Cauliflower Steaks and Tantalizing Tapenade

There are times when a piece of grilled seafood or meat sounds appetizing.  Then there are times when I crave vegetables with smoky goodness.  Last night was one of them so we pulled out the grill and made steaks.  It’s a good thing we did this yesterday because the outside heat may make me melt today.

It just so happens the bag of organic vegetables given to me yesterday included a beautiful head of cauliflower.  It must have weighed five or six pounds.  Pondering ideas, I just cut the darn thing in half.  And kept cutting it until I ended up with six half-inch sections.  I remembered reading about cauliflower steaks a while back.  These ended up being my steaks.  Perfect because there was no fleish in the house.

A highly utilized cuisine in my kitchen is Mediterranean.  Given there are 18 countries that border the Mediterranean sea, I should share Southern French, Spanish, Italian and Greek speak to me often.  This recipe draws from those cuisines.

I added sautéed crimini mushrooms, parmesan, crunched croutons and smoked paprika to the tapenade.  So it’s not really a tapenade anymore but a tantalizing topping.  It warmed up when spooned on the cauliflower reminding me of walking into an Italian pizzeria with salty, sweet and intense olive oil aromas wafting through the air.  The meaty character of San Marzano tomatoes works nicely for this rustic style sauce but any tomato will do.

I cut the steaks 1/2-inch thick and two of them broke when turning.  Next time I’ll cut them 3/4-inch so they’ll be easier to flip.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

Cauliflower Steaks with Tantalizing Tapenade

Servings: 2 to 3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes


1 large head of cauliflower, sliced into ¾-inch steaks (you can get from 3 to 6 depending on the side of the head)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup cauliflower florets, chopped (the ones that fall off when you cut the steaks)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
¼ cup parmigianno reggiano
¼ cup toasted bread or croutons, roughly crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 lemon, juice only
Salt and pepper

Tomato Sauce:
3 medium tomatoes (Brandywine, Beefsteak or your favorite)
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes works fine.


  1. Pull the outside leaves off the cauliflower.  Trim the stem so the cauliflower sits comfortably with the flower side up.
    Cut it in half.  Starting from the center of one of the halves, work out cutting slices ¾-inch thick.  Depending on the size of the cauliflower, you can get from 2 to 4 slices.  Do this with the second half.
  2. Chop the pieces that fall off into small bits for use in the topping.
  3. Brush the steaks with olive oil and set aside

Make the tomato sauce:

  1. Core and roughly chop the tomatoes.  You can remove the seeds if you want.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for one to two minutes, or until just translucent.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and give a stir.  Let the mixture simmer on low while you make the topping.

Make topping:

  1. Place ¼ cup of the small cauliflower bits, sundried tomatoes, olives, parsley, parmesan, breadcrumbs, smoked paprika, olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl; stir to combine.
  2. Taste and adjust, adding salt and pepper, or a little of any other ingredient per your taste.  You don’t want the topping too dry but not swimming in oil either.
  3. Set aside.


  1. Preheat your grill to 350 F.
  2. Place the steaks on the grill for 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Flip and cook the second side 5 to 6 minutes.

To serve, put a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on a plate.  Place two cauliflower steaks on top.  Divide the topping between the plates and spoon on top of the cauliflower.

Grilling tip:

Spread the coals evenly throughout your cooking area and heat to medium.  It’s ready when the coals are no longer flaming and are covered with gray ash.  To check the temperature, hold the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height.  You should be able to hold your hand in that position before the heat forces you to pull it away for approximately four seconds for medium heat.

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