Thursday 27 March 2014

Grilled Cauliflower Steak (plating practice)

There has been a remarkable amount of meat and seafood on the blog lately so I figured it was time for a special dish that could appeal to vegans and vegetarians alike. Something that I quite like but hadn't made in a very long time was barbecued cauliflower steaks. It snowed lightly here in Toronto today, but that didn't stop me from firing up the outdoor grill (nor has that stopped me before). All you do is remove the greenery from a head of cauliflower, rinse it with cold water and pat it dry. Then cut the cauliflower lengthwise in about 2 cm slices. Lightly rub each "steak" with oil then season with salt and pepper. Grill over a relatively high heat for just a few minutes each side and you have a uniquely delicious way of eating a classic vegetable. The cauliflower maintains its crunch but takes on a smokey, homey flavour. The edges get slightly charred and black making a beautiful presentation. It's one of the easiest impressive things you can make at home.

To incorporate it into a dish, I decided to make an elevated salad inspired by Korean and Japanese flavours. I went to an organic health food store near my apartment and picked up some kimchi, white miso paste, an English cucumber and some cress microgreens. I also had some multicoloured, heirloom carrots from my trip to St Lawrence Market last weekend (orange, yellow and purple). I picked a cucumber that was roughly the same width as the carrots. Using a speed peeler I made thin slices of the carrots and cucumber. 


In two glass bowls (I had to pickle the purple carrots separately because it would have stained the other veggies) I combined 1 part white vinegar with 1 part water and a generous pinch of salt. I eyeballed it, but I added 4-5 times more sugar than salt (which was no more than a tbsp) just to counteract the sourness a little. I placed the veggies in the brine and let them sit for 20-30 minutes. They can pickle for longer but because they are sliced so thinly that's all they need. Then it's just a matter of rolling them up into little rosebud style shapes and plating them as desired.

For the miso sauce I added a bit of chicken stock (okay, you got me... not vegetarian, but it's all I had) and warmed it over the stove until I had a consistency that I was happy with. Overall, this dish was very easy to put together and is one of the better looking plates on the blog. In terms of a well rounded dish, it's missing a thing or two. Miso is quite salty and the pickles (kimchi included) are sour. So it's kind of sour, on sour, on salty with the savoury cauliflower and a bit of fresh, peppery cress. It needed a level of sweetness or richness to round it out. I love using quick pickles like this but they work best along side a juicy piece of meat to cut though the richness (like Korean pickle with braised short ribs... mmm). So don't get me wrong, it was a tasty dish, it just looks better than it eats. All in the name of experimenting!

So for the cauliflower, get your steak slices cut, lightly rub with oil then season with salt and pepper. you could add whatever other spices you want depending on what kind of dish you're making. The organic cauliflower I had was kind of small so I only got two steaks out of mine but a larger cauliflower will yield one or two more.

Place the cauliflower over the hot spot of your grill and keep an eye on them. They don't take long to cook. Mine took about 3-4 minutes per side but judge by sight, not time. You want slightly blackened edges. 

Unlike meat, cauliflower doesn't really need to rest once it's taken off the grill. As soon as it's cool enough to eat you can dig right in. Feel free to enjoy as a side or the hero of your dish. You may even choose to make your own version of my pickle and miso salad. Definitely give it a try though. It is scrumptious!

Stay tuned for more food by Bram in the near future!


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