The White Giant: Cooking Low-Carb with Cauliflower


My workout partner and I have been restricting our carbohydrates to as close to zero as possible (minus fiber, of course), with an eye toward losing some excess winter body fat as beach weather approaches. I’m a vegetarian, so unlike my workout partner, I can’t spice up my meals by changing the protein source from, say, beef to lamb or turkey to chicken. It’s a drab, tofu-rich scene –  a Groundhog-day spin cycle of repetitive nutrition.

Frustrated by a lack of variety in my meals, I turned to a vegan bodybuilder for help. She told me about cauliflower.

“No, thanks,” I said.

“Trust me,” she said. “Cauliflower is going to be a total game changer for you.”

I laughed. Then I became a believer.

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family, rougher and less popular than its cousin, broccoli. It’s never the star of anything. On the scale of vegetable appreciation, I’d rank it between translucent iceberg lettuce and undercooked Brussels sprouts.

On the bright side, something this bland has to be loaded with nutritional goodness. Sure enough, cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that works to maintain cellular integrity. Sulforaphane may also improve blood pressure and kidney function. Cauliflower is a robust source of anti-inflammatory nutrients that helpan shield your body against inflammation, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C. A single serving of cauliflower nets you 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Plus, its impressive fiber count helps with digestion.

All of that sounds great, but cauliflower is still the taste equivalent of watching paint dry. Like the mushroom, however, the white giant’s culinary value rests in its ability to assimilate the flavors it comes into contact with – a vegetable version of the Borg. The trick is how you cook it. An uncooked cauliflower is harder to crack than Fort Knox. Break it down through steaming, broiling, or baking, and you’d be surprised just how versatile the cauliflower can be.

Below are three unique, virtually carb-free ways to incorporate cauliflower into your diet, either as an alternative to grains and complex carbohydrates, or to add a broader range of vegetable content to your eating profile.

Cauliflower Rice
Rice? From cauliflower? You bet. Cut out the hard core and put the flowery head into a food processor to make grains the size of rice. Microwave the cauliflower grains on high for eight to ten minutes. Spice as needed. If you don’t have a food processor, a cheese grater will do just fine.

Mashed Cauliflower
I’m a potato junkie, so finding an alternative to mashed potato has made me more pleasant to be around. Remove the stem and related leafiness from the cauliflower head and cook 15 minutes, poking it to gauge tenderness. Drain excess water and wrap in a towel, paper or otherwise, to get rid of excess moisture.  Process as you would with potato, adding a half cup of milk, a tablespoon of butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper to taste before mashing it up.

Cauliflower Pizza Dough
This one’s a bit more advanced, but if I can do it, so can you. In a bowl, combine a grated head of cauliflower with a half cup of shredded mozzarella, a quarter cup Parmesan, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and two lightly beaten eggs. Transfer to the center of the baking sheet and spread into a circle, unless you like your pizza square. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Add whatever toppings strike your fancy and bake an additional 10 minutes.