Attempts to eat more vegetables and less meat — or just more vegetables — tend to be perpetual for a lot of people.
It’s a challenge. But if you try this dish — a wonderful vegetarian version of breaded veal (or pork or chicken) cutlets swimming in a marina sauce — you will see how easy and satisfying it can be to turn an attempt into success.
You start by slicing a whole head of cauliflower into cutlets. The idea is to end up with thick slabs of the vegetable. One easy method for doing this is to cut the head in half down the center, then turn each half on its cut side and cut the halves into ½-inch-thick slabs. There will always be a few loose bits from the ends, but those also can be breaded and cooked as described below.
You’ll want to take care with the breading, too. It’s a three-step process: dust the steaks lightly with cornstarch, coat them well with an egg mixture, then finish them with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is standard operating procedure among culinary pros. The three layers provide a more substantial crust than any other single coating or combo of coatings.
Now it’s time to brown your vegetable cutlets. You could do it in a skillet — just as you would a breaded meat cutlet — but that would require a ton of oil (those breadcrumbs just soak it up). And remember, it’s the New Year and you’re on a new path. So we bake them instead, which requires a lot less oil. The key is to place the cutlets fairly close to the heat source. In my electric oven that’s the top of the stove. If they’re not properly browned at the end of the prescribed cooking time, just leave them in the oven a little longer.
Then dig in. The biggest flavor is going to come from the marinara sauce. Your brain likely won’t care at all whether the cutlet is veal or vegetable. But your body will thank you.
BREADED CAULIFLOWER CUTLETS WITH MARINARA
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (45 minutes active)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 large head cauliflower
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ cup cornstarch
1¾ cups panko breadcrumbs
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
1½ cups speedy marinara (recipe below) or store-bought marinara, heated
Heat the oven to 400 F.
In a small bowl, combine the oil and the garlic. Set aside.
Pull off any leaves from the stem end of the cauliflower and trim off just enough of the stem so the cauliflower stands flat on the counter. Slice the cauliflower head in half down the center top to bottom. One at a time, set each half onto its cut side. Starting from one end of each half, slice crosswise to create ½-inch-thick slices. This will yield 3 to 4 cutlets from the center of each half, with the small ends being chunks. The chunks can be prepared as the cutlets, or reserved for another use.
In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, 3 tablespoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
On a sheet of kitchen parchment, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring the mixture with a fork to combine. On a second sheet of parchment, combine the panko with the cheese, stirring with a fork.
One at a time, coat the cauliflower cutlets (and trimmings, if using) on both sides with the cornstarch, knocking off the excess. Next, dip each in the egg mixture, coating them on both sides and letting the excess drip off. Finally, coat them with the panko mixture, patting the crumbs on well. Set aside.
Strain the garlic oil through a mesh strainer, pressing hard on the garlic to get out all the oil. Discard the garlic (or reserve for another use).
On a rimmed baking sheet, spread half of the oil in an even coating. Set the baking sheet on the oven’s top shelf and heat for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and quickly arrange the prepared cauliflower on it in a single layer. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the tops of the cauliflower evenly with the remaining oil, turn them over, then bake for another 15 minutes. Divide the cauliflower among 4 serving plates, then serve topped with marinara.
Nutrition information per serving: 490 calories; 190 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 21 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 170 mg cholesterol; 1110 mg sodium; 58 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 17 g protein.
Start to finish: 35 minutes (10 minutes active)
Makes about 2½ cups
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Hefty pinch red pepper flakes
28-ounce can plum tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), chopped
In an unheated medium saucepan, combine the garlic and the oil. Turn the heat to medium and cook, turning over the garlic several times, until it is just golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and a hefty pinch of salt, then bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook at a brisk simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 2½ cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the garlic. Season with salt.
Nutrition information per ½ cup: 60 calories; 25 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 460 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein.