Cauliflower Steaks get the Sicilian treatment with subtly sweet golden raisins, crunchy pistachios, and garlicky crisp breadcrumbs, all with a California vibe. Shall we?
- What is a Cauliflower Steak
- Fruit and Nuts in the Central Valley of California
- Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Cauliflower Steaks with Raisins and Pistachios
- What Ingredients You Need for Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
- Ingredients Notes and Resources
- How to Make Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- Leftovers and Storage
- What to Serve with Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
- FAQs About Cauliflower Steaks
- More Cauliflower Recipes
- Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios Recipe
- Wine Pairing for Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
What is a Cauliflower Steak
Cauliflower Steak is a slab, or "steak," cut from a whole cauliflower head. The main center stem is left intact to keep as many of the florets together to create the "steak."
The steaks are prepped and cooked the same way regular beef steaks are cooked—grilled, pan-seared, or roasted. Because the cauliflower steak has two broad, flat sides, more of the cauliflower area comes into direct contact with the cooking surface for browning and caramelization.
Depending on how big the cauliflower is and what, if any, kind of sauce you add, Cauliflower Steaks can be a light vegetarian main dish or a hearty vegetable side dish.
This recipe uses these California-grown ingredients:
- Raisins grown in California make up 98% of all raisins grown in in the US, and 95% of that in the San Joaquin Valley.
- Pistachios, which are my California substitute for pine nuts in the traditional recipe
- Olive Oil, made from olives, which grow almost exclusively in the San Joaquin Valley
- Garlic, of course!
Let's dive into some of the farmers and producers who grow some of these key ingredients!
Fruit and Nuts in the Central Valley of California
California is the leading agricultural state in the United States. It grows one-third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruit and nuts that we get in the country. California is also the sole producing state of almonds, walnuts, olives, artichokes, dates, raisins, kiwifruit, clingstone peaches, pomegranates, and sweet rice (mochiko). Within California, the Central Valley, made up of the Sacramento Valley to the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the center and south, is the most productive agricultural region not just in California, but the world.
This past October, I traveled to the San Joaquin Valley for an agri-tour of the region with my friends at California Grown. The tour was specially planned to coincide with California Farmers and Farm Worker Month, an entire month dedicated to recognizing the actual people who grow, harvest, process, and distribute the agricultural bounty of California. We visited working farms that were in the middle of harvest and learned so much about how much work goes into growing our food.
Dried-on-vine raisins, or "DOV" for those of us in the know now, are exactly that. Farmers leave the grapes on the vine to dry under the sun-dappled canopy of the grape leaves, rather than picking grapes off the vines and spreading them out on the ground to dry in the sun. DOV raisins have a characteristically plumper texture, and sweeter flavor without caramelization.
We visited River Ranch, a farm in Madera that grows DOV raisins, and did a harvester "ride-along" to experience what it's like to operate the machinery. No, no one from our group actually got to drive the machines because operating the harvesting tractor and the associated trucks and trailers requires skill and coordination.
Dates, Dried Figs, and Prunes
Raisins, along with dates, dried figs, and prunes make up the Dried Fruit Coalition. California grows almost 100% of the US production of each of dates, dried figs, prunes and raisins. Peep some of the best ways to get the health benefits of prunes into your kitchen with these recipes and ideas:
- Pinot Prune Jam for toast, bruschetta, charcuterie boards, and more
- "No-tella" Healthy Chocolate Spread made with a not-so-secret-ingredient
- take a cue from the photo above: whipped ricotta spread on plate, topped with dried fruit, sliced persimmon, sliced prosciutto, and toasted nuts
Where and How do Kiwi and Figs Grow?
If California produces dried figs, we're obviously growing fresh figs, too! We visited Catania Worldwide, which grows a wide variety of produce in California including citrus, figs, kiwi, and persimmons. We were able to see kiwi growing on their vines, just like grapes, and then watch both kiwi and figs get packed for shipping inside Catania's processing facility.
Patch with Actual Pumpkins Growing on Vines
Coming from Los Angeles, my only exposure to pumpkin patches are the "patches" that sprout up overnight on various vacant corner lots around the city, covered with hay and scattered with pumpkins that have been trucked in from, quite literally, farther afield.
Though it may be a little too far off from Los Angeles, Sweet Thistle Farm in Clovis, CA has an actual pumpkin patch that grows actual pumpkins that you can see on the vines right there in the field, and yes, obviously this was super exciting to me. Our agritour team cut a few pumpkins right off the vines, specifically the Long Island Cheese variety, which are the best type of pumpkin for baking.
Sweet Thistle Farms also grows flowers, so we wandered among flowers that are in season in the fall, and created centerpieces with pumpkins, succulents, and flowers. Peep a tutorial over on the California Grown blog here.
Fun Fact: California grows over 75% of domestically grown (U.S.) fresh cut flowers!
Central Valley is the Largest Producer of Wine in California
Though Napa and Sonoma get all the attention for wine in California with Paso Robles and Santa Barbara not far beyond, the region that actually grows the most wine grapes is the Central Valley. We visited two local wineries, Quady Winery which specializes in dessert wines and vermouth, and San Joaquin Wine Co.
