I love my mom, but most of the time when I think about my early years and my introduction to foods, especially those not found in our typical Mexican-American diet, I think of overcooked vegetables covered in cheese sauce. It was delicious back then, given I had no other reference point, but had I known what those vegetables could really aspire to, I probably would have eaten more of them, in abundance and with regularity. But who knows, maybe the joke was on me and my mom, being clever as she is, knew that the only way to get a kid to eat vegetables was to smother it in cheese. Touché, Mama, touché.
I’m not typically one for following food fads because I’m more a believer in all things in moderation, unless of course you have some ailments that keep you restricted from eating certain foods. However, in my day-to-day as a personal chef, my secret weapon becomes how to make things taste good. (We all eventually become our mothers, don’t we?). Whether it’s for diet or for vanity, or really, both are kind of one and the same, I have figured out how to work my charm on pretty much any vegetable, and the secret is flavor. People, in their anxiety to watch their waistlines, forget their minds and start unnecessarily omitting basic ingredients that lend to the final flavor of food. Salt, fresh herbs, spices used in the right combination, and fat are all things I respect when I cook. I also pay attention to how I draw out flavor in the techniques I use to prepare the food. It’s a good gig if you can get it. People pay me to get it right, so they don’t have to think about it. But it’s really not as difficult as it may seem.
While there’s nothing better than a succulent, char-grilled, real beef steak, I offer an alternative in this recipe for marinated cauliflower steaks. The ingredients are minimal, but fresh and light, and it’s all in the timing and technique. When I teach everyday folks, I always remind them, not to fear heat. Getting a slow and golden caramelized sear on cauliflower is not novel, but it might take a little practice if you’ve not done it before. The good part is that you’ll get to eat your vegetables. The bad part is that you’ll quickly become the star of dinner with this recipe, and may be asked for repetitive encores every night thereafter.