Vegetarian Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwiches

Vegetarian Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwiches

Buffalo Cauli Sandwiches.png

A couple posts ago I  became a spokeswoman for cauliflower steaks (check out my cauliflower reuben sandwiches here). I love them. These seasoned and baked slabs of cauliflower can pretty much be turned into anything, including the spicy buffalo sandwiches I’m sharing today. Classically, the cauliflower in this sandwich would be a deep fried chicken breast tossed in buttery buffalo sauce and topped with a heavy blue cheese dressing, however that’s not my style. I found a way around this though. You see, one of my go-to orders at a local sports bar back home in St. Louis is their build-your-own-burger option with a veggie patty, veggies, buffalo sauce and ranch dressing. I get everything I used to love about buffalo chicken sandwiches, just without the chicken. So I blended this concept with my new obsession for cauliflower steaks and came up with this out-of-bounds buffalo cauliflower sandwich recipe.

dsc_0096

I actually had intended on making this post a few days ago, but it took me until today because of the crazy week I’ve had. This past week was not only my last full week of classes at culinary school, but it was also the week of our final project. As a final, me and five of my classmates took over the school’s weekly Friday Night Dinner even, where we planned and executed a three-course, gourmet vegan dinner for 100 people. For this project, we are responsible for concept, recipes, execution, prepping, cooking, plating and table settings. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, it was a super success. The food was perfect and the tables looked beautiful. But while it’s a sweet feeling to be over and done with it, it’s also a bitter feeling because I don’t want school to end. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, and it was so amazing to have all my friends and family there on Friday to celebrate this monumental time in my life.

Then, the morning after, my mom, oldest sister, and I participated in the NYC Women’s March. To say the least, it was a truly major experience. The signage alone was enough to keep me fully entertained, but it was the positive, united and hopeful energy coming from the masses of people marching that really made it an event to remember. I am so proud to say that I participated in such a significant event in history.

dsc_0088

So at the close of these two epic events (and before I have to start my homework), I at last have a minute to share this almost-as-epic recipe. I’ve hit all the classic flavor-packed elements of a traditional buffalo chicken sandwich here, except I keep them lighter and meat-free with my flavorful roasted cauliflower, a vegan buffalo sauce, and a rich blue cheese dressing made with plain, grass-fed yogurt. I also used one of my favorite techniques when it comes to topping sandwiches and wraps with veggies, which in this case is to toss the typical buffalo side kicks (shredded lettuce, celery and carrots) with the blue cheese dressing before adding to the sandwich. This way, every bite gets some blue-cheese-veggie action and also helps to keep the sandwiches together.

dsc_0081

When it comes to the blue cheese dressing, I’m using a recipe that utilizes only full fat plain yogurt (my go-to is an organic, grass-fed variety StonyField from Whole Foods). In case you’re interested, I prefer grass-fed milk and yogurt because grass-fed cows are far happier than grain- or meat-fed cows, and because my go-to brand, Stonyfield, is also organic, I can trust that it’s a non-gmo product that doesn’t contain hormones or antibiotics. Awesome. However, regular plain yogurt of any variety is still an excellent nutritional choice, and much easier to find, so I sometimes use conventional yogurt over grass-fed/organic. But, if you really can’t have blue cheese dressing without mayo, check out my slightly more indulgent recipe here, it uses a mixture of yogurt and mayo. Now, the last but certainly not least element of this sandwich is, of course, the bun. You can use a conventional store-bought brand for this obviously. But I find that a bakery fresh version is always better because not only does it support a local and small business, but bakery-fresh versions will likely contain nothing artificial or excessive. In fact, this brings up a good point. Everything about this sandwich is a good example of small adjustments that make a big difference. Yogurt instead of mayo, baked cauliflower instead of fried chicken, and a bakery-fresh bun instead of a conventional grocery store brand are all examples of simple changes that have changed my life for the better. I mean, how else could I enjoy eating as much and as often as I do while continuing to feel my best? This is how.

dsc_0098

So there you have it – an epic sandwich recipe to end a totally epic week. Bring it on, Monday!

