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Monday, April 22, 2024 81° Today's Paper


With this cheesy cauliflower dish, you won’t miss chicken

If there’s any task I hate more than hauling out a week’s worth of garbage to the curb, it’s having to clean out the fridge beforehand to get rid of all the uneaten leftovers.

This week, I stumbled upon a forgotten head of cauliflower that I’d planned on roasting. It had a few brown spots but not so many that it was unusable. With the help of a sturdy kitchen knife, I got rid of them quickly.

Rummaging through the cheese drawer, I found a log of mozzarella just begging to be turned into something delicious. The instant answer was to pair it with the cauliflower for a vegetarian take on Chicken Parm.

I started with a homemade marinara sauce that requires only a handful of pantry ingredients and 20 minutes or so of cooking time — roughly the same time it took to slice my cauliflower “steaks,” bread them and fry until crisp in oil.

From there, it was easy to layer everything in a baking dish, and bake until bubbly. The result, about 35 minutes later, was a rich, cheesy and utterly satisfying dish no one felt guilty eating.


  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt, to taste, divided
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, for garnish
  • >> Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • Large pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil

>> To make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices and water. Season with salt and red pepper flakes; stir. Add basil sprigs and simmer until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a plate or tray with paper towels.

Pull leaves from base of cauliflower and cut off stem, leaving core intact. Slice cauliflower into 1-inch-thick slices. Reserve any smaller florets that break off.

Mix flour with a couple pinches salt in a shallow bowl or a plate. Place eggs in another shallow bowl and panko in a third.

Pour olive oil into a large skillet about 1/4 inch deep and heat over medium- high until shimmering.

Add cauliflower to bowl with flour and turn to coat. Shake off the excess, then dip in egg. Let excess egg drip off, then coat slices in panko. Fry cauliflower until golden brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total, working in batches. (You can also bread and fry the broken florets.) Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt.

Spread 1 cup red sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange fried cauliflower on top, then spoon 1 cup sauce on top of cauliflower. Place mozzarella slices on top of sauce, then spoon more marinara over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake until bubbling and lightly browned in spots, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle with basil. Serves 6.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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