Ever since I discovered Persian food a year ago, I’ve been having loads of fund experimenting with different kinds of middle-eastern ingredients.
I think maybe the obsession started with Samin Nosrat, whose energy made me fall in love with her so hard. Her cookbook and then accompanying Netflix show, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I both loved.
Then I got a copy of Bottom of the Pot, and that lead me even deeper down the rabbit hole.
My son has a standing appointment every week in North Van, and it’s right near the Persian market. While he’s doing his thing, I browse through the market, smelling, touching and wondering “what would I make with this???”
I now have cupboards stocked with saffron, pomegranate molasses, rose water, citrus water, smoked paprika, tahini, and of course, harissa. Et voila: Harissa Cauliflower Steaks.
Harissa is a spicy tomato/pepper based sauce that you could easily swap out for tomato paste in any recipe for a bigger kick. My understanding is, it’s great in brownies, though I’ve not yet had the chance to test that theory.
Cauliflower is the perfect vehicle for “steaks.” It’s meaty and makes you feel satisfied. It’s also, let’s face it, a blank canvas, so it takes on whatever flavour you put with it.
I served my Harissa Cauliflower Steaks on a swipe of hummus, just to keep with the middle-eastern theme, and drizzle with additional pomegranate molasses (which is most akin to a balsamic reduction), a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and a sprinkling of za’atar. A few pomegranate seeds for garnish would be bomb, I just didn’t have any on hand.
Harissa Cauliflower Steaks
- 1 whole head of cauliflower
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp harissa paste (less if you like it less spicy)
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 tsp za’atar
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- a little water to thin
- Cut the sides off of the cauliflower, just leaving about 4″ of the body of the cauliflower. Cut this in two, making two “steaks.” You will also use the leftover florets.
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, thinning out with a little water if needed. You want the sauce to be thick enough to coat the cauliflower and get into all the nooks and crannies, but not so thin that it runs off. Place the cauliflower into the bowl and carefully coat the two steaks all over. You may need to get in there with your hands.
- Preheat your oven to 375.
- Heat a cast iron pan (or other oven-safe pan) over medium-high heat and add a teaspoon or two of oil. Place the cauliflower steaks in the pan and allow them to brown, then flip and brown the other side. This should take around 5 minutes per side.
- Finish cooking the cauliflower steaks in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, until they are the desired doneness. You should be able to poke them easily with a fork, but maybe you like yours a little more al dente, and that’s okay.
- Serve with rice or vegetable mash.