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Roasted, mashed or macd, cauliflower can be prepared in a variety of ways
Cauliflower can be prepared in a variety of ways, including this recipe for Mac and Cheese-style Cauliflower.

With its shroud of leaves resembling a head of cabbage and florets that look like broccoli’s paler cousin, there’s no wonder why cauliflower has confused home chefs for so long.

Although they may be a bit mysterious, these are definitely vegetables you want to get to know better.

Several years ago, it was popular in low-carbohydrate diets — when cooked and mashed with milk or cream, cauliflower has the texture and nearly the taste of mashed potatoes.

The United States Department of Agriculture says it is an excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber.

The University System of Georgia Department of Food and Nutrition refers to it as a "nutrition superstar," for its disease fighting abilities. Cauliflower is known to help fight certain types of cancer, cataracts, heart disease and even complications from diabetes.

While doing your vegetable shopping, look for cauliflower heads that are heavy and creamy white with no dark spots or signs of decay. The leaves should be bright green with no yellowing.

If you’re not ready to use it immediately, a well-wrapped head will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. The USDA recommends storing the head with the stem facing upward, to prevent moisture from collecting and causing premature spoiling.

When you’re ready to put it on the supper table, remove the leaves and trim the stem end from the core. Cut away the florets, getting as close to the core as possible.

You also can cut the core into small pieces.

When you’re ready to prepare it, keep in mind that boiling can make cauliflower watery because it already contains a lot of water.

Sauteing works well, but perhaps the best choice is roasting, which brings out cauliflower’s sweet flavor.

To roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place florets on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of kosher or sea salt; toss to coat. Roast about 20 to 25 minutes or until the florets are slightly golden.

Another roasting option is to cut the cauliflower into steaks. Trim the stem end away and steady the whole head, core side down. Slice into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick pieces. Place on a sided roasting pan that’s been drizzled with olive oil. Give the cauliflower another drizzle of oil and season as desired. Roast until nicely browned on both sides, about 10 minutes per side.

If you’d prefer to steam your cauliflower, be careful not to overcook it and boil away all of the nutrients. After about five minutes, you’re good to go.

MCT Information Sevices contributed to this article.