Curious About Agriculture in Other Parts of California?
I have been hashtag-blessed to be part of the content creator team for California Grown and California Wines, and have gone on a couple of trips to visit agriculture and wine regions. Peep below:
- Central Valley agritour with sweet potatoes, pomegrante, persimmons, dairy farms and cheese, olive oil, and Imperial Valley salad greens
- Monterey Agritour with Ocean Mist artichokes, Lakeside Organics greens, and Far West Fungi Mushrooms
- Santa Barbara Wine Tour, including the Urban Wine Trail and wine country
- Santa Ynez Wine Tour including Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills
- Paso Robles Wine Tour
- Monterey Wine Tour
- Anderson Valley, Mendocino County Wine Tour
Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Cauliflower Steaks with Raisins and Pistachios
This recipe is:
- vegan / 100% plant-based
- gluten-free adaptable if you omit breadcrumbs or substitute in gluten-free breadcrumbs
What Ingredients You Need for Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
- dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc
- raisins, I use golden raisins aka "sultanas"
- cauliflower head
- olive oil
- sea salt
- panko bread crumbs
- garlic cloves
Ingredients Notes and Resources
Best White Wine for Cooking
Any dry white wine that tastes great to you in the glass will taste good in the dish. In keeping with the California theme, pick a California Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes.
For Wine Pairings to drink with the finished dish at the table, see the section below!
Golden Raisins and Pistachios
Golden Raisins, aka Sultanas, are the same as the darker colored raisins, both made from green grapes. However, golden raisins are just prepared in a way that preserves their lighter color. I use golden raisins in this recipe for aesthetics. If you can't find golden raisins, regular raisins are equivalent.
Pistachios. I buy shelled, raw pistachios in bulk, and pan-roast and salt them as needed.
Best Olive Oil for Cooking
Olive Oil. Enzo Olive Oil is a family-owned and operated olive oil producer based out of California's San Joaquin Valley.
Additional Ingredients for Sicilian-Style Cauliflower Steaks
Panko Breadcrumbs are Japanese-style breadcrumbs that are lighter and airier because the individual pieces are shaped like flakes. They create a crisper texture in this recipe. You can find panko breadcrumbs in most regular grocery stores in the same aisle where regular Italian breadcrumbs are.
Salt. This is the Kosher salt I use for every day cooking.
Garlic. Use any form of garlic, but finely minced to the same size as the breadcrumbs will keep everything together.
All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
How to Make Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Place Cauliflower Steaks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub Cauliflower Steaks on both sides with olive oil and season with salt. Set to roast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes
2. Warm white wine in a small saucier to just before boiling. Remove from heat and add raisins to plump for about 10-15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
3. Heat frying pan DRY over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and toss until breadcrumbs are toasted golden brown. Remove to bowl.
4. In same pan, add olive oil and allow to heat over medium. Add chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, but not brown. Add lightly chopped pistachios and stir until garlic becomes lightly golden brown. Remove to same bowl with breadcrumbs.
5. Drain wine from plumped raisins, then combine raisins with garlic, breadcrumbs, and pistachios. Stir in chopped parsley, lemon juice, remaining olive oil. Taste and season with salt if needed.
6. When cauliflower steaks are finished roasting, remove them to a large serving platter or individual serving plates. Spoon the Golden Raisins, Pistachios, and Breadcrumbs mixture over.
Pro-tip: Use a white wine for the recipe that you can also sip while cooking, and pair with the final dish. Wine suggestions below!
Substitutions and Variations
This version is already a bit of a departure from the more traditional renditions made with pine nuts and saffron, so you can vary it "backwards" by going back to those original ingredients! Here are some suggested substitutions:
- Cauliflower Florets. If you are a die-hard florets fan, then don't let the idea of full slabs stop you from making this recipe. Roast cauliflower florets as you normally would. Make the Golden Raisins, Pistachios, and Garlic Breadcrumbs, and then shower it down over a bowl of the roasted florets.
- Other Vegetables as Base. Most other brassicas aren't naturally shaped for steaks, but if you want to apply the same rule as above to broccoli, broccolini, or romanesco florets, absolutely do it because it will taste great and to be honest, the bitterness you can get from charring broccoli will make the contrast with the Golden Raisins and Pistachios even better.
- Other Dried Fruit. Use this recipe as a template, and once you have mastered it, swap out various ingredients for equivalents, in this case, any of the California Dried Fruit like dates, prunes, and dried figs would work. I have, in fact, gone though iterations of this with dates and dried figs.
- Other Nuts. You can substitute chopped walnuts, which have a soft texture, and go well with the flavor of the raisins.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios. However, that doesn't mean there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make the recipe a little easier than it already is.
