Punjabi Cauliflower Sabzi
Photo: James Lenhart / Contributor
The humble cauliflower’s meteoric rise from a ho-hum vegetable relegated to crudités or steamed-vegetable medleys points to its impressive health benefits. High in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, this cruciferous vegetable has become the darling of the plant-based world. You can grate it raw and use it in place of rice or buy a cauliflower pizza crust.
However, most of these preparations do not do justice to just how delicious cauliflower can taste roasted or braised with spices, which is how most of us Indians like to eat it. At my restaurant, it is one of our most popular vegetables, right up there with okra.
I grew up eating tender braised cauliflower sabzis, usually mildly flavored with a pinch of turmeric, ginger and chili. If tomatoes were in season, they went in and if not, maybe some minced onion went in at the start. In southern India, cauliflower sabzi is often finished with freshly grated coconut. Most places of worship in India serve “langar” (a free meal at the end of pooja, a religious service), and cauliflower sabzi is a popular addition. Cauliflower farmers in India finely mince and braise the “jackets,” or the greens holding the head of the cauliflower, where most of the nutrients lie.
Cauliflower season has started in Texas, and beautiful small, purplish tight white heads with green stalks have started appearing at farmers markets. These are in stark contrast to mass-produced massive cauliflower heads you often find in supermarkets and are well worth a trip to the market. But get there early; the good vegetables go first. Here is a preparation resembling the sabzis I grew up eating in India.