When Cara Mangini’s The Vegetable Butcher landed on my desk I wondered how she would write a whole book on butchering vegetables. I had only seen the term “vegetable butcher” when I visited Eataly in New York City. Boy, was I in for a delicious surprise. The author gives us all you might want to know about vegetables from selecting, prepping, chopping and of course cooking everything from artichokes to zucchini. This is my go-to vegetable reference book now.
Leafing through the beautiful pages I happened upon Cauliflower Steaks with Red Pepper Romesco Sauce and Crispy Breadcrumbs. I have been testing lots of cauliflower recipes and thought this looked like a must-try for me. These thick slabs of cauliflower, brushed with olive oil, roasted and browned, are topped with a vibrant red romesco sauce and a sprinkling of crisp breadcrumbs This would be a satisfying first or main course. The author suggests serving crisp Fingerling potatoes alongside, and some quickly steamed or sautéed kale, chard, spinach or arugula, to round out the plate.
This Catalonian-style romesco sauce—comprised of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, and a mix of almonds and hazelnuts can be made up to two days in advance and stored in a container in the fridge. If you are pressed for time, look for jarred roasted peppers and skip roasting and peeling them. The sauce will improve after all the ingredients have melded together. Any leftover sauce can be tossed with pasta, spooned over eggs, spread on toast, or drizzled on steamed or roasted veggies. You can also freeze it in ice trays for later use.
Cauliflower Steaks with Red Pepper Romesco Sauce and Crispy Breadcrumbs
1 large head or 2 small heads cauliflower
4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse or flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
Red Pepper Romesco Sauce (recipe follows), for serving
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a plate with paper towels.
- Cut the cauliflower into steaks: Cut off the stalk flush with the base of the crown. Stand the cauliflower upright and cut 1-inch thick slices, from the crown to the core end.
- Carefully transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet. Brush them evenly on both sides with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and season generously all over with salt and pepper. Roast, turning halfway through cooking, until the steaks are browned on both sides and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until they become golden brown and toasted, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste, transfer them to the lined plate to drain, and let them cool completely.
- Divide the steaks among plates and top each with a dollop of warm or room-temperature sauce and a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately with extra romesco sauce for the table and the crispy potatoes, if you wish.
- A small head of cauliflower will yield 2 to 4 small steaks, so you’ll want to use 2 heads for 4 servings to guarantee each person gets a thick cut. A large head should give you 4 good-size steaks.
- Use a wide spatula to carefully transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Any pieces that do not hold together can be prepared the same way and served alongside the steaks.
Red Pepper Romesco Sauce
Makes 2 cups
2 medium red bell peppers
2 small to medium tomatoes (plum tomatoes are a good option), halved lengthwise
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the peppers on their side on one end of the prepared baking sheet and the tomatoes, cut side down, on the other. Roast until the tomatoes are soft and the skin has just started to brown, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the tomatoes from the baking sheet and transfer them to a plate to cool. Continue roasting the peppers until the skin blackens and blisters in places, 20 to 30 minutes more (35 to 45 minutes total). Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover immediately with plastic wrap, and let cool.
- Meanwhile, pulse the garlic in a food processor until it is finely chopped. Add the almonds and hazelnuts and blend until they are finely chopped.
- Peel the cooled tomatoes using your fingers (and a paring knife if needed) to remove and discard the skins; place the tomatoes in the food processor.
- To peel the peppers, use your fingers to pull off the charred skin, then pull off the stem, cut open the peppers, and scrape out and discard the seeds. Transfer the flesh to the food processor.
- Add the sherry vinegar, cayenne, paprika, and salt. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Heat the sauce or serve it at room temperature or cold, depending on the application. Thin it with water if you wish.
Cauliflower Steaks with Romesco Sauce