Cauliflower consumption is in a steep decline, but it's hardly evident from Seattle menus.
There's cauliflower soup at Altura, brown butter cauliflower at Terra Plata, fried cauliflower at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar and, at Staple & Fancy, cauliflower puree on the roasted chicken plate. Cauliflower, which never merits a mention on trendy vegetable lists, is suddenly broiling hot in Seattle.
Locavorism is party responsible for the trend, since fresh, regionally-grown cauliflower is available nearly year-round. But the affection for cauliflower may also be rooted in empathy.
"It's a totally misunderstood vegetable," says Dana Wooten, Book Larder's culinary director. Wooten is handling the kitchen portion of an upcoming collaborative workshop with The Yoga Tree, in which attendees will learn poses and recipes designed to make winter more bearable. Wooten's menu includes roasted cauliflower.
"It's hearty and nourishing, but not fatty," Wooten says. "Most people's experience with cauliflower is that it's been steamed, which is fine, but kind of gross; it's raw and inedible, or it's covered in cheese sauce."
Cauliflower fans have long complained that the vegetable's popularity potential has been undermined by sloppy cooking. In 1891, Arthur Crozier urged readers of The Cauliflower to pay special attention to his chapter on boiling cauliflower in porcelain pots. "One reason why there is such a limited demand for this vegetable in this country is that so few here know how to cook it," he wrote.
In 1986, when cauliflower was commonly served with dip and nutrition-minded eaters didn't limit their diets to dark, leafy greens, annual per capita consumption in the U.S. peaked at 3.1 pounds. By 2009, the number had fallen to 1.9 pounds.
The situation's even graver over in England, where cauliflower was once a favorite vegetable: Consumption has dropped 35 percent over the past decade, inspiring supermarket chain Tesco to cross cauliflowers with other vegetables to provoke shopper interest. Its pink, green and orange cauliflowers went on sale last summer.
"There's a lot you can do with cauliflower," Wooten says.