Working side-by-side with your loved one can make it difficult to know when the work day ends... and the rest of your evening begins. Anguel & I have spent way to many of our recent dinners talking about work. It’s stuff we get excited about, but yikes, sometimes we need to chill. So, we’re trying something new. In an effort to be more intentional about unplugging from work, we’ve started to schedule weekday “dinner dates”. And for us that means cozying up at home, cooking a yummy dinner for two, and cracking open a bottle of wine.
These Harissa Spiced Cauliflower Steaks were our take on a fancy date-night dinner. The classic steak-and-mashed-potatoes dishes don’t really appeal to us, but you know what does? A tender, juicy slab of cauliflower with a golden brown crust, and a sticky harissa spiced glaze. Topped with a creamy tahini drizzle. Oh, and it doesn’t take much longer than 30 minutes to make. That’s what we call sexy plant food. Are you into it?!
For the longest time my “beef" (ha) with most cauliflower steak recipes has been that it’s pretty hard to get four perfect pieces from a single head of cauliflower. What holds cauliflower steaks together is the stalk, and I don’t know where you buy your cauliflower, but most of the ones I buy don’t have stalks the size of a tree trunk. So rather than instructing you to magically produce four steaks, we’re going to cut our losses and go with two. The remaining bits of cauliflower get turned into a creamy mash. That way we can reliably use up the whole cauliflower AND nobody gets an ugly piece. It’s a win-win on all fronts. And while this two-serving recipe works perfectly for date night, if you want to serve a bigger group, simply scale it up to your liking.
Since cauliflower alone is pretty plain tasting, we like to use harissa to add a punch of flavor. Pre-made harissa paste varies significantly by brand - and because it’s so spicy, it often has to be used quite sparingly. Otherwise you just might blow your head off. To make these easier, we skip the store-bought version and opt for common pantry spices that are often used in harissa. This method provides ample flavor, while holding off on the kind of heat that makes your eyes water. To mix things up, we added a hint of sweetness and kept the spice relatively mild, which turned out to be a delicious combination. You can of course adjust the seasonings to suit your tastes, especially if you’re a spice fiend. But either way, since a good harissa paste can be hard to track down, this method is a whole lot easier.
There are three components to this dish, but we promise you can pull this off without any trouble. The first step is preparing your cauliflower: cutting the head into steaks and then chopping up all the leftover bits for the mash. You’ll quickly steam the cauliflower bits in a skillet pan before they get whizzed up into a luscious and creamy mash. You can then use that same pan to sear the cauliflower steaks, before glazing them and popping them in the oven to stay warm. And for the grand finale, you’ll crack open a can of chickpeas, warm them on the stove, add some seasonings - and then you’re ready to eat. The chickpea salad is so yummy (and easy) on its own that we considered holding it back for its own post - but we figured it wouldn’t be fair, since the combination here is near perfect.
Harissa Spiced Cauliflower Steaks
Cauliflower Steaks and Mash
- 1½ lb head of cauliflower
- ¾ cup + 2 teaspoons water, divided (more to thin, if needed)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (large clove)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¾ teaspoon paprika (see note 1)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (see note 1)
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
- Tahini (for drizzling, optional)
Warm Lemon Chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) can chickpeas, rinsed (and patted dry)
- 1 cup finely chopped lacinato kale
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons currants
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Cut cauliflower: Trim away any big green leaves, but keep stem attached. With the cauliflower sitting on it's stem, use a knife to cut it in half. Then, cut one thick slice (1½-inch / 4cm thick) from either side (for a total of 2 cauliflower steaks). Set aside.
- Start mash: Chop all the remaining/loose cauliflower. Add ¾ cup of the water to a small saucepan, cover with lid, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add chopped cauliflower, cover with lid, and steam until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté uncovered, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is soft and water is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Finish mash: Transfer cauliflower and garlic to a food processor (see note 2). Add lemon juice, and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Process until the consistency of mashed potatoes. (If needed, add water in small increments to thin).
- Sear steaks: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (see note 3). Once oil is shimmering, add cauliflower steaks. Sear undisturbed until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until brown, about 3 minutes.
- Harissa glaze: Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the remaining 2 teaspoons water, the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt, maple syrup, paprika, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and cayenne.
- Bake steaks: Transfer seared steaks to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush harissa glaze over both sides, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Bake until the stem is tender when poked with a knife, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Lemon Chickpeas: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chickpeas, sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until hot. Add kale and lemon juice, cook stirring frequently, until kale starts to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add currants, cook for 1 minute to warm. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble: Divide mash onto two plates. Top with the lemon chickpeas, cauliflower steaks. Drizzle with tahini (if using).
- Paprika: This recipe calls for two types of paprika: 1) "regular" (sweet) paprika and 2) smoked (sweet) paprika. If a smoked package package isn't labelled "hot" or "picante", it's usually smoked sweet paprika.
- Food processor alternative: The cauliflower mash can be made in a blender if you don't have a food processor. But, you may need to double the recipe to get enough volume in the blender container for it to spin effectively. Pause to scrape down the sides of the blender as you go.
- Skillet: A large (12-inch or bigger) skillet is recommended here, so that you can fit two cauliflower steaks in at a time. If using a smaller skillet, you may need to cook them individually.