Until he tasted these Cauliflower Steaks w/ Cauliflower Purée & Tuscan Kale Pesto, Paul avoided cauliflower, preferring most every other vegetable instead. Really, though, who knew cauliflower could be so tasty and attractive? After loving fermented Giardiniera for the past year and enjoying Roasted Cauliflower Salad this past month, I decided my next foray into the world of cauliflower would be farm-to-table Chef Dan Barber’s Cauliflower Steaks. Gorgeous caramelized cauliflower trees on an airy pillow of purée. Adding a dollop of Tuscan Kale Pesto enhances the flavors and makes the colors pop. Such a satisfying dish. And a bit amusing, too, that you get to eat it with a knife and fork.
Cauliflower, cauliflower everywhere
Throughout February almost every food magazine, newsletter and blog I read touted cauliflower’s health benefits and then featured it in recipes and photos. Cauliflower is certainly becoming the next kale in terms of popularity and adaptability. In my recent Google search for cauliflower steaks, over a million hits came up. I like cauliflower. Though, I’m still amazed that it has become the vegetable of the moment.
Cauliflower, the Queen of Vegetables
“…cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” Mark Twain
Always witty Mark Twain tells us most uniquely of the revered and glamorous position cauliflower held on the Victorian table. Victorians considered cauliflower the “Queen of Vegetables.”
Much of cauliflower’s status was due to its rarity, fragility and high cost. Especially when compared to a sturdy head of easily cultivated cabbage. Growing cauliflower required an exorbitant amount of work and care to keep it white and moist.
Self-blanching cauliflower with self-wrapping leaves wasn’t developed until about a hundred years ago. Although it became much easier to grow, cauliflower’s popularity until recently was nigh unto nil. Its color became its most notable attribute. Too frequently featured as the “white vegetable” on crudités and dip platters or combined with peas and carrots on TV dinners.
The moniker “Queen-of-Vegetables” usually goes to asparagus. This year the crown surely belongs once again to cauliflower. With tremendous versatility, excellent health benefits and flavor enhancing cooking techniques, cauliflower’s regained its status.
No longer just white
As an aside, look for cauliflower in shades of gold, purple and green. Mutants, actually, of the original white cauliflower. And, more nutritious because of the healthful pigments that give them their color.
Inspired and Adapted from Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farms and Food 52
Who knew cauliflower could be so gorgeous? A dollop of verdant pesto, accenting a golden, roasted cauliflower steak nestled on a pillow-soft purée of florets. A most satisfying and flavorsome combination of textures and tastes.
Makes 2 Entrée Servings
Total Time 1 hour
One 1¾ – 2 pound head of cauliflower
2½ cups unsweetened rice milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Few twists freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup Tuscan Kale Pesto
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an oven rack at the bottom third of the oven.
- Remove the leaves and trim the stem end of the head of cauliflower, leaving the core intact. Place the cauliflower core side down on a cutting board. Use a large knife to cut the middle of the cauliflower lengthwise into two 1-inch thick slices.
- Cut the remaining cauliflower into florets to measure about 3½ cups.
- Combine the florets, rice milk, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the milk simmers. Cook the florets until very tender, about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid for another use.
- Put the florets and the rest of the cooking liquid in a blender. Purée until smooth and light. Salt to taste. Transfer the purée to a small saucepan and set aside while you prepare the cauliflower steaks and pesto.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the cauliflower steaks in the hot pan. Lightly brush the remaining half teaspoon of olive oil on them and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook cauliflower steaks two minutes on each side.
- Transfer the cauliflower and the pan to the oven. Bake 10 minutes. Turn the cauliflower steaks over and bake another 5 minutes.
- While the cauliflower steaks are baking prepare the Tuscan Kale Pesto.
- During the last five minutes of cooking the cauliflower steaks, reheat the purée over medium-low heat.
- Divide the purée between two large dinner plates. Top each with a cauliflower steak. Garnish with a dollop of Tuscan Kale Pesto.
Tuscan Kale Pesto
Makes 1½ cups pesto—enough for 1 pound of pasta
Total time: 10 minutes
½ pound Tuscan kale (1 bunch)
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Few twists freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup grated fresh pecorino or parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Separate the leaves from the stems. Save the stems for another use.
- When the water comes to a boil, stir in the kale leaves and the garlic. Cook for 2-4 minutes until tender. (The younger the leaves the quicker they cook.) Remove the kale and garlic with a strainer and drain well. Press the kale against the strainer to remove most of the water.
- In a food processor, combine the drained kale, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Use the pulse button to incorporate the grated cheese.