When I think of vegetables that are naturally beautiful, cauliflower definitely isn’t the first one to come to mind. It’s oddly shaped, lumpy, blandly colored (although colorful cauliflower does exist, but not in most grocery stores), and just downright unglamorous. I mean, if asked to choose a vegetable based on beauty alone, most of us would go for the bright red, perfectly round and lusciously smooth-skinned cherry tomato, or the beautifully-tiny purple and white striped fairy tale eggplant, or possibly one of endless gorgeous varieties of microgreens. Certainly not lumpy old cauliflower. Yet cut a cauliflower in the right way, and suddenly you have something that definitely starts to compete – maybe even outright beat – those perky, perfectly shaped, and vibrantly colored veggies in the beauty department.
The cauliflower steak, ladies and gentlemen, is the pinnacle of unexpected elegance – it’s the point in your favorite (or least favorite) teen movie when the nerdy girl lets her hair down at the homecoming dance or house party or wherever else the super original plot sets the pivotal scene, and Freddie Prinze, Jr (or whoever is playing the Freddie Prinze, Jr role) suddenly realizes what he’s been failing to see. I mean, who would have thought cauliflower could be so elegant? And so visually striking?
And that’s where the She’s All That comparisons can end (phew!) Because while – if memory serves correctly – Freddie Prinze, Jr’s character had to work quite hard to win Laney’s heart, cauliflower steaks are super easy to prepare. They are also incredibly versatile, really fun to eat, and naturally gluten-free (grain-free too!)
Before we go any further with this recipe, let me quickly explain how to make a cauliflower steak:
- Get a head of cauliflower.
- Carefully pick off the leaves and trim the bottom of the stem, taking care to leave enough stem so that the head remains intact.
- Cut the cauliflower head in half lengthwise.
- Very carefully, cut your steaks by cutting lengthwise slabs that are approx. 1 inch thick
- Trim any remaining leaves/tough outer stem off with a knife, taking care to leave the majority of the core intact so the steak stays together.
- If you are super gifted in the motor skills department and/or are having a lucky cauliflower day, you could conceivably manage 4 steaks before the cauliflower starts to break down into florets. However, I usually only manage to cut two fully-intact and gorgeous steaks per head of cauliflower. Break the rest into florets and roast alongside your steaks, or save for later use.
- Choose your cooking method (Grill, broil, roast, pan-fry…I like to roast!)
Cauliflower steaks are good with a wide variety of toppings from a wide variety of cuisines – that’s what makes them so versatile! I love preparing them Indian-style (not only because the flavors are great) but also because roasting the cauliflower steaks with a bit of turmeric is the icing on the cake in terms of visual appeal. For this dish, I topped the steaks with a warming stew of mildly spiced chickpeas and spinach simmered in a creamy coconut gravy – delicious! I’m not sure what Freddie Prinze, Jr’s character would think of this dish, but I don’t think it needs his approval to feel good about itself (are you listening teen movie writers from the ’90s?)
A couple notes about this recipe:
-As I mentioned before, I can usually only get two cauliflower steaks per head of cauliflower. If you’re making this for more than one person, I recommend using more than one head of cauliflower. You can roast the extra florets with the cauliflower steaks and mix them into any leftover topping to eat the next day, or use the florets in any number of delicious dishes.
-The spiced chickpea topping should be enough for 4-6 cauliflower steaks, depending on your ratio of steak to topping.
Indian Cauliflower Steaks with Spiced Chickpeas and Spinach
- Desired # of cauliflower heads (each head will yield at least two steaks – see note above)
- Refined coconut oil, for brushing
- Turmeric, hot paprika, and salt, for sprinkling
Spiced Chickpea Topping:
- 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
- ½ a large Spanish onion, sauté sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon hot paprika
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon celtic sea salt
- 3 ¼ cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15.5 oz cans)
- 5 oz baby spinach
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
For the cauliflower steaks:
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Cut the cauliflower into 1 inch steaks (see directions here) and place on the lined sheet tray. Brush both sides of the steaks with coconut oil, sprinkle with turmeric, hot paprika, and salt, and roast for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is fork-tender and browned in spots.
For the chickpea topping:
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. When the onion starts to soften, add the spices and salt and continue cooking for about 8 minutes, adding more oil if needed. Add the garlic and ginger during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking. (Don’t worry if some of the spices stick to the pan – the chickpeas will take care of that in a second!) When the onions are nicely cooked, add the chickpeas and another sprinkle of salt. Scrape the bottom of the pan to coat the chickpeas evenly in the spice mixture. Next, add the coconut milk and continue scraping the bottom of the pan. The spices and coconut milk will form a nice gravy. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, lower the heat and fold in the spinach until it has shrunk and wilted.
Spoon desired amount of topping over each cauliflower steak. Serve immediately!