cauliflower half-steaks with hazelnuts, sumac, gruyère, and lemony herbs

I love cauliflower, but honestly this recipe is all about the topping for me (I often eat it by the spoonful). Ever since I tried Joshua McFadden’s cauliflower steaks from his cookbook, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables*, I became determined to make my own fall-inspired version for Thanksgiving. My first iteration of this recipe included browned butter, which would normally be an immediate yes, please. Before you disown me for leaving it out, allow me make a case that the other flavors are so forward and delightful that they drown the subtle flavor of browned butter. The hazelnuts, gruyère, and sumac add nutty and warm flavors while the lemon zest, capers, and herbs brighten it up and balance out the dish. I’ve eaten this as both an entrée and as a side dish- the steak sizes here are meant to be eaten as a side, though larger steaks can be used as an entrée.

inspired by Joshua McFadden’s cauliflower steak recipe from his cookbook Six Seasons

yields 6-8 small cauliflower steaks

1 large head cauliflower (around 2.5lbs), leaves trimmed off
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on cauliflower
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh herbs, chopped (I used a mix of chives, parsley, and tarragon)
1/4 cup capers
zest of one large lemon
3 oz gruyère, grated
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
1.5 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon sumac** (see note on sumac)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

1. Prep the cauliflower: Pick two opposite sides of your cauliflower and cut approximately ½ inch off each side. You should now have two opposing flat sides. Cut the whole head of cauliflower in half, parallel to the flat sides. Cut each piece in half again, parallel to the flat sides, so you have 4 cauliflower steaks. Pick the two largest steaks, and cut them in half from top to bottom. Depending on the size of “steak” you want, you can cut the remaining two whole steaks in half as well, or leave them as is. You should now have 6 to 8 flat pieces of cauliflower. Brush each of the cauliflower steaks with olive oil (on both sides) and generously salt and pepper each side. Set aside.

2. Prep the topping: When your oven reaches 450, place one rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, grab a medium-sized bowl and mix together the herbs, capers, lemon zest, gruyère, breadcrumbs, hazelnuts, and sumac. Drizzle ¼ cup olive oil over the mixture and generously salt and pepper. Toss the mixture some more and give it a taste. Add more olive oil or salt/pepper if needed.

3. First bake: After the baking sheet has heated, place the cauliflower steaks on the heated sheet (they should give a nice sizzle). Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cauliflower is barely starting to brown at the edges.

4. Second bake: After the first bake, pull the cauliflower out of the oven and generously top each steak with the prepared topping (do not remove the steaks from the baking sheet, they are going back in the oven). It will seem like you have too much topping, but keep adding more, until all of the topping has been used. Some of the topping will fall onto the baking sheet, which is perfectly fine. Put the steaks back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the topping has turned a deep golden brown. I recommend serving the cauliflower steaks warm, after they have cooled for a few minutes. Any leftovers will keep for another day or two, just re-toast them before eating.

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**Before using, observe if your sumac is a fine powder, or a coarse/grainy sumac (mine is coarse/grainy). Use 1.5 tsp for powdered sumac, and 1 tablespoon for a coarse/grainy sumac.

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