Cauliflower steaks with lemon-caper black lentils and harissa white bean puree: An impressive main course or side that celebrates the versatility of plant-based ingredients in a delicious way. I could wax poetic about this dish and the layers of textures and flavors it emulates all day.
The white bean puree lays a smoky-sweet foundation for meaty cauliflower steaks and heaps of lentils with briny bits of capers and fresh mint. Harissa does the heavy lifting in both the puree and the cauliflower steaks, so you get a double dose of its irresistible flavor. Cauliflower steaks help make this dish feel hearty enough to really satisfy. Pro tip: Choose a large cauliflower head and keep in mind that when you cut into it, the center root must remain intact, which means you may only be able to cut two “steaks” per head. The end pieces will likely fall apart and that’s totally fine—roast the remaining pieces alongside the steaks.
Pro tip #2: Make sure the cauliflower has enough space to breathe on the baking sheet. If the pieces are too close together, they’ll steam as opposed to brown and caramelize (pictured above). And those crispy bits are really where the magic lies.Black lentils are also employed to help give this vegetarian dish its meaty character. Not only are lentils a nutrition-powerhouse, they’re super-forgiving in terms of cooking, especially the black variety. Plus, they can take on a LOT of flavor, so don’t be afraid to douse them in spices, acid, and a healthy glug of olive oil.
I use the black variety here because they are firm, rich, and hold their shape well after cooking. I typically purchase mine from the bulk bin section of Whole Foods because they’re less expensive and I can stock up on as many (or as few) as I wish. I should also explain why “hummus” is in quotations. I know this will shock most of you, but I actually decided to forego the tahini in this puree, therefore stripping it of the technical term “hummus”. The reason being is that I wanted the harissa paste to shine through as much as possible and not be masked by the earthy taste of sesame seeds.
However, if you decide to make this puree into a dip or actual hummus, feel free to add in a few tablespoons of tahini. Either way, it’s good enough to be eaten by the spoonful.
- 1 cup black lentils, rinsed
- 3 cups lower-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
- 2 Tbsp. capers, drained
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 (15-oz.) can unsalted great northern or cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 Tbsp. mild harissa paste, plus more for final garnish
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼ cup freshly chopped mint leaves
- 4 Tbsp. pine nuts, optional
- Add lentils and broth to a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are soft, 30–40 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, and capers.
- While lentils cook, preheat oven to 425°F.
- Remove toughest outer leaves from cauliflower (leave on any tender inner leaves). Trim stem to create a flat base. Holding cauliflower upright on stem, slice into 4 equal slabs to create steaks. Place steaks and florets on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, ¼ tsp. of the salt, and ¼ tsp. of the black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, carefully flipping/tossing once halfway through.
- Combine beans, harissa, garlic, remaining 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 3 Tbsp. oil, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper in a food processor; blend until smooth.
- Divide harissa "hummus" evenly among each of 4 plates or wide-rimmed bowls. Top evenly with lentils and one cauliflower steak (or an assortment of florets). Brush additional harissa over cauliflower, if desired. Garnish with fresh mint, pine nuts, and an extra glug of olive oil, if desired.