Vegetarian Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich Recipe
Serves: 4     Start to finish: 40 minutes

Ingredients
For Buffalo Cauliflower Steaks
1 large head cauliflower
1.5 tablespoons olive oil (plus for for griddle)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For Vegan Buffalo Sauce
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain
1/4 teaspoons granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
For Blue Cheese Sauce
1.5 cups plain yogurt*
1.5 teaspoons sea salt, fine grain
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
For Assembly
1 heart of romaine, finely chopped or shredded, washed
3 stalks celery, cleaned and trimmed
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced or shredded
4 sandwich buns**

To Make
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Cut cauliflower into steaks by slicing the cauliflower right down the middle, vertically. Then, moving out from the center cut, to slice the cauliflower vertically into 1/4-1/2″ slabs. Be mindful that as the cuts move further from the original center cut, the slabs will begin to fall apart and transform into florets. Two large slabs is enough for 4 portions in this recipe, but I like to roast some of the florets to fill in gaps in the sandwich.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Combine ingredients for cauliflower steaks, olive oil through cayenne pepper. Brush cauliflower with spice mixture. Add a thin layer of oil to pan, just to coat. Add cauliflower to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until super tender, flipping half way through cooking.

While cauliflower bakes, combine all ingredients for blue cheese dressing. Prep lettuce, celery and carrots. Toss together in a bowl with 1/3-1/2 cup blue cheese dressing. Set aside.

Combine buffalo sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until for 3-5 minutes. When cauliflower steaks are finished cooking, remove from oven and brush with buffalo sauce, reserving some for pouring over sandwiches. Cut each steak into 2 equal portions.

Now assemble the sandwiches. Spread 2-4 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing onto the bottom half of each bun. Top each with a cauliflower steak half, then some of the tossed salad mixture. Drizzle remaining buffalo sauce and blue cheese over each sandwich as desired. Finish with top bun.

*my recipe uses all yogurt to keep it a bit leaner, but feel free to use your favorite blue cheese dressing – get my slightly more indulgent recipe here – it uses a mixture of yogurt and mayonnaise

**bakery fresh bread is a better choice than conventional grocery-store varieties because fresh bread likely contains nothing artificial or excessive – I got mine from Northside Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Recipe by Mary Louis

Lighten Up: Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

Lighten Up: Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

DSC_0166

Crudités platters are often seen as the boring but required member of any party’s munchies spread. But that’s not at all how I see a good old veggie platter. In fact, I’m the girl at the party who heads immediately to the crudités platter. I’m not the girl that makes a plate of raw carrots and cherry tomatoes and considers herself full. I’m the girl who just stands there, dipping veggie after veggie into whatever creamy dip sits in the center of the platter. That is until I realize I’ve eaten about a pound of mayo. But then I dismiss that thought, telling myself that I burned 600 calories crunching and munching my way through the stacks of bell pepper, snap peas, and celery.

This love of fresh crudités and creamy dip is not just reserved for parties. I actually find myself craving sliced veggies and some kind of creamy, decadent dip, like Green Goddess or classic Ranch, on a regular basis. Lately, my dip of choice has been a lightened-up version of one of my faves, Blue Cheese Dip. And that’s the recipe I’m sharing today, my own special recipe for a creamy, dreamy (lightened up) Blue Cheese Dip.

DSC_0168
When it comes to healthy eating, I believe in balance and moderation. Because of that, the base of my dressing is equal parts low-fat, plain Greek yogurt and organic mayonnaise. This combo cuts the fat without losing the indulgent flavor I love. If you so please, cut out the mayo even further, or entirely, for an extra light and healthy dressing. Next comes red wine vinegar, some simple seasonings, and, of course, crumbled blue cheese. That’s it! Simple, delicious, versatile.

I use this blue cheese dip (dressing, sauce, etc) in countless ways, not just as a companion for fresh veggie sticks or chilled roasted veggies. I’ve also used my blue cheese dip with my easy buffalo falafel patties, as a spread on a veggie burger and as a dressing on chopped salads or coleslaw. I just love this dressing.

Lightened Up Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
Serves: Start to Finish: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients
12 ounces combined whole milk yogurt (greek or traditional) mayonnaise and/or sour cream*
1 tablespoon vinegar, red wine or white wine vinegar both work
1/2 teaspoon each fine-grain sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and garlic powder (or garlic granules)
1+ tablespoon milk or water (optional, + more to consistency)
6 ounces blue cheese crumbles

To Make

In a small-medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. I like to use an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. Serve chilled as a dip, dressing or spread.

*I like the richness and thickness of this recipe because it works on everything from salads, as a spread on sandwiches, and as a dip for veggies, wings, etc. For a thinner consistency, add water or milk, a little at a time. If using traditional yogurt, the consistency will be thinner without needing water/milk. If using greek yogurt, mayo or sour cream, water/milk is likely needed to create desired consistency.

**I most often use only plain, full-fat yogurt for this. However, any combination of yogurt, mayo and sour cream for a total of 1.5 cups will work. My second favorite combo would be 6 ounces yogurt combined with 6 ounces mayonnaise.