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Cauliflower Leaves Have a New Purpose in Life

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If there’s a ranking of underutilized, unappreciated produce parts, cauliflower leaves are surely in the top five.

I won’t subject you to my ruminations on what would fill the other four slots (today, anyway), but I will say that if you think broccoli stems belong in that list, we need to have a talk.

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Photo by James Ransom

Abstractly, we probably all realize that cauliflower leaves are perfectly edible—they can be used just like any of your other favorite dark leafy greens. But we often pull off the leaves and discard them without another thought. It's likely because, unless you're growing your own, there aren’t all that many leaves to work with: probably not enough to create a side dish of their own, which means it might not seem worth it to save a few​ leaves for the future.

Gingerroot’s Roasted Cauliflower Short Grain Brown Rice Risotto with Lemon, Walnut and Mascarpone deftly solves this problem, incorporating the leaves right into the same dish that the cauliflower goes into.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

The finished dish is creamy and comforting (as rice should be), yet sophisticated, too, with its blend of nutty and lemony flavors. It comes together faster than you might think, considering that it's risotto and you're using brown rice, though you may find you need a bit more time cooking than the recipe calls for.

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Roasted Cauliflower Brown Rice Risotto with Lemon, Walnut, and Mascarpone

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Serves serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a main course
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets (save any green leaves! see below)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 garlic clove, finely chopped, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cauliflower leaves (thick, fibrous stalks discarded)
  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup vermouth
  • 2 generous tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Walnut oil, for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted in a 350° F oven for 5 to 7 minutes, finely chopped

Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

Tags: cooking with scraps, scraps, cauliflower, cauliflower leaves