I’ll be the first to admit that cauliflower isn’t taking home first place for sexiest vegetable in your cart. It’s stark white, oddly bulbous and belongs to a family of vegetables classified as cruciferous. Woof. But, hidden inside those dense ivory florets is a ton of flavor with a gilding of abundant vitamins and minerals. So go ahead, embrace the cauliflower. Put a little lipstick on it and try serving cauliflower steaks (now that sounds sexy.)
When I say “steak,” what we’re going for here is a cross-section slice taken from the center of the vegetable. Since cutting through the core along with some florets is key to keeping the steak intact, you’re only going to get about four of them out of a large head of cauliflower. The florets that fall away are still perfectly good for whatever other cauliflower preparations you may dream up, so hang onto those for later use. I find it most effective to cut any green leaves away from the bottom and put the vegetable on the cutting board stem side up. Now that you can see where the center actually is, it’ll be much easier to slice through it, ensuring you get a nice core sample to keep each steak intact.
The great thing about this meal is that it’s a surprisingly hearty, you’d-never-know-it’s-vegan dish. Sure you could throw some chicken or a piece of beef on the plate, but I know you’ve been meaning for some time now to kick the tires on one meatless meal a week. Well, today just might be your day.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
For the cauliflower steaks
1 large head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
Salt and ground black pepper
For the beans and tomatoes
1 14-ounce can white beans, such as great northern, drained and rinsed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered as needed
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely grated or pasted
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup marinated pitted green olives, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim any green leaves from the cauliflower and invert it on a cutting board. Slicing through the core, cut four steaks about 1/2-inch thick from the center of the vegetable. Reserve any florets that fall away for later use.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Working in batches as needed, cook the steaks until well caramelized, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the browned steaks to a baking sheet and continue browning the remaining batches, adding a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan with each new batch. Bake the cauliflower steaks in the oven until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
While the cauliflower steaks are baking, in a large mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients for the beans and tomatoes, seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Serve the cauliflower steaks warm or at room temperature with the beans and tomatoes.
NOTE: If you’re an outdoor cooking fanatic, the cauliflower can also be prepared on the grill. Preheat it to medium-high and lightly brush the olive oil on both sides of the steaks. Grill each steak to mark them, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to low or move the steaks to a cooler side of the grill and finish cooking until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.