pink.
Look for onions that are firm with no cuts, soft spots, browning or blemishes. Also avoid those that have begun to sprout—an indication that they’ve been around for a while. Winter onions tend to have thicker, sturdier papery skins which helps prolong their shelf life over time. Winter onions can be stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks; once cut, store leftovers in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator and use within a week.
Cauliflower tastes so good and can be adapted to fit so many different tastes. Who knew this humble vegetable could be such a crowd-pleaser!
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