Winter vegetables are pretty fascinating creatures, and cauliflower is at the top of that list. The sweet, almost nutty flavor of a cauliflower is in prime season right now, running through March.

Cauliflower is a white veggie, lacking the chlorophyll that makes green vegetables, well — green. It is a member of the cabbage family, which also includes broccoli and kale.

A perfect cauliflower has a compact and tight head with the flowers attached to a stalk. When you break it apart for cooking, it actually resembles a little tree.

As for the green leaves that surround the head, their job is to protect the vegetable from the sunlight, which is where the chlorophyll comes in. If a plant does not get sunlight, it will stay pure white.

One simple way to cook a cauliflower is to steam it. Put the separated flowers in a basket over a pot of boiling water and let it cook until the veggie is tender. Put a little salt, pepper and butter or margarine on and it’s ready to serve. You can also steam as above, then put some melted cheese over the flowers just prior to serving for a more sophisticated taste.

Store your cauliflower in a paper or plastic bag in the fridge and it will keep for about one full week. You don’t want any moisture getting in, so just remember to store it stem side down. This will prevent droplets from accumulating in the bag. If you choose to purchase the pre-cut florets, use them within a day or so of purchase. They are not as fresh as uncut cauliflower.

When you cut a fresh cauliflower, don’t throw away the green leaves and stem as they are also edible. They make a great addition to soup stocks. I save them in a bag and when I make my once-a-month soup, I just toss them in. I don’t cut them because I take them out when the soup is done. All this does is extract the flavors they hold in and they give off a nice mellow flavor that acts as an enhancement to any type of soup I happen to be making.

Today’s recipe is for baked cauliflower. This is a nice side dish to go with chicken, fish or pork dinners and gives the cauliflower a little more flavor than if you just steamed it. It’s easy to do and can be prepared ahead of time and put into the oven just before dinnertime.

If you are already a cauliflower fan, give this recipe a try. If you’ve never tried it because you don’t know if you will like it, this recipe is also a nice way to find out. If you have had steamed cauliflower in the past and were not sure about it, try this before you rule the white veggie out altogether. It’s simple and tasty and you just might find out cauliflower isn’t bad.