Our CSA farm does not trim the outer leaves off a head of cauliflower because they help to keep the white part of the cauliflower clean until you’re ready to eat it. The farm newsletter had mentioned from time to time that these leaves are edible, too, and we’d tried substituting them for kale in a few dishes, but our main impression was that they were tougher and less tasty than kale.
On Saturday I made roasted vegetables: cauliflower, potatoes, and green peppers. Now, I’ve read all over the place how other people’s children just adore vegetables of all sorts when they are roasted, but my six-year-old Nicholas has steadfastly refused to eat any roasted vegetable except potatoes and the golden turnips we get about once a year from the CSA. I’ve even tried showing him someone’s blog with photos of enthusiastic children yumming down the roasted cauliflower, to no avail.
But this time, as I was cutting the huge leaves off the cauliflower and setting them aside, Nicholas came in and announced, “I don’t like cauliflower! But I like cauliflower leaves! Can I eat a leaf, please?” I gave him a leaf. He chomped into it and chewed earnestly for many minutes. Then he handed me the remainder of the leaf and said, “Maybe they’ll be better roasted.”
Well, why not? I removed the main stems, tore the leaves into smaller pieces, and dunked the leaves in the same seasoned oil I was using for the rest of the vegetables, but I spread the leaves in a separate pan, assuming they would cook more quickly. I made a double layer rather than use yet another pan. After 10 minutes, they were looking crispy.
Wow! They are so good! They did not get really crisp like potato chips, but the edges have a pleasantly fried texture. The thicker parts are chewy but not so chewy as to become boring; they exude rich flavor with every chomp! Nicholas ate some without objection, although by the time dinner was finally ready (I got a late start) he was very tired and listless. I love them so much I’ve been eating the leftovers cold, with my fingers!
I don’t use a recipe for my seasoned oil, but here’s the basic procedure:
- Pour some olive oil into a bowl. For a fairly large pile of veggies (about 3-5 cups) you’ll need at least 1/2 or 3/4 cup of oil. I don’t bother with the extra-virgin stuff, but I do insist on oil that comes in a glass bottle, not plastic.
- Add some herbs–fresh or dried, whatever kind you happen to have that will taste good in this sort of thing–rosemary, parsley, dill, oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram, etc. , totaling at least a tablespoon of herbs, in small bits.
- Add some garlic and/or onion, fresh or dried, in small bits. This time I used the last of a bag of thawed frozen thinly sliced onion that was hanging around the refrigerator left over from making a small batch of Beans & Rice; I also poured in the onion juice from the bottom of the bag.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. I used sea salt and white pepper in this batch.
- Add a small amount (about a teaspoon) of nutritional yeast flakes, if desired. They give a nice golden color to pale veggies like white cauliflower, as well as improving the flavor and adding B vitamins.
- Mix thoroughly with slotted spoon. Put veggies into oil until the top ones are breaking the surface. Stir. Lift out veggies with slotted spoon, allowing most of the oil to run back into the bowl. (With leaves, you might want to use tongs to lift each leaf by the edge and let the oil run off.) Spread veggies in a single layer on a pan that has at least a shallow edge all the way around. Now put more veggies into oil and repeat the process.
- If you run out of oil before you run out of veggies, add more oil. Taste it to see if you need to add more seasonings–often you won’t because they sink to the bottom.
- Put pans in oven at 425 degrees F. Check every 5 minutes. Veggies are done when they start looking really browned in spots.
I wasn’t able to find clear nutrition information on cauliflower leaves, but I bet they’re similar to other leafy green vegetables: high in Vitamins A, C, and K and fiber. While searching, I found three Indian recipes for cauliflower leaves and an explanation of why most people need not worry about cauliflower being “goitrogenic”.