Ask me about my favorite part of summer, and I’ll probably say veggies and sunshine—because all I want is to spend time outside and eat as many fresh veggies as possible in as many ways as possible. I love this meal because it has lots and lots of veggies and you can cook it outside! Bonus points if you eat it al fresco, too.
This meal is unfussy fancy. Let me explain. The sauce is easy as long as you chop everything ahead of time and you can stand by it. You just have to add ingredients and keep stirring, letting the veggies do their thing and combine into a beautiful, tasty sauce.
I have a soft spot for sauces. Sauces let ingredients shine or make a meal out of odds and ends, random leftovers, or not much at all. There’s something relaxing about the gentle simmering. So, really, they’re the ultimate summer food because they can be made out of anything, used for anything, and require very little effort to taste great. It’s also really easy to make ahead of time, if that’s your thing. The cauliflower steaks couldn’t be easier and don’t take much time at all once the grill is hot. Despite the simplicity, it makes an elegant meal with so much flavor, it feels luxurious.
I have made and loved this sauce many times before. This recipe makes a good bit of sauce, and if serving for two with the cauliflower steaks, you will definitely have sauce left over. It is also wonderful with grilled chicken, shrimp, or flaky white fish. Leftovers are delicious served cold, as a tapenade on crackers or crostini, or warmed, with cheeses and bread. In fact, this meal in particular was begging for a creamy wedge of Brie. It could also be nice as a sauce for gnocchi, polenta, or grilled portobellos. You could use it as a filling for lasagna or on a flatbread… or, I’m sure, many other yummy things.
I like the cauliflower steaks with this sauce because they feel sturdy enough to hold up to the flavors of the sauce, but the meal is still light enough for a hot summer night. They’re a tasty addition to your vegetarian meal repertoire. Instead of with the sauce in this post, the cauliflower steaks can also be served with browned butter and chopped parsley, barbeque sauce, or horseradish mayonnaise.
For serving this meal, ladle some sauce onto a plate and spread it out in a thin layer. Rest a cauliflower steak on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if you like, and serve with crusty bread. When I was eating this meal, I wished I had some creamy cheese, so I definitely recommend serving some on the side as well. Pairs nicely with red wine and candlelight.
Stewed Tomato, Olive, & Carrot Sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2.5 Tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
2 cups chopped red onion
1 cup grated carrots
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided in two
3 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
1 cup pitted olives, chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice** (optional, see notes)
.25 cups chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
A few sprigs of parsley, to garnish
Clean, chop, measure, and gather all sauce ingredients. Once you get the sauce going, there isn’t much time for chopping.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, and then add olive oil. When the oil is glistening, add sliced garlic. Let the garlic heat until fragrant, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the chopped onions and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
Add the chopped celery and grated carrot and stir to combine. At this point, I add half the salt, stir, and taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the salt and stir to combine. Stir occasionally until the liquid begins to evaporate, about 4 – 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, and then begin to stir constantly as the sauce thickens.
Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. If you swipe your spoon along the bottom of the skillet, you should be able to see the bottom. There should still be some liquid, but it should not rush to fill the space. Add the olives and herbs and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. If the sauce is evaporating too quickly, you may add a little water, tomato juice, or broth 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.
Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce warm over low heat or cool and transfer to a closed container to store in the refrigerator. When serving, sprinkle with some freshly chopped parsley.
*The lemon juice is optional, depending on how tart you like your sauces. Or, if your carrots and tomatoes are very sweet, you may like to add more lemon juice.
**The ingredients are somewhat flexible. For example, I used green and black olives, but the sauce is still wonderful if you omit the olives or use other varieties. You can swap out the carrots for zucchini, or add mushrooms or eggplant. The sky is the limit. Think of it as a veggiefied tomato sauce. The base is the garlic, onion, tomato, and herbs. Add or remove the other veggies as you see fit.
If you are making the sauce and the cauliflower simultaneously, preheat the grill before you begin making the sauce. I recommend adding the cauliflower steaks to the grill once you have added the tomatoes to the skillet for the sauce. You may need to grab a kitchen partner to stir the sauce and / or tend to the cauliflower steaks, especially if you do not have a burner on your grill for cooking the sauce. If the sauce finishes ahead of the cauliflower, it’s easier to keep warm over low heat until the “steaks” are ready.
Simple Cauliflower Steaks
1 large head of cauliflower
1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the grill on high heat. The temperature should be very hot – around 500 degrees.
Rinse cauliflower and cut vertically in the middle with a sharp knife. To make the “steaks,” cut again about one inch on either side of the cut edge (this should be the thickest part). Cut off any bits of stem or leaves, leaving a bit of the stem so that the steak holds together. Reserve the rest of the cauliflower for another use.
Drizzle olive oil over the cauliflower steaks on each side and brush to coat. Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, and pepper over the steaks.
Add the steaks to the grill once the grill is hot. Sear for approximately 1 minute on each side, creating charred grill marks. Then, lower the heat to medium-high or between 400 and 450 degrees.
Cook each side on medium high for 6 – 7 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the cauliflower.
Add salt and pepper or a drizzle of olive oil to taste. Serve immediately.