There are no mis(sed) steaks with veganism: Cauliflower steak with pistachio gremolata, lentils and cauliflower puree

On January first, I was asked by a friend to join a month long vegan challenge. I have been fascinated by his journey of healthy eating, that began with eating meat but clean food and eventually led him to veganism based on his love of animals. I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years but have thought a lot about factory farming and the horrible conditions animals must endure for us to eat butter, cheese, eggs, etc. I try to buy from small farms with humane practices at farmers market, but many times buy from the grocery store, and even the most humane farms when moving to grocery store sized production levels are not as good as we’d like to believe. So I agreed to his challenge. If you have been reading this blog, you know that create plant based recipes that are vegan, but every so often I used ghee or eggs. I love a challenge – especially one that requires me to come up with a whole food plant based ingredient that replaces an animal product. Last year, as part of my food as protest movement and blog, I created a cauliflower steak (vegan), nut gremolata (vegan) but it was served over a cauliflower puree that was made with heavy cream and butter and lentils made with ghee. So I recreated my own dish to make it vegan. You may have had a cauliflower steak but this one is twice cooked to add a deeper and richer level of flavor. The lentils were the protein in the dish. The pistachio gremolata adds acid and color. The cauliflower puree is the creamy mashed potato of the dish without the starch. Filling. Nutritious. Taaaaasty.


Last year, in response to 45, I decided to run monthly food as protest parties. In the party based around food, I invited people from different parts of my life that did not know each other to eat a delicious and comforting meal while discussing a topic such as race, gender, or science. But we would dig deep and ask tough questions. It was a safe space to disagree and converse. The goal was to elevate the discussion, understand different view points and not normalize. Because what we are living in right now is not normal. 45 is not normal. I blogged about it on my other blog Food and Fundamental Rights. Unfortunately these did not last long – in terms of the number of events I held because I became too busy then fell apart and underwent a depressive episode. Such is life these days with the constant need to be “on” all the time but it was a great idea, was received very well and I created great recipes. The recipes while vegetarian involved ingredients I would not eat regularly – like cheese, gluten and cream. I may revive the food as protest idea later this year, but for now, I wanted to revive some of the recipes. In a healthier form. I have done it for a few other of the recipes on this blog – for food and fundamental rights I created my own wheat gluten based “chicken” and cornbread waffles but on this blog I created a maitake mushroom “chicken” and butternut squash waffles.

Back to steaks.

And the perfect bite of food.

The key to the steak is cooking it twice. I have had cauliflower steaks that are boring – just grilled cauliflower. It’s been 25 years since I last ate a steak but I know that a steak should be juicy and full of flavor. Cauliflower is a hearty vegetable and can be transformed into several types of food. It also has a pretty neutral flavor for a vegetable and can absorb other flavors.

So first they are baked in the oven in a vegetable broth and then seared on a pan. The first part can be made in advance and seared when they are ready to be served.

Slice the cauliflower head into  2-inch slices for about 3-4 steaks per head. Keep scraps for the puree. Mix vegetable broth, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, cumin, red pepper and sea salt and pour it into a large baking dish. Gently transfer the cauliflower steaks to the casserole dish and place in the oven.

Roast the cauliflower for 30-35 minutes. Baste cauliflower periodically. Flip them half way through the cooking process but be careful as the cauliflower are gentle and the more they are handled, the more likely they will break.

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They will be moist and partially cooked through. Let them cool to room temperature. Transfer the cauliflower steaks to a bed of paper towels to and dry. Store in the fridge or prepare for searing.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan and gently add the steaks, searing them for 1-2 minutes on each side and until golden brown.

Drain the steaks on a bed of clean paper towels. Serve immediately.  So I sear the steaks as the last step before assembly of the dish.
The cauliflower puree is the part of the recipe I had to change to make vegan. I previously used cream and butter but the vegan version keeps the creaminess and flavor without the heaviness of the animal products. I use the cauliflower florets from the head of a cauliflower and the scraps from the steak (any florets that fell apart when slicing the raw cauliflower into steaks). The key to this puree is steaming the florets and cashews in veggie broth until they are tender, removing with a slotted spoon and adding the rest of the ingredients and blending until smooth. Use the stock as liquid while pureeing and add salt and pepper to taste. I subbed the heavy cream and butter with simply olive oil and cashews. You just need fat. That’s it. If you find the puree is too runny, add a tablespoon of tapioca starch to thicken.
The pistachio gremolata is simple and adds acid to cut through the fat and color to the dish. I toasted the pistachio in a pan – watch them carefully because you don’t want to burn them. It takes only 1-2 min to toast. In a food processor add parsley, toasted pistachio, mint and garlic.
Mix until coarsely ground. Add fresh lemon juice. Mix. Add salt. Taste. That’s it.
The key to the lentils is toasting the cumin in the oil before cooking the onion and lentils. It is a classic Indian cuisine technique to toast spices before cooking. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds, toast for a few seconds and then add in the onion. Then add the garlic, lentils and water. Cook for about an hour or until lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed. Add the salt and the cayenne. Stir to mix and simmer gently for another 5 minutes. Now it is time to assemble the dish!
 
Take a bite.

So Tasty. Who says you can’t have an exquisite vegan meal?

Happy Eating!!

Cauliflower steaks with pistachio gremolata, lentils and cauliflower puree

Pistachio Gremolata
  • 1 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt

Add all of the pistachio, mint, parsley and garlic to a food processor and pulse until mixture is coarse. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon; mix and salt to taste. Set aside.

Lentils

  • 4 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup whole balck lentil, washed and drained
  • 3cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

Heat oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the cumin seeds, toast for a few seconds and then add in the onion. Once they brown slightly at the edges, add in garlic. Give it a quick stir and then add in the lentils and water. Bring to the boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for about an hour or until lentils are tender. Nearly all of the liquid should have been absorbed. Add the salt and the cayenne. Stir to mix and simmer gently for another 5 minutes.

Cauliflower Steaks

  • 1 head of cauliflower (makes about 4 steaks)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + extra
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

These steaks are cooked twice.The first part can be made in advance and seared when they are ready to be served. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the cauliflower head into 2-inch slices for about 3-4 steaks. Keep scraps for the puree. Mix vegetable broth, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, cumin, red pepper and sea salt. Gently transfer the cauliflower steaks to the casserole dish and place in the oven. Roast the cauliflower for 30-35 minutes. Flip half way through the baking. Baste cauliflower periodically.

Remove from the cauliflower from the oven and allow to cool slightly for 5-10 minutes. These can be made ahead of time – even the day before and seared later.

The cauliflower will be fragile so be gentle when handling. Transfer the cauliflower steaks to a bed of paper towels to and dry. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan and gently add the steaks, searing them for 1-2 minutes on each side and until golden brown. Drain the steaks on a bed of clean paper towels. Serve immediately with a few teaspoons of gremolata on each.

Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 head of cauliflower,  florets cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • tapioca start (as needed to thicken)

 

In a large pot, bring the veggie broth and salt to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cashews; bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and steam for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender. Remove cauliflower and cashews with a slotted spoon and put into a food processor.  Save stock for pureeing. Add olive oil, garlic and salt.  Process until smooth adding in one tablespoon of stock until achieve the desired consistency.  Add a bit more oil if desire a richer flavor. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you find the puree is too runny, add a tablespoon of tapioca starch to thicken.

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