Food fads come and go, but cauliflower and its magical powers seem to be one trendy ingredient that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with good reason—it’s a low-calorie, high-vitamin veggie, one that can be transformed into a variety of mouth-watering dishes.

Look no further than Iron Chef Canada‘s Battle Cauliflower for proof. The Chairman tasked challenger (and former Top Chef Canada winner) René Rodriguez and Iron Chef Amanda Cohen with concocting five dishes featuring the cruciferous veggie, and boy, did they deliver. From cauliflower dumplings and arancino to a cauliflower “Funfetti” cake and pannacotta, these chefs proved that cauli-“power” is a very real thing.

In honour of the versatile ingredient, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about it.

Iron Chef Canada cauliflower reveal

When is cauliflower in season in Canada?

Luckily, cauliflower is available year-round, but it’s always at its best (and most inexpensive) come fall. That’s when you’ll see larger heads pop up on store shelves or lining the stalls at local farmer’s markets, where it’s just waiting to be transformed into a hearty soup, mash or roasted dish.

What does cauliflower taste like?

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that just goes well with everything thanks to its mild flavour, as it tends to absorb the herbs and spices it’s seasoned with. But overall it’s slightly nutty with a bit of a bitter undertone, which means that while you can swap it in for a variety of carbs, you’ll usually still get a hint of cauliflower taste in your finished dish.

What do you eat cauliflower with?

This veggie is great as a snack, side dish, or main, and it can be paired with a variety of spices and ingredients that enhance its natural flavour. We’d say anything goes, but we’re particularly fond of pairing cauliflower with other fall ingredients like venison or pumpkin, as well as salty, savoury cheese.

What are the health benefits of eating cauliflower?

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower (and broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale), are basically a superfood. Cauliflower is low in calories and fat-free, and contains an abundance of vitamins, from folate and Vitamin C, to Vitamins E and K. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help to regulate cholesterol and heart disease; it’s high in fibre; and it also contains sulforaphane, a compound that may be key to preventing cancer.

Need more reasons to munch on cauliflower? It’s also said to boost brain function, balance hormones, improve the appearance of skin and hair, and help your vision. All that on top of it being a great tool for weight loss. No wonder more and more people are cooking the veggie up.

The great cauliflower debate: cooked or raw?

It’s no secret that people can be pretty particular about how they consume their cauliflower. While some prefer the raw crunch that comes with biting into a floret (accompanying a cheesy dip or guacamole, maybe?) others prefer the milder flavour of it cooked.

While it’s always a good idea to incorporate more veggies into your diet no matter how they’re prepared, the hard-to-digest sugars in raw cruciferous vegetables can lead to gas and bloating for some folks. Meanwhile, people with a thyroid condition might want to heat up their cauliflower too, given that raw cruciferous veggies contain thyroid inhibitors, which may worsen the condition.

raw cauliflower

How to make cauliflower rice

Ricing cauliflower is super quick and easy—all you need is a food processor. Separate the florets and give them a quick wash, then pop them into the processor and pulsate until you achieve the texture of rice. Easy, peasy.

Don’t have a food processor? You can also grate the florets using a cheese grater.

Once you’ve got your “rice,” (which is about 25 calories per cup compared to 205 calories per cup for white rice), you can use it in a variety of dishes that call for regular rice, from cauliflower fried rice to sushi. Just keep an eye on your cooking time: in a hot dish cauliflower rice only needs five-to-eight minutes on the stovetop.

You can also freeze cauliflower rice once it’s been pulsated down, simply throw it into labelled freezer-safe bags and then pull it out when you’re in need of a quick, low-carb side dish.

cauliflower-fried-rice

Cauliflower pizza

Rice isn’t the only magical thing to come out of a head of cauliflower—you can make cauliflower-based pizza crust too. The trick to a successful crust is to ring out all of the water from the veggie as you go, but be warned that it’s not pizza crust. This is a thinner, healthier version, albeit one that’s improved with the addition of life’s two secret ingredients: tomato sauce and cheese.

 

Watch Iron Chef Canada Wednesdays at 10 PM E/P