The mention of cauliflower used to evoke images of steamed bite size white florets pushed to one side of the dinner plate. That was before this versatile vegetable inspired me to go beyond the ordinary. A few simple knife cuts transform the mundane into an appetizing main entrée demanding center plate position.
Instead of separating the sturdy head into florets, I left about an inch of stem intact and sliced the cauliflower down the center, fashioning three-quarter-inch thick tree-shaped steaks, hearty enough to dig into with a fork and knife.The nooks and crannies in the buds are just the right size to stud with pine nuts. Once toasted they add a little crunch to each bite. Pan searing and then roasting turns the cauliflower a crusty golden brown while keeping the inside tender and juicy. The presentation may be whimsical, but this member of the brassica family boasts a significant nutritional resume.
Cauliflower is nutrient dense and an excellent source of Vitamin C, K and folate. White is the most common color, but you can also find green, orange and purple varieties at local farms. Sizes vary – I’ve seen heads up to twelve inches across. Most of the fibrous stem is too tough to eat, but the green cabbage-like leaves are a tasty addition to soups.
To finish the dish, blend some of the remaining florets with slices of parsnips and carrots. Cauliflower’s natural pectin whips to a creamy puree without adding butter or cream.
I like to double the cruciferous benefits of this meal with a serving of roasted Brussels sprouts on the side
Cauliflower steaks Serves 2 1 large head cauliflower
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1 tablespoon pine nuts salt & freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim the outer leaves and bottom of the cauliflower stem, leaving about one inch intact. Slice the head down the center, then cut two three quarter inch thick steaks. Reserve the remaining cauliflower. Heat a non-stick skillet then and coatwith 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. Brush the steaks with remaining oil, salt and pepper. Place in heated pan and brown about three minutes per side.
Transfer steaks to a baking sheet and press pine nuts into spaces between the buds. Bake about twenty-five minutes until browned and fork tender.
Cauliflower, carrot, parsnip puree
2 cups cauliflower florets ¼ cup sliced carrots
¼ cup sliced parsnips salt &freshly ground pepper
Place cauliflower, carrots and parsnips in saucepan with ½ cup water or vegetable broth. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for fifteen minutes or until soft. Remove vegetables and reserve cooking liquid. Place vegetables and ¼ cup of liquid into a blender and puree until creamy.
Add more liquid if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
Roasted brussels sprouts 15 brussels sprouts, halved
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into one inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil salt & freshly ground pepper
¼ cup walnuts toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine brussels sprouts and apples in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and roast for twenty-five minutes until crisp. Transfer to serving dish and top with walnuts.