Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad

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 A whole roasted head of cauliflower makes a gorgeous presentation,  especially when served over a whole grain couscous and kale salad with sun dried tomato pesto. 

You heard it here first - cauliflower is the new kale.  Yup, that mushy white vegetable you pushed off your plate as a child is poised to make a comeback.  Just like kale can move seamlessly from chip, to smoothie, to sturdy salad green, cauliflower can go from a low calorie stand in for mashed potatoes, to spicy pureed soup, to a creamy yet crispy fritter.  You can even make them taste as good as French fries.  

Not only does cauliflower rival kale on versatility, but it rocks in the nutrition department too.  It's hard to compete with kale’s perfect score on the ANDI scale, but cauliflower is no iceberg lettuce.  If you've been avoiding cauliflower, following the flawed "if it's white, don't bite" rule, you'll be pleased to know cauliflower is a nutrition powerhouse, right up there with it's cousins broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and (hey!) kale!

Vitamin C

Citrus fruits may be known for vitamin C, but one cup of cauliflower actually contains 85% daily value for the powerful antioxidant nutrient.  As most of you already know, vitamin C also plays a role in immune function.  Vitamin C is also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, joint disease and cataracts.

Antioxidants
Cauliflower contains a wide range of antioxidant nutrients other than vitamin C.  Other nutrients with an antioxidant effect include beta-carotene, caffenic acid, cinnamic acid, quercetin and kaempferol.  
Cancer Protection

Cruciferious vegetables, like cauliflower, seem to play a special role in cancer prevention, especially for cancers of the stomach and lung.  These vegetables are rich sources of glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that is transformed into indoles and isothiocyanates.  These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by helping our body detox dietary and environmental carcinogens after turning them into a less toxic and more easily excreted compound.  

Vitamin K Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K, a group of vitamins usually associated with green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood coagulation.  It helps our body get the balance between too sticky (heart attack) and too thin (bleed out from a paper cut).  Adequate vitamin K intake is also associated with a lower risk of fractures, as it helps stop the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, and promote the activity of osteocalcin, which is associated with bone density. Studies have also indicated a link between serum levels of vitamin K and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.  

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The glucosinolates in cauliflower also seem to play a role in modulating our inflammatory response, which decreases the risk of many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  One specific type of glucosinolate, called glucoraphanin, seems to specifically trigger anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system, which can help prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage.

Over the past couple years, I've racked up quite a few recipes for whole roasted cauliflower.  Now that I've made it, I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make it. It makes for such a stunning presentation, the perfect vegan main.  And if you're still not convinced cauliflower is the new kale, it's served over a kale and couscous salad, which you could easily make gluten free with quinoa instead. 

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Couscous Kale Salad
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4
Ingredients
  • [b]Cauliflower:[/b]
  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and core removed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
  • [b]Pesto:[/b]
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water if needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • [b]Salad:[/b]
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 
10 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle the head of cauliflower with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking dish and roast for about an hour to an hour fifteen until well browned on the outside and tender on the inside.
  3. Meanwhile, blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water (or broth) in a small pot. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.
  5. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Top with warm couscous to wilt slightly. If you like it more wilty, just pop it in the microwave for a minute or two. Add olives and walnuts, toss to combine. Whisk together oil, lemon juice and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
  6. Make a layer of salad on a large serving dish. Top with cauliflower and drizzle pesto over the top of the cauliflower. Slice into chunks and serve with salad and extra pesto.