Harissa Spiced Cauliflower Steaks
A date night winner. Seared cauliflower steaks with a sticky, harissa spiced glaze. That’s what we call sexy plant food. An impressive meal that you can even make on a weeknight. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
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
SERVES 2 - VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE
Cauliflower steaks & cauliflower mash:
- 1 1/2 lb head of cauliflower (0.7 kg)
- 3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons water (plus extra, to thin), divided
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice*
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika (sweet)**
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika**
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Warm lemon chickpea salad:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 can chickpeas (15 oz / 425g), rinsed & strained
- 1 cup lacinato/dino kale, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons currants
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Salt & black pepper, to taste
- Tahini, for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Set aside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Prepare cauliflower by trimming away any green leaves. With the cauliflower sitting on it’s stem, use a knife to slice it in half. Cut one thick slice from either side - so that you have two “steaks”, each about 1 ½” (4 cm) thick. Set cauliflower steaks aside.
- Then, gather up all the remaining cauliflower pieces and chop finely (or pulse in a food processor). Heat a large skillet pan, filled with 3/4 cup water, over high heat. Once boiling, add finely chopped cauliflower and cover to steam. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid, add minced garlic, and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until water is evaporated and cauliflower pieces are tender. Transfer to food processor. Add lemon juice, then process until cauliflower starts to break down. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add ¼ teaspoon salt. Process until the mixture looks like the consistency of mashed potatoes. If needed, add water in small increments to thin out mixture, to desired consistency.
- Re-heat the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, and once hot, add cauliflower steaks. Let them sear, undisturbed, for 3-3 ½ minutes on each side (cooking for approximately 6-7 minutes total). Remove once they’ve developed a golden crust on either side. While the cauliflower cooking you can assemble the harissa glaze. In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons water, maple syrup, paprika, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Mix well. Once the cauliflower is seared, transfer steaks to lined baking sheet. Brush harissa glaze on both sides, coating all the nooks and crannies. Transfer to oven for 5-7 minutes or until tender.
- While the cauliflower steaks are in the oven, prepare the warm chickpea salad. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chickpeas and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add kale and lemon juice, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until kale begins to wilt. Add currants and cook for 1 minute, or until slightly warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble your dish by spreading the cauliflower mash on the bottom of the plate. Add chickpea salad, seared cauliflower steak and drizzle with tahini if desired.
-The cauliflower mash can also be made in a blender if you don’t have a food processor. If using a blender, it’s recommended to double the recipe to provide enough volume for the blades to spin effectively. Plan to scrape down the sides of the blender as you go.|
-*An average lemon contains 2 tablespoons of fresh juice, which is what you need for this recipe.
-**The There are three main types of paprika sold: sweet, hot, and smoked. Sweet paprika is usually what’s labelled as (regular) “paprika” in the store. Smoked paprika imparts a slight smokiness. This recipe calls for both sweet and smoked paprika. You can read more about smoked paprika here (including the brand we use).
Cauliflower mash method adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi