This cauliflower hater likes the vegetable one way only: Pickled

Jim Webster

THE WASHINGTON POST – If you want to get me flowers, I like irises and hydrangeas. Bonus points if they’re purple.

If you want to get creative and know I like to cook, some fancy fleur de sel would be thoughtful. Or that I like live music, maybe tickets to see Maggie Rose or the Wallflowers, when concerts are a thing again. Until then, we could stream one of my favourite movies Stranger Than Fiction which I love based strictly on the scene in which Will Ferrell’s character gives Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Ana, a baker, a dozen flours.

If you know me at all, you probably already know there’s one ‘flower’ that I don’t want to have anything to do with, whether it’s a gift or not.

Cauliflower.

In this season of professions of love, I offer mine in a way that may seem incongruous to the sentiment. See, there is one thing I really love about cauliflower: I love how much I hate cauliflower. Even if it’s purple.

I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy, but I embrace my long-held disdain for this brash brassica. If you told me I could live to 100 by eating cauliflower every day, I’d ask why I would want to live to 100 if I had to eat cauliflower every day.

Turmeric pickled cauliflower. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Depending on whom and when you ask, and how much weight you give such proclamations, cauliflower has overtaken kale as the most trendy (read: overwrought) item at the farmers market. But I think it cheated. It’s always trying to be something it’s not.

I rolled my eyes the first time I saw cauliflower ‘steak’ on a menu. When I saw cauliflower ‘rice’ in the store, I felt betrayed on behalf of my favoured carb. I saw a pizza with a cauliflower ‘crust’ and considered starting a movement to ban quotation marks from all foodstuff. Then there was the day I saw cauliflower ‘tots’ in the grocery freezer. I can’t talk about that day yet. It’s just too soon.

Credit where it’s due, though: Cauliflower clearly knows no one wants to eat it on its own terms. Pretty smart. I guess it’s not an accident that it looks like brains.

Even the name is a lie. It’s not a flower, and it smells nothing like any flower you would actually give someone you cared about. You know how you can tell someone nearby is having cauliflower? Take a sniff. There’s no hiding it. If someone was eating cauliflower near a gas leak, people would die before anyone realised they were in danger.

But I’d be safe, because I would’ve seen the cauliflower and been out the door.

A lot of vegetables have the unfortunate side effect of causing gas. You can ‘heart’ cauliflower all you want, but that story ends with you doing something that merely rhymes with heart.

As a matter of full disclosure: I actually kind of like pickled cauliflower. Why do I find that acceptable when the myriad other options are so, so terrible? Because it has been soaked in acid. That’s literally what it takes to make it edible.

Whoops. Excuse me. See? I think I just hearted cauliflower.

TURMERIC PICKLED CAULIFLOWER

Active time: 10 minutes | Total time: 10 minutes, plus four days to pickle

8 to 10 servings; makes two pints

If you don’t like cauliflower, you might find this recipe a delicious exception. Pickling it tames some of its sulfurous qualities that can be off-putting and turns it into a condiment that’s good on sandwiches, on a charcuterie board or simply for snacking. The spices in the brine evoke Indian cuisine, but you can substitute your favourites. Personalise it with some combination of cinnamon, citrus peel, whole black peppercorns, dried chillies, ginger and/or fennel seed.

Make Ahead: The cauliflower needs to be pickled at least four days before you plan to serve it.

Storage Notes: The pickles can be refrigerated for about two months.

INGREDIENTS

One small head cauliflower

One and a half cups water, or more as needed

Two tablespoons granulated sugar

One tablespoon kosher salt

One cup vinegar

One tablespoon ground turmeric

12 green cardamom pods

Two tablespoons coriander seed

Two Fresno chilli peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into long strips or rings (may substitute jalapeño, preferably red)

DIRECTIONS

Break the cauliflower apart, and cut away and discard any stems. Cut the larger florets into small ones, about three-quarter inch; you should end up with about four loosely packed cups.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water with sugar and salt, stirring just until both dissolve. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and turmeric.

Divide the cardamom and coriander equally between the jars. Fill each jar about halfway with the florets, then divide the chillis between the jars and fill with the remaining florets.

Stir the turmeric brine and pour it into the jars, filling them to submerge the florets. You should have enough brine, but if you don’t, you can top the jars off with more water to cover. Let the brine cool to room temperature, screw on the lids, and refrigerate the jars for at least four days before serving.

Nutrition | Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.