I want to come clean with you; I used to be a vegan hater. The anger on my face was palpable when the hyper precious tree-hugging lot of unwashed individuals would stop me on a street corner to check “if I have a minute for Greenpeace.” No, no I do not. “Yeah, I’m late for a meeting,” I’d mumble as I dodged down the street. I loathed the thought of Seitan, Birkenstocks, biodiesels that run on recycled fryer oil and what in God’s good name is Tofurky? I was a carnivore, and damn proud of it.
But one day something changed. I met a girl. Let’s call her Kate, because that’s her real name. She had five beautiful sisters who were very “normal” vegans. How could this be? They looked like me, enjoyed the same activities as me, excluding leather they dressed like me, they ate a beautiful array of foods like me. I came to realize that my misconceptions were ill founded and sorely misguided. I didn’t hate vegans; I was just caught up in the vegan stereotypes.
My ignorance almost cost me from developing true and meaningful relationships with my thoughtful kale-slinging sisters. But after a beautiful meatless meal (that did not include aforementioned Tofurky), I was a changed man.
There are so many interesting ways to prepare and enjoy vegetables that I had been completely missing out on. As a professional chef, I’ve come to the realization that the veg is the star of the show. I let meat play the supporting part, and you should too.
In this video I do a “steak night” vegan style with a thick cut of cauliflower seared with a golden brown crust complemented by a smoky romesco sauce and charred scallions. Compassionate enough to satisfy a vegan and hearty enough to satiate a steak lover.
Cauliflower steak with romesco sauce and charred scallions recipe
For the romesco sauce
- Olive oil
4 large plum tomatoes
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
- 2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or pimentón
- 3 scallions, ends trimmed
For the cauliflower steak
- 1 (1-inch-thick) slice cauliflower
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Arrange the tomatoes in an ovenproof pan (I like to use a pie tin) and rub them with oil. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle them with oil, wrap them with the foil, and set them in the pan with the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for about 45 minutes or until the tomato is nicely charred.
- Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, and when cool enough to handle, carefully peel and discard the skins from the tomatoes. Unwrap the garlic and pop them out of their skins.
- Place the tomatoes, garlic, almonds, peppers, vinegar, paprika and a good pinch of salt in a blender and puree until almost smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary (I like mine a little chunkier).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Place another pan on top to help keep the cauliflower pressed down in the pan. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until slightly charred at the edges. Pop the pan into the oven and cook about 8 more minutes or until tender, flipping the steak halfway through.
- Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside.
- Coat the scallion in just enough olive oil to coat. Carefully set the iron skillet on the range over medium-high heat and char the scallions for about 3 minutes per side.
- To serve, place a good amount of romesco sauce on a plate. Top with the scallions, then set the cauliflower steak on top.
Chop secret tips:
- Canned plum tomatoes work in a pinch but skip the roasting step if using them.
- To prep a cauliflower “steak” simply trim off and discard the base leaves, then, carefully cut the cauliflower into 1-inch-thick slices. Depending on the size, you can get 2 to 3 steaks from the center of the cauliflower. Reserve the remainder for a separate use.