Cauliflower Steaks

Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for an important message. . . about cauliflower steaks.

I have a thousand and one things to write about my big trip to New York, but at the moment I simply have to tell you about dinner. I was driving home from work today with no clue what to make and no food in the pantry. I called Kyle for suggestions and he offered one of the usual suspects: gazpacho or gumbo (his favorite meals to suggest out of season – gumbo in the dog days of summer and gazpacho in the dead of winter). I explained to him how long it took to make a proper roux and why gumbo was neither quick nor easy (nor cheap) to make for two on an evening that you have gotten out of work an hour late. He settled on “hearty vegetables over rice.” He didn’t exactly get that, but he got something better.

Today was one of those days that wasn’t sweltering hot, but it wasn’t cool either. It was one of those days that I struggle to decide on windows versus A/C for my drive home. A tad too warm for windows and just tolerable enough to make me feel bad about turning on the A/C in my gas-guzzling car, the evening was just a cool breeze away from the perfect temperature. I wanted a frosty adult beverage and a summery appetizer. I wanted to make Avocado Chimichurri Bruschetta. It had been so long since I had mixed up a batch and it felt like the perfect night for it, but I also wanted to make a more complete nutritious meal than just bread and avocado.

As I passed through the toll booth on my typical evening drive, a not-so-typical series of thoughts popped into my head. Chimichurri sauce goes on steaks. Cauliflower can be made into steaks. Cauliflower goes perfectly with tomatoes and chickpeas. I knew I had to give it a try. You need to give this a try too.

We all but inhaled the first plate of this stuff. Kyle declared this one a keeper. If I can maintain this last-minute recipe success, he just might decide that I’m one too. Sorry to interrupt the inevitable week-long torrent of New York themed posts, but this one couldn’t wait. Put this on your dinner table this week.

Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce and Quinoa with Chickpeas and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4 (or 2 really hungry travelers, with a little leftover for BYOBB lunch)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil (I used EVOO)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1- 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided (1-1/2 tsp plus 1/2 tsp)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh parsley, packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, packed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions, using a rice cooker or stove top method.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and heat cooking oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Starting at the middle, cut the cauliflower into 3/4-inch thick slices. The middle slices will stay together pretty well and the end slices may break up into florets.
  4. Dust the hot cooking oil with chili powder and simmer for about 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower pieces to the hot pan. Pan fry the cauliflower steaks in batches, for 5 minutes per side, adding salt and pepper to each side when it is face up.
  5. Transfer the cauliflower to an oiled or nonstick baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes, or until a knife cuts easily through the center of each piece.
  6. While the cauliflower is baking, add tomatoes and chickpeas to the same pan that the cauliflower was fried in, adding oil if necessary. Scrape up any browned cauliflower bits into the chickpea-tomato mixture. Add 1-1/2 tsp cumin and the cooked quinoa to the pan, stirring to combine. Lower the heat to low-medium and simmer uncovered for 5-8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Combine the following in a food processor: parsley, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp salt. Pulse until combined to create a chimichurri sauce.
  8. Pile the quinoa on plates, top with the cauliflower steaks and slather on the chimichurri sauce.

Not bad for a random Monday night. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of All New York All The Time.

Patty Pan Squash

I have had great luck with squash from Walnut Hill Farm this summer. Remember these eight ball zucchini that I ended up having to cook in the microwave? They were from Walnut Hill and so are these.

I have been intrigued by these flying saucer shaped squash for a long time. They have been calling my name all summer, but this week I guess they called a little louder. My only regret in fixing this meal is that I couldn’t find the time to swing by Blockbuster and pick up a B movie sci-fi flick to pop in for dinner and a movie. I was quite eager to celebrate this ingredient’s quirky shape in as many ways as possible.

The delectable patty pan squash. Pairs well with alien guts.

These squash come in white, yellow, and green varieties. According to my research, they are best when they are 2-3″ in diameter. The squash that I picked up were about 3-4″ diameter but still tasty. This is a low calorie vegetable that is a great source of vitamins C and A, magnesium, and iron. I was familiar with which squash types were summer varieties and which were winter varieties, but while digging for some info on these gourds, I learned the criteria for classification. The main difference between the two varieties is that summer squash may be eaten in their entirety (seeds, rind, and all), while winter squash are often seeded and peeled before cooking.

I read that they are sometimes nutty in flavor and I thought, what better way to bring out their nuttiness than roasting? I made up this dish on the fly and it was very satisfying. The roasted patty pan squash held up well in the sustained high heat and it came out slightly sweet, dense and almost meaty. We loved the texture, color, and flavor of the roasted vegetables. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think this dish could be considered a vegetarian’s “meat and potatoes” kind of meal.

Roasted Patty Pan Squash with Red Potatoes

Ingredients

3 medium-sized patty pan squash

10-12 small red bliss potatoes

1/2 medium onion

Olive oil

Dried oregano*

Fresh basil*

Coarse salt*

Black pepper*

*I don’t usually measure herbs and spices – I just wing it. I apologize if that makes this a hard recipe to follow. But if I wanted to be precise (and if I didn’t have a talent for burning cookies), I’d be a baker!

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the onion into large chunks and slice the patty pan squash into wedges.

3. Place the squash, onion, and potatoes on a large deep baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Finely chop some fresh basil. I usually do a quick chiffonade by stacking and rolling the leaves into a little cigar shape and then slicing the roll from end to end. See a helpful demonstration of this method here.

5. Add dried oregano (or fresh if you have it) and fresh basil to the vegetables in the pan. Sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Toss to coat the ingredients in olive oil and seasoning.

6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

7. Serve with couscous, pasta, or rice.

I served mine with parmesan couscous and this chickpea salad that I adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens. Uh oh, do I sense a double recipe post? Oh yes I do.

Summer Chickpea Salad (see the original recipe here, which I have adapted)

Ingredients

2 cups chopped tomatoes

15 oz. can chickpeas

1/2 large cucumber, peeled, quartered, and sliced (about 1 cup chopped)

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon honey

Preparation

1. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and onion.

2. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, garlic, and honey. Mix well with a wire whisk.

3. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill for 4 hours or more.

I just love dinners outside in the summer. I think the lingering humidity in the air, the soft light as the sun sets behind the brick buildings that line my block, and the lively sounds of the neighborhood make the flavors of this season taste so much better.