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Smoky Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

Smoky Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce transforms this humble cruciferous vegetable from mundane to divine. (All photos by Deborah Brooks.)

Cauliflower is the tofu of vegetables! And you can quote me! Here’s how I came to that epiphany. It’s white, it’s mild in flavor and often perceived as tasteless, it takes on the flavors of its cooking environment, and it’s as versatile as a vegetable can be, cooked whole, sliced, chopped, diced, riced, or even raw in salads and crudité platters.

Take these roasted cauliflower steaks. They transform this humble cruciferous vegetable that many of our moms used to boil to mush from mundane to divine. A few years ago, this version of cooking cauliflower was unknown. With the increase in plant-based cooking, cutting cauliflower into steaks was a great solution for restaurants to offer vegan entrée options. I enjoyed such an option a few years ago in Sun Valley, Idaho and have been roasting cauliflower steaks ever since, trying different marinades and sauces.

I think I’ve created my favorite, so far, with these smoky roasted cauliflower steaks topped with Chimichurri Sauce. I wanted to offer a flavor profile that is enjoyed by many when eating beef. An Argentinean specialty now veganized.

I served these atop farro cooked in vegetable broth. If you’re not familiar with farro, run to the store and buy a package. It’s an ancient grain that’s dense and chewy and packed with protein, fiber, and B vitamins. Of course, you could serve it atop any other grain or potatoes. I do suggest a starch with this meal, as cauliflower alone will leave you hungry. Add a side salad and some warm bread to sop up the chimichurri sauce and you’ll be in food heaven.

Please note that a very large cauliflower yielded three large steaks and three small ones. Smaller heads will yield fewer intact steaks. There will be lots of florets left behind. You can roast the extra florets in a separate pan; use them in soups, salads or mash like potatoes. Lots of options.

I cut the steaks about 3/4 inches thick. Make sure to leave some of the stalk to help hold the steak in one piece. I don’t flip them, as I don’t want to break off the florets. To finish, I charred the face-up side under the broiler, for a minute, to create a crispier crust.

The marinade has a generous amount of both sweet and smoked paprika for color as well as flavor. Salt, too. The flavors will mellow with cooking. You can adjust the smokiness to your liking.

Adding tomatoes to the pan is optional. They added additional flavor and texture as they melted into sugar bombs under the high heat.

As for the chimichurri sauce, it’s Argentina’s answer to pesto. Another food epiphany. Herbaceous with an acid kick from the red wine vinegar and a hint of spice from the minced chili pepper, it’s as addictive as it is delicious. It’s a great sauce to have in your cooking toolbox.

Smoky Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

1 extra large cauliflower or 2 medium large
4 T high-heat neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1 pint baby tomatoes (optional)
Additional oil and kosher salt for tomatoes
Chimichurri Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a very large sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. (I prefer unbleached parchment paper.) Set aside.

Remove the outer leaves and the outer part of the stem of the cauliflower. Make sure to leave enough stem to keep the florets attached. Wash and dry.

Set the cauliflower on a cutting board, stem side down. Slice the cauliflower from top to bottom in 3/4 inch thick slices, like you would slice a loaf of bread. The outer slices won’t hold together. Use those florets in another recipe.

Lay the steaks on the sheet pan with some room between them. Whisk together the 4 T oil, both sweet and smoked paprika, and salt, in a small bowl. Brush both sides of the cauliflower steaks generously with the marinade, being careful not to break the steaks apart when flipping.

If using tomatoes, toss them with a bit of oil and salt and spread around and in between the cauliflower steaks. (See photo.) If the pan is too cramped, you can roast them in a separate pan.

Adding tomatoes to the roasting pan is optional, but they add flavor and texture to the dish, melting into sugar bombs under high heat. (Photo by Deborah Brooks.)

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and cook 4-5 minutes. Lower the heat to 425 and cook until browned and softened, about another 8-10 minutes. You’ll need to gauge by your oven’s temperature.

Increase the oven to broil and place the pan on the top rack under the broiler for 30-60 seconds, to get a bit of char on the veggies. Watch closely so they don’t burn.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the chimichurri sauce and whatever sides you choose. Enjoy!

Refrigerate all leftovers.

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 cup packed down fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
Several good-sized sprigs of thyme (about 2 T leaves)
3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/2 inch of Serrano or Fresno chili, minced (Serrano is hotter)
1 tsp salt
3 T red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, minced chili and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the processing blade. Pulse until the herbs are broken down, scraping down the bowl often. Please note that you want a bit of texture to the herbs, so don’t over process. Chimichurri is not as smooth as pesto.

Add the vinegar and process to combine.

With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until just combined. Taste for seasoning and acid level. Adjust to your taste.

Store in a covered jar.

I like to make the chimichurri a few hours ahead and let it sit on the counter to deepen the flavors. Refrigerate if not using after a few hours. Refrigerate leftovers after serving.

Fresh herbs, purchased from Country Fresh Herbs at the Larchmont Farmers Market, ready to process for the chimichurri sauce. (Photo by Deborah Brooks.)


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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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