Cauliflower belongs to the brassica family of vegetables, making it a relative of broccoli and cabbage. Eat boiled cauliflower plain; mash it with butter to make a tasty side dish for roasted meats; or puree it with chicken broth and herbs for a soup. Boil a whole head in about 10 minutes; cut florets will be done in 5 to 7 minutes.
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Prepare the cauliflower by trimming away any green leaves and chopping off the thick bottom part of the stem. Rinse it under cool water. If you choose to chop up the vegetable, use a sharp knife to cut the florets from the stem and then dice the stem separately.
Bring a large, deep pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Place the whole head in, or toss in the florets and chopped stem. Reduce the heat slightly and cook the whole head for about 10 minutes. Pierce the center with a knife to see if it's soft throughout. If not, boil for another few minutes, checking periodically for doneness.
Florets cook sufficiently in 5 to 7 minutes, depending on their size. You can also test them with a fork to make sure they're done. Drain the cauliflower before serving or using in another recipe.
To use the boiled cauliflower in a cold preparation, such as a salad, cool it in an ice bath. Once drained, place the florets or entire head in a bowl of ice water. This brings the temperature of the cauliflower down quickly and prevents it from overcooking as it sits.