And now for something completely different. This is a meal for all of you vegans. You carnivores will like it, too. It’s flavorful, heart healthy and diet friendly. How can you not like a dish like this, unless, of course, you don’t like cauliflower, but for those of you that do, read on.
As you can tell by now, not only do we like to cook but Baby Lady and I like food. Going to the local market is like a treasure hunt for us as we ooh and ah going down the aisles. We stop at roadside stands to check out what they have available. We check out the various farmers’ markets in the area. We even grow some of our own. We like all kinds of foods, especially vegetables. We have vegetables with every meal but breakfast and then sometimes we find a way to throw a few vegetables into the mix for breakfast, as well. We’ll do vegetarian dishes periodically but rarely do we do out and out vegan. It’s not that we don’t like vegan but we’re always trying to get layers of flavor and depth of character in the meals and dishes. Generally, this means we add butter, some type of meat stock, eggs, or other dairy products, you know things that aren’t in the vegan diet. When we do wind up with a vegan meal it’s more by accident than design. This dish, however, is no accident. It’s a wonderful meal with a lot of flavor and is very filling.
This recipe comes from Linda Long, Great Chefs Cook Vegan (1st ed. 2008). This book is a collection of recipes from the likes of Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, John Besh, David Burke, Todd English, Marcus Samuelson, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, just to name a few. The recipes in the book are stellar. So if you are wanting to try a gourmet approach to a vegan menu, you really need to check out this book. I got it for Christmas several years ago from my younger brother and his significant other. Now, everyone always complains about shopping for me at Christmas because I typically buy what I want when I want it. Hence, they say I’m difficult to shop for because I always have everything I want or need. At the same time, when they stop complaining, they still realize nothing makes me happier than kitchen stuff, gadgets and cookbooks. In that regard, I am the easiest person to shop for because there is always some cookbook I haven’t read or some new kitchen toy to replace an old one or that I didn’t have to start with. This was one of those gifts and we really have enjoyed it. Hopefully, you will enjoy this recipe and check out the book yourself.
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch thick slices
- olive oil for coating and sautéing
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock (split)
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 leek, sliced (white part only)
- 1 small Granny Smith apple
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup zucchini, small dice
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 Tbsp chives, finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1 cup oil
For the Basil Oil
Blanche basil and then shock in ice water. Remove from ice water and dry well. Place basil in blender along with oil and puree.
Strain into a condiment bottle and set aside until plating.
For the Cauliflower
At the largest part of the cauliflower head, cut two cross sections to create 2 1-inch thick steaks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cut the remaining cauliflower into small florets and blanch in salted water until tender. Remove from water and spread on a baking sheet. Place in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes, or until florets have dried.
Once you have made the quinoa below, pour oil into a heavy bottom skillet and heat. When the oil becomes glassy place cauliflower steak in skillet and cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 3 – 4 minutes. After 3 – 4 minutes, cover skillet and cook an additional 2 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Turn steaks and cook, uncovered, another 3 – 4 minutes on the other side.
Again, after 3 – 4 minutes, cover the skillet and allow to cook another 2 minutes. Covering the steaks allows them to cook more fully in the center so they are tender. Remove from skillet and tent until ready for plating.
For the Quinoa
Quinoa naturally comes with a bitter coating called “saponin” which must be rinsed off. Most quinoa that you buy in the U.S. has been pre-rinsed and dried, but some people still recommend that you soak the quinoa to loosen up any residue of saponin, or dust or chaff that remains. Others recommend only that you rinse it. Toast the quinoa as in this recipe, likewise will destroy the saponin while creating a stronger flavored grain. Toasting also allows the quinoa better to hold its shape.
Over medium-low heat, sweat the quinoa in 1 tbsp oil until a nutty aroma is achieved. Add 1 cup of vegetable stock and simmer uncovered until almost dry, roughly 5 – 7 minutes. When almost dry, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. You will know when the quinoa is done because it will look like it has popped open revealing the germ of the kernel. Fluff with a fork, cover and set aside.
In a sauté pan, gently sweat the apple, shallots, leeks, and garlic.
Now add the cauliflower florets.
Toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a blender and puree until smooth. This will produce about 1-1/2 cups of puree but you will only need 2 Tbsp for this recipe. Keep the remainder because, when thinned with stock, cream or a combination of the two, it makes a wonderful cauliflower soup.
In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat oil and add the zucchini.
Cook the zucchini until slightly golden brown. Then add the quinoa, remaining 1/2 cup vegetable stock, 2 Tbsp cauliflower puree, thyme and chives. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Place a scoop of quinoa in the middle of a dinner plate. Place the cauliflower steak on top of the quinoa an drizzle the basil oil around the perimeter of the plate. Serve & enjoy!