In winters past, brussels sprouts were my go-to, the cruciferous vegetable that I could not get enough of and would eat multiple times a week until the season had been exhausted. This year it’s cauliflower. And while I could eat it almost every night simply sauteed with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper in a little olive oil, when you do something like this, you take the pale vegetable to another level. It’s kind of perfect – you have this large, handsome cross section of cauliflower (thank you, Bon Appetit, for the inspiration), providing a maximum surface for deep caramelization and striking presentation, the smoky heft of the fire-roasted pepper, a welcome chili heat and the warmth of dry-roasted spices.
I’d never made harissa before. Its homemade iteration puts the store bought paste to shame. My only regret is that I didn’t make twice as much – it’s so good that I could spoon it out of a jar by itself, all day, and slather it on every meal. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and make a double batch.
Oh, and PS: Check out this simple Hearty Chicken Chili that I made for Etsy’s blog. It’s absolutely perfect for the cold and wintry weather that we’re finally having.
CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH HARISSA
(harissa adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
Yield: 4 generous servings
1 large cauliflower
1 medium bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 medium Fresno chiles, diced
2 large cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
First, make the harissa. If you have a gas stove, skewer the whole bell pepper and roast it directly on the gas flame, turning every minute or two until the entire surface is blackened. The metal skewer will get hot – be careful! Once charred, set aside to cool.
Next, roast the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, two to three minutes. Remove from heat and grind using a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Set aside.
Add the tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, along with the red onion, chiles and garlic, and stir until translucent and browned, about 7-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Peel the charred skin from the bell pepper under cool running water. Core and remove seeds and dice.
In a food processor or blender, combine the red pepper, ground spices, onion, garlic and chile with the remaining harissa ingredients and process until smooth. Set aside until needed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Standing the cauliflower upright, slice in half vertically at the center, and then make 4 steaks, about 3/4 inch thick. You’ll want to make sure that the core is intact in order to hold the steaks together.
Working in two batches, fry the steaks over medium heat on both sides until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.
Place browned steaks on a large, greased baking sheet. Roast in the oven until tender, about ten minutes.
Onto four separate plates, spoon a generous quantity of harissa. Place one cauliflower steak atop each. Finish with another generous spoonful of harizza, followed by parsley and a little sea salt. Best served immediately.