We first noticed the ascent of cauliflower to vegetable superstardom a couple of years ago. Since then, this favorite cruciferous vegetable has only continued to become more popular. Broccoli might be the vegetable we try to tempt kids with, but it's clearly cauliflower that adults can't get enough of. Move over, kale. Cauliflower is the new "in" vegetable. This begs the question: Why are we so infatuated with this crucifer?
It's because it's a stellar substitute for carbs, appealing to those following a paleo diet as well as to sufferers of celiac disease or anyone on a gluten-free diet. "Cauliflower is a nutritious chameleon," says San Diego-based doctor of public health Wendy Bazilian. "It's a source of vitamin C, fiber, and folate, and has a texture that allows it to assume many forms." Smashed, it makes for lighter mashed "potatoes"; it's delicious grated into "rice" and sautéed as a side. It's also popular as a gluten-free pizza crust—just pulverize, blanch, and combine with cheese and egg. Frozen pizza crusts or riced cauliflower from brands like Green Giant, Cali'flour, and Caulipower are great for when you're in a pinch.
Vegans and vegetarians celebrate cauliflower for another reason; hearty, satisfying, and healthy, it's an ideal substitute for meat. As anyone who has tried our cauliflower steak recipe will you, it appeals to meat eaters, too.
In this time of cauliflower renaissance, it's good know we've moved beyond the time when the vegetable was only ever a side dish, when its florets were only boiled and at best smothered in cheese sauce. Now we appreciate that cauliflower tastes good raw in salads, benefits from being roasted, and is sublime baked in a gratin.