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From white to wow!

Find out how California chefs are using the new purple, green and yellow cauliflower varieties to brighten up your plate.


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In today's world of seeking new and innovative items to put on their menus, chefs have to juggle seasonality, taste and excitement. They want something indulgent, yet healthy. New, yet familiar. And above all, they have to generate a buzz amongst diners. And that's exactly what chef Mary Pagan tries to do every day at the Culinary Center of Monterey. This is where she teaches students how to create great meals from great food—specifically from the plethora of produce that surrounds them.

On the latest menu, the students are experimenting with a new local product called colorful cauliflower. Instead of the traditional white cauliflower, these veggies are purple, green and yellow. And it's not hard to see why the unique product adds to these aspiring chefs' creativity.

"When they first saw the colors, they were like wow!" said Mary. "Then they asked questions like, are they dyed or will the color wash off when I cook it?"

The answer is of course no, but to really retain the color, shape and texture of the cauliflower, Mary suggests blanching or roasting it. Surprisingly versatile, the vegetable is added to everything from Cobb salad to soup to tempura at the culinary center and is finding a home on menus across the area, including in Carmel. That's where chef Brandon Miller is brightening up meals and having great fun with the ever-changing menu at Mundaka, located in downtown Carmel. Named after a town in Spain, the restaurant features what Brandon calls "spanified" dishes—traditional Spanish meals mixed with the fresh California produce that is all around him, including the colorful cauliflower.

Added to such dishes as paella and burgers, the cauliflower has actually become an integral part of the menu here, which is why Brandon relies on local growers to supply him with arguably the most colorful conversation starter in the kitchen. And just a few miles away farmers are growing the bright vegetable, which they learned isn't just pretty. Iit's pretty good for you, too.

"We're trying to grow more nutritional products," said farmer Allan Sabatier. "This cauliflower has enhanced vitamin C and beta carotene."

So while the one constant with farming and the food industry is change, California farmers and chefs will be at the forefront of those innovating ideas and making sure your plate is changed, for the brighter!

For more information about the Monterey Culinary Center, visit www.culinarycenterofmonterey.com.

For more information about Mundaka, visit www.mundakacarmel.com.


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