Any dish bearing “picatta” in its name foretells that it will be prepared with a sprightly lemon-caper sauce. While a traditional Italian picatta dish features meat, vegan versions are usually made with thin slices of seitan or extra-firm tofu, sauteed until lightly crisped, then napped with the refreshingly piquant sauce. But why stop with seitan and tofu?
Consider cauliflower. For many years, I’ve coaxed cauliflower to stretch its boundaries beyond a lightly steamed side dish. I’ve mashed it as an alternative to potatoes, transformed it into “rice,” and even used it to make a creamy pasta sauce. Lately, I’ve been cooking cauliflower “steaks,” cutting the whole cauliflower like a loaf of bread, into 1/2-inch thick slices and then roasting the slices until tender on the inside and golden brown on the outside.
Cauliflower steaks have proved to be the perfect foil for the tart flavor of a picatta sauce. Instead of sauteing the cauliflower as I would if using seitan or tofu, I roast the cauliflower slices to their tender golden perfection. When it’s nearly ready, I make the sauce by sauteing shallots in a little olive oil, then adding white wine and lemon juice. I reduce it slightly and stir in some capers and lemon slices. Sliced mushrooms can be added as well. The optional finish of vegan butter serves to thicken the sauce a bit and add richness. The parsley contributes its bright color and distinctive flavor.
Picatta-style cauliflower can be served with pasta, rice, or polenta, and a green vegetable such as broccoli rabe, spinach, or Tuscan kale sauteed with white beans and garlic.
Picatta-Style Cauliflower Steaks
- 1 head cauliflower, cored
- Olive oil, for cooking
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 shallots, finely minced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 to 2 tablespoons capers
- 4 paper-thin slices lemon
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons chilled vegan butter, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, cored side down and cut it into 1/2-inch slices, as if you were cutting a loaf of bread.
- Arrange the cauliflower slices on a lightly oiled baking pan (you may need more than one) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until tender and nicely browned, about 30 minutes, turning once with a large metal spatula about halfway through. While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauce.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 3 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms, if using, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the wine, lemon juice, and capers and cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces slightly. Just before serving, add the parsley and lemon slices, then stir in the vegan butter, if using, stirring to melt it into the sauce.
- To serve, arrange the cauliflower on plates and spoon the hot sauce on top. Serve hot.