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Cauliflower Piccata with Gruyere Orzo + Baby Spinach

Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Vegetarian
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Why we love it:

The piccata is a classic pan sauce, and it does require butter for flavor. Keep the heat in your pan medium high and steady to get color on the cauliflower but not burning as you build flavor in the pan. It’s not technically very hard, but this recipe has a lot of detail in timing everything, so read it through before you begin!


  • 12 Onion (small dice)
  • 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (divided)
  • 1 pound Orzo Pasta (1 typically sized box)
  • 212 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder (divided)
  • 4 cups Vegetable Stock (divided)
  • 12 cup Water
  • 12 cup Gruyere (shredded)
  • 1 head Cauliflower (look for a large one)
  • 5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided)
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 pound Baby Spinach
  • 13 cup Capers (drained)
  • 2 Lemons (1 zested and both juiced)
  • 14 cup Fresh Parsley (chopped)

Cooking Instructions

  • 1. ORZO

    Dice the onion in small pieces.

    In a medium pot with a tight fitting lid, melt 1 teaspoon of butter. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes then add the orzo. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ of the garlic powder. Stir