Cauliflower, like broccoli and cabbage, is a member of the healthful cruciferous vegetable family. Usually white to pale yellow in color, it's comprised of florets in stalks that come together to form a rounded head shape. Nowadays you can also find cauliflower that's deep-golden or purple. Then there's the exotic lime-green Romanesco, with conical, spiral florets that look like seashells. Despite their different appearances, all types of cauliflower have a similar sweet, assertive flavor that pairs well with both rich, pungent ingredients and more delicate ones.
1 medium head = about 2 pounds
Look for compact heads of cauliflower that are firm and not limp and that feel heavy for their size. The leaves should be green and look fresh and crisp. Yellow spots on the florets are fine; they only mean that the vegetable got a little "sunburn"-the cauliflower's leaves didn't fully wrap themselves over the florets during growth. Small brown or grayish spots, which are actually a bit of mold, are okay, too; just cut them away during prep.
Always start by trimming away the leaves and the base of the stem. For whole florets, simply cut the florets away from the central stem with a knife. You can also halve or quarter florets for quicker cooking. Slicing them lengthwise about 1/4-inch thick give you the most surface area for browning and is also a good idea for gratins and for deep frying.
Keep cauliflower in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator where is should last at least 3 days and up to 5 days if well wrapped.