Cauliflower on grill a meaty meatless dish

Genevieve Ko
Los Angeles Times
Grilled cauliflower

Whole roasted cauliflower impresses as a vegan centerpiece or fills you up as a one-dish meal.

The vegetable can play the same role in outdoor cooking, but it needs to be cut up first. If you haven’t tried grilled cauliflower, you will want to: It caramelizes beautifully on the outside and develops a chewy juiciness on the inside, making it the best meat alternative for live-fire cooking. It’s naturally a little sweet but still mild enough to serve as a canvas for any sauce or topping.

But you can’t throw a whole head of cauliflower on the grill. By the time it cooks through in the dry heat, the florets either burn over a hotter fire or shrivel to jerky over a lower heat.

Cauliflower “steaks” thick slabs that leave you with floret-dense rounded ends, which are the best part have been popular in the last decade, but they don’t hold together and might fall through the grill grates.

My solution is to cut the cauliflower in quarters from top to bottom, leaving the core and leaves intact. These fat wedges offer a generous curve of florets and some meaty stalk and are easy to turn on a grill for even charring. To keep them from withering and becoming tough, I start by steaming them just until they lose their raw edge. You can use a stovetop steamer, but I prefer to “steam” them in the microwave on hot days and when I’m in a rush.

A shower of olive oil and salt infuses the grilled cauliflower with enough flavor to serve it unadorned as a side dish. Add a pool of salsa verde, zhoug, hummus or guacamole and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, sliced chiles, or nuts or seeds and you have a main dish. Dried fruit, such as dates or raisins, complements those savory elements, as does a final burst of acidity with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Chop up any leftover grilled cauliflower to scatter over a grain bowl or salad, stir into fried rice or stuff into tacos.

The recipe below serves four as a side dish or two as a main, with the addition of sauces and toppings.

GRILLED CAULIFLOWER WEDGES

1 whole cauliflower (2 to 3 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons everyday olive oil

Prepare an outdoor grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.

Trim the stem end off the cauliflower, cutting off only any browned parts and leaving the leaves intact. Place the cauliflower upright on the cutting board and cut in quarters to form wedges.

Place the wedges in a large microwave-safe bowl and season with salt. Add enough water to come a half-inch up the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a hole in the top. Microwave until it starts to turn translucent and a paring knife slides through with some resistance, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and drain the water from the bowl.

Drizzle olive oil over the cauliflower, rubbing it on to evenly coat. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Place the wedges cut side down on the hot grill grate.

Grill until grill marks appear and the wedges release easily from the grate, 6 to 7 minutes. Flip to the other cut side and grill until tender inside, 5 to 7 minutes. A paring knife should slide through easily. You can char the floret side too for a few minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Note: A nutritional analysis is not available.