- Wine Glasses. These are the most versatile every day wine glasses for light white wines
- Wine key. I have some version of this double-hinge wine key in every room of the house except the bathrooms, but don't underestimate me; I will put a wine key in the bathrooms if I have to
- Butter Warmer. Tiny 2-cup capacity sauce pot to heat wine and plump raisins
- Large Sauté Pan for the vegetables and the final pasta
- Large Cutting Board. A large size cutting board is stable, sturdy, and has enough surface area to prep multiple vegetables
- all-purpose 7-inch chef's knife (expensive but worth it!)
- oval platter with high sides to serve finished pasta
- brass servers for pasta
Leftovers and Storage
You can store leftover Cauliflower Steak with Golden Raisins and Pistachios in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for one day. If you store the golden raisins, pistachios, and breadcrumbs separate from cauliflower, you can store for three days.
The ingredients can be frozen for up to a month if stored as above, cooked Cauliflower Steaks separate from the Golden Raisins, Pistachios, and Breadcrumbs.
What to Serve with Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
A thick slab of golden, caramelized cauliflower with sweet, nutty breadcrumbs is an entire meal imho, but if you like to have something fresh and green alongside, or a bit of protein, try these recipes and ideas:
- Tri-Colore Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette for leafy greens
- Roasted Mushrooms and Lentils Salad for plant-based protein and greens
- Toss cooked pasta with garlic, lemon and olive oil and serve right on the plate with the cauliflower. The golden raisins and pistachios mixed with the pasta will give it a real Sicilian vibe.
FAQs About Cauliflower Steaks
A: Yes, you can make parts of tis recipe in advance and assemble just before serving. Sear the cauliflower steaks in advance, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make the golden raisins, pistachios, and breadcrumbs in advance and store in its own airtight container in the refrigerator up to a day in advance. Before serving, reheat the Cauliflower Steaks in a sauté pan with a light drizzle of oil over medium-low heat. Remove the cauliflower steaks from the pan and gently-reheat golden raisins and pistachios mixture. Assemble on platter or plates.
A: No, you do not have to pre-boil cauliflower to make Cauliflower Steaks! In fact, maintaining some level of "bite" in the cauliflower is better for the overall dish. Unless you actually want super soft cauliflower, in which case, you can still skip the pre-boiling part and simply drop the temperature to 350° and roast the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes longer.
More Cauliflower Recipes
- Cauliflower Parm
- Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Walnuts
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower "a la Brasa"
- Garlic Cheese Pull-Apart Cauliflower "Loaf"
Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios Recipe
- 2 large cauliflower heads
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup golden raisins aka sultanas
- sea salt
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup roasted pistachios lightly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 lemon
Roast Cauliflower Steaks
- Heat oven to 400°F. Cut cauliflower heads into steaks, reserving any broken florets for another use. Place cauliflower steaks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub cauliflower steaks on both sides with ¼ teaspoon olive oil and season with ¼ teaspoon salt for each steak. Set to roast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Prepare Golden Raisins, Pistachios and Breadcrumbs
- Warm white wine in a small saucier to just before boiling. Remove from heat and add raisins to plump for about 10-15 minutes.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add panko breadcrumbs to the dry pan. Toss until breadcrumbs are toasted to a deep golden brown. Remove breadcrumbs from pan and set aside in a bowl.
- In the same pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoon olive oil. Add chopped garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant and translucent. Add chopped pistachios and stir and toss until garlic gets very lightly golden. Remove garlic and pistachio to same bowl with toasted breadcrumbs.
- Drain wine from plumped raisins, then combine raisins with garlic, breadcrumbs, and pistachios. Stir in chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Taste and season with additional lemon juice and salt if needed.
Assemble Cauliflower Steaks
- When cauliflower steaks are finished roasting, remove them to a large serving platter or individual serving plates. Spoon the Golden Raisins, Pistachios, and Breadcrumbs mixture over. Squeeze more lemon juice over the entire dish.
Wine Pairing for Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios
You have a couple of directions you can follow for wine pairing with Cauliflower Steaks with Golden Raisins and Pistachios. Though cauliflower is the largest ingredient in the dish, it has a fairly neutral flavor profile that you can largely ignore in favor of the more uniquely flavored ingredients. Take the sweet lead of the golden raisins, or go down the flavor path of the pistachios.
For something fun, this wine is made from California-grown sangiovese, and fermented as whole clusters in a process called carbonic maceration so the wine has a slight natural fizz.
For more tips on pairing wine with food, check out this post about wines from Paso Robles, California, this post about wines from Santa Barbara, California, and this post about specifically pairing fish with wines from Monterey, California.
More San Joaquin Valley-inspired Recipes from Friends
- Roasted Delicata Squash with Pomegranate Agrodolce by Irvin of Eat The Love
- Mole Poblano, Mexican sauce with nuts, seeds, spices, and dried fruit by Kate of Hola Jalapeño
- Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake (gluten-free!) by Alison of A Girl Defloured
- Cinnamon Raisin Butter Board by Becky of Baking the Goods
- Best Places to Visit in San Joaquin Valley Guide by Meg of ThisMessIsOurs
- On Fresh Cut Flowers from Jerry James Stone