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.

Happy Hour: Saison du BUFF

I walked into work one morning this week to find a large grocery bag full of herbs sitting on my desk. As I approached my work station, I smelled the earthy spiciness of it and I soon identified a bunch of oregano alongside what looked like a bush of sage. It was absolutely the largest quantity of sage I have ever seen in one place at one time. My boss had harvested some herbs from his garden and decided he wanted to share.

I made two major decisions that day. One, I decided to dry my own herbs. And by decided to dry my own herbs, I really mean, accidentally left my herbs at the office for three days and ended up drying them. Oops. The second decision was more deliberate. Later that day I decided it was the perfect evening to bust this out of the beer fridge and give it a try.

This saison is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (get it? mom? dad?). It is a collaboration beer brewed by Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone. How could you go wrong with that combination of breweries? I thought I was dreaming when I saw this on the shelf. I was pumped to try it.

A saison is a refreshing summer ale, which originated in the French speaking region of Belgium. Saison means “season” in French, and this beer was traditionally brewed in the late autumn to early winter, stored for months, and then served to farmhands while they worked in the fields during the summer season. It is usually low in alcohol content, pale and cloudy in color, and has a generous amount of hops which were traditionally used as a natural preservative to prevent spoilage during the several months of cellaring. The saison is sometimes referred to as a farmhouse ale.

The beer pours a pale golden color that is hazy in the glass, with a thick foamy head. You can immediately smell the sage, and maybe some rosemary. The parsley and thyme were harder for me to pick out in the nose. It tastes crisp and spicy with a distinct light hoppiness, with hints of clove, sage, rosemary, and pine. It was like no other beer I have ever tasted, and it was very refreshing. I think every foodie should try it once.

I might have to buy a case and hoard it in my apartment to get us through the extended summer that we suffer from enjoy every year here in centralĀ  Virginia. I would most likely drink this while cooking a fresh herb-filled meal in my small and sweltering hot kitchen, or while enjoying an after-work snack and drink out on the porch. Try popping one open for the man in your life when he comes in from mowing the lawn. This is a good brew for backyard barbecues, tipsy weekend brunches, and outdoor concerts. And for the Scarborough Fair.

P.S. That Raven looks like it might win in a fight with that shark, right?