That was the message from a prominent vegan physician locally and a cooking instructor with a longtime vegan ethic. For anyone hazy on the terminology, vegan is the more stringent form of a meatless diet that omits any and all foods derived from animals, even honey. Identifying oneself as vegetarian usually indicates a diet that includes eggs and dairy products.
The wealth of plant-based foods encourage an expansion of anyone’s diet, once meat is no longer the centerpiece. Yet Laurie Gadbois acknowledged the nostalgia that so many people have for a slab of protein on the plate, augmented with plant-based side dishes.
Enter the cauliflower “steak.” The concept debuted a few years ago and has since attained popularity in big-city restaurants. As a recent story in the Kansas City Star noted, cutting cauliflower into “steaks” provides a flat surface that can be easily sauteed or grilled. The shape also suggests an entree rather than a side dish.
To cut cauliflower steaks, begin with a medium to large, firm head and trim away outer leaves and the end of the stem, leaving the core intact. Using a large knife, cut the steaks from the center of the head, cutting straight down through the florets and the core. (A few loose florets may fall away; reserve those and the remainder of the head for other uses.)
This version from the star adds tomatoes, feta and capers for lots of color, sweetness and savor. But while the ingredients call for reduced-fat cheese, I would depart from that suggestion and enjoy the extra bit of fat. Eliminating meat from a meal does more to cut fat from one’s diet than any other strategy, but reflexively reaching for reduced-fat products puts new vegetarians and vegans at risk for feeling deprived of substances that are satiating.
So pour on the olive oil, snack on handfuls of nuts and strike low-fat dairy products from your shopping list. That’s a better recipe for meatless success.
Roasted Cauliflower Steaks With Tomatoes and Feta
Cooking spray, as needed
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cauliflower steaks, cut about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons minced, fresh, flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons minced, fresh basil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons reduced-fat feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a large baking sheet with some of the cooking spray.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Place 2 cauliflower steaks in a single layer in skillet. Season lightly with the salt and generously with the pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until bottom is light golden-brown. Turn steaks over and cook until golden-brown on second side. Transfer cauliflower steaks to baking sheet, arranging in a single layer.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add remaining 2 cauliflower steaks, cook as previously directed and place on baking sheet.
Bake cauliflower, uncovered, in preheated oven until just tender, for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, return skillet to medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until just tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until hot, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the capers and herbs. Add the red-wine and balsamic vinegars and heat through.
To serve, top each hot, roasted cauliflower steak with about 1/3 cup tomato mixture and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the feta.
Makes 4 servings (total yield of tomato topping is about 1 1/3 cups).