In Season: cauliflower

Cauliflower has a lot in common with Goldilocks. To make cauliflower happy, a farmer needs a season that’s not too hot and not too cold. A season with not too much rain and not too little. Dave Bentoski of D & A Farm in Zebulon says that’s why cauliflower is a little harder to find at your local farmers market than its relatives cabbage and broccoli. “Cauliflower wants a steady climate, and that’s not something we have much of here in Georgia,” Bentoski said.

Bentoski grows a variety called “Fremont” that’s “self-wrapping.” This is a great asset in cauliflower. Those creamy white heads only stay creamy white when they’re not exposed to sunlight. A variety that wraps its leaves around the head means the farmer doesn’t have to go down each row tying the leaves to protect his crop.

Bentoski sows about an eighth of an acre in cauliflower each year. He seeds a spring and a fall crop. Seeds planted in the greenhouse around the Fourth of July holiday are transplanted to the fields in mid- to late August. It’s late October or early November before the cauliflower can be harvested and sold to his restaurant customers or brought to the Saturday morning Morningside Farmers Market.

The best cauliflower for eating raw is the truly fresh cauliflower you buy at a local farmers market. Bentoski prefers his cauliflower right from the field, simply steamed and seasoned with a little salt.

Once cauliflower gets older, or a little distance from the field, you’re better off cooking it. Roasting and steaming on the stove or in the microwave are the best ways to prepare it.

Once cooked, cauliflower also lends itself to a wide variety of seasonings from lemon juice and delicate herbs to salty and acidic complements such as olives, tomato, chiles and garlic.

Keep your cauliflower in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Wrap it in a damp tea towel or paper towel and then store in a perforated plastic bag. It’s the condensation from unventilated plastic that starts those black spots on the white florets and cause the head to decay.

Cooking demos:

10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. Chef Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

11:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. Chef Kevin Gillespie. Grant Park Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.grantparkmarket.org

For sale

Vegetables, fruit and nuts: African squash, apples, arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chestnuts, collards, dandelion, endive, escarole, English peas, frisee, garlic, ginger, green beans, green onions, herbs, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mache, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peanuts, pecans, peppers, persimmons, popping corn, pumpkins, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potato greens, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips and turnip greens, winter squash

From local reports

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Former caterer Jay Stogner teaches classes at the Buford Highway Farmers Market and offers private cooking lessons. She presented this recipe during a class at the market noting it would make a great entree for a vegetarian meal. A bonus is that when cooked this way, the florets become crispier and more caramelized than the steaks, providing a nice contrast of textures.

1 (1 1/2-pound) head cauliflower, washed, leaves removed

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan

Parsley for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stand the head of cauliflower on its core end and cut 1/2-inch thick slices from the widest part. These are your steaks. You should be able to cut three or four. Break the rest of the cauliflower into florets.

Arrange steaks and florets on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides of steaks with olive oil and drizzle remainder over florets. Season with salt and pepper. Bake steaks until golden, about 7 minutes, and turn. Sprinkle steaks with Parmesan. Continue baking until steaks are tender and golden and cheese has browned, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley if desired.

Per serving: 92 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 5 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 121 milligrams sodium.

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