The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter: About Cauliflower

Let's get right at it today with a quick look at one of those vegetables that many of us really dislike in childhood but that - if we're lucky - we come to admire once we attain sufficient maturity to accept it, and sufficient cooking skills so as not to stew it into a smelly mush.

The subject is cauliflower, a healthy item that still makes me feel vaguely guilty when I serve it because it's, well, not GREEN. Don't let its wan color fool you, though, this stuff is good for you: A medium-size head contains under 150 calories, very little of it fat. (One of my favorite resources for information like this, by the way, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database for Standard Reference,, where you can look up comprehensive nutrition information - calorie counts, fat, carbohydrate and carbohydrate content, and much more - for thousands of common foods.)

When I shop for cauliflower, I look for a smallish to medium-size head of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. Although it will keep reasonably well in the refrigerator's vegetable crisper drawer, it's best when it's fresh and crisp, before blackish spots appear on the florets and the outer leaves turn from green to olive or yellow.

To make a quick and tasty side dish, all you need to do is break off or cut individual florets from the large central stem; you can cut the larger florets into smaller pieces if you're finicky about making them all about the same size. Cook them in enough boiling salted water to cover for 5 to 15 minutes until they're done but not overcooked. Then drain and serve, dressing with your choice of simply salt and pepper or fresh melted butter or a quick vinaigrette of olive oil and citrus juice.

Whether to cook them until they're soft or still have a bit of crunch is really up to you and your tastes, but do take care not to simmer them so long that the unpleasant sulfury smell that afflicts all overcooked members of the cabbage family comes to the table. Some cookbooks suggest putting a little milk in the water to make the cauliflower white; I've never found this makes much difference, but if you do add milk (or even if you don't), watch for boilovers - once your cauliflower water comes to the boil, it invariably sends a frothy foam heading for your range top if you don't keep an eye on it.

Another delicious way to prepare cauliflower is to add cooked cauliflower florets to mashed potatoes, mashing them in until they're coarsely pureed but still have some texture. This is guaranteed to have everyone at your table guessing as they try to figure out the elusive mystery ingredient.

Today, though, let's mix cauliflower and potatoes Indian-style, turning to another new cookbook that I've mentioned in a couple of recent Wine Advisors: Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian."

This week's recipe:
Aloo Gobi, Punjabi-style cauliflower and potatoes with ginger

Before you moan, "Oh, no, not a vegetarian main dish," please bear with me. Like many wine lovers, I'm an omnivore. But I do enjoy the challenge of fashioning meatless dinners so hearty and interesting and yes, wine-friendly, that you don't realize until after the meal that you didn't have any meat ... and that you didn't miss it. This dish from India, based on Jaffrey's recipe with some modifications in ingredients and procedure, falls squarely into that category. The ingredients may look like a vegetable side dish, but when dinner reaches the table it has magically become a filling main course.


2 medium boiling potatoes or 1 large one, about 8 ounces (250 grams)
1 small head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Blanch (pre-cook) the potatoes and cauliflower by cooking them part-way. Place the vegetables in separate saucepans with water to cover, bring both to the boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain.

2. Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet or saute pan and heat until very hot. Add the drained potatoes, stir around once or twice, then reduce heat to medium and fry the potatoes for about 5 minutes until they start to brown; then add the cauliflower florets and the minced ginger and garlic and continue cooking for another three minutes or so.

3. Add the turmeric, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander, stir once or twice, and add the water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, add the cilantro and serve.

This dish serves two, and really requires nothing more than a salad to make a good light meal.

MATCHING WINE: Each in its own way, Indian fare and vegetarian dishes are purportedly tough to match with wine. But one magic word that bridges the gap is "Riesling." When I last tried this dish, I found it made a stunning match with Grove Mill 1999 Marlborough Riesling, a dry rendition from New Zealand. The wine's aromatic flavors went with Indian spice like mango chutney, and something about the texture of Riesling seems to fare better than most wines with spicy food. Another interesting approach with a spicy but not fiery Indian dish of this type would be an Austrian Gruner Veltliner, like the two featured in today's Wine Advisor,

Cookbook: Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian"

One of my staple vegetarian cookbooks for years has been Madhur Jaffrey's "World of the East," so I was excited to see her new "World Vegetarian" on the market this year. So far, it has lived up to my expectations with an intriguing variety of international recipes, even if her definition of "world" seems to be somewhat shifted toward the Southern Hemisphere and Asia.

To read more about the book on, click to It's a 768-page paperback with a list price of $24.95, available from for $17.46, a 30 percent saving. Should you decide to buy it, using this link will pay a small commission to and help support our online publications. (If your E-mail software broke the long link over more than one line, please take care to reassemble it before you paste or copy the address into your browser.)

Emeril Sweepstake On WineLoversPage.Com! has joined with to bring the fun of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and his cooking to wine lovers on the World Wide Web!

For four weeks, "Emeril's Missing Ingredient Sweepstake" will present a new recipe each week for a good wine-pairing dish from Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril" ... with one essential ingredient missing. Your challenge is to study the recipe (or, if you prefer, search for the complete original on and figure out what key ingredient has been left out.

Each Friday we'll choose a winner from those who correctly identify the missing ingredient. Winners will get a free, autographed copy of Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril," and a Grand Prize winner will win an entire Emeril Cookbook collection.

We'll also award a few bonus prizes - Emeril's spices and sauces - to the comments we judge most creative and imaginative among those who fill in the optional block inviting you to tell us why you chose a specific missing ingredient.

This week's "Missing Ingredient" recipe is SPICED BAKED HAM WITH SWEET POTATOES. For details, the recipe and entry form, see


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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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