I must be a carnivore at heart because this week it was all about meatless meat. And I’m not talking about little veggie crumbles that look like meat. I’m talking about steak-style food. Thick cut, the kind of food that needs a serrated knife. There’s a reason I go by the nickname “the meat chef” in our house.
In early 2012, Bon Appetit magazine published an issue that featured a full-fledged cauliflower steak. Until that point I’d only seen cauliflower cut into dainty florets. But here was a cauliflower, unapologetic in its manliness, chest bulging, mustache intact, ready to ride its Harley into the sunset.
In other words: cut into slabs, seared, roasted, and drizzled with a hearty dressing.
And it was one of those life-changing moments. The kind of moment where you realize that by God, vegetables can be impressive. Cut them like they’re supposed to be cut, not into tiny little pieces, but into great big beautiful slices, and there you have it: a vegetable main that can win over the heartiest of appetites.
The problem is that I’d never actually experimented with prepping my veggies like this. No need, I had steak! And so I continued….trimming and slicing my way through my vegetable prep, primping and glazing them with a touch of soy here, a dash of cumin seed there.
But now that I’m vegan for a whole month, nothing is holding me back. By default, veggies need to be the main event. Veggies, start your engines, it’s road trip time. Here are a few fake steak recipes that scratched my steak itch last week.
1. Cauliflower steak
I dug up the old Bon Appetit cauliflower recipe for some inspiration and got to work. I followed the same basic principle, roasting and searing it for a crisp exterior and soft but still-toothsome interior. And I updated the dressing, going for a Mediterranean style, with capers, olives, pickled onions, and a combination of olive oil + red wine vinegar.
The surprise result was that cauliflower does masquerade well as steak. It was meaty, rich, filling, but didn’t result in the gut buster feeling that so often accompanies meat.
Steak rating: 3.5 stars
2. Mushroom sandwich
My step dad is a huge cheesesteak lover, and by proxy, I’ve become a bit of a steak sandwich lover myself. Although I’ve never had his favorite version from Rothman’s in NYC, I’ve smoked out my apartment on more than one occasion charring the perfect strip to wedge between slices of bread.
With the deep freeze temps that have rocked the NorthEast last week, I was in the mood for something hearty. A steak sandwich came to mind but my cursed (excuse me, cleansing) vegan diet was getting in the way.
So I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, splashed some water on my face, and told myself: “self: you can do it, figure this out.”
I headed over to Forager’s market where I bought a mountain of mushrooms, a head of garlic and a fresh baguette. Because if there’s any vegetable that can pass as steak, it’s mushrooms. Which is possibly why they’re such a great combo: you’re basically allowing yourself to eat twice the amount of steak in your sandwich, minus the guilt.
Just cut the mushrooms into big meaty pieces, give them a good sear in plenty of olive oil and you’re on the fast track to steak heaven…So steaky that I almost forgot that I wasn’t eating real steak.
Steak rating: 4.5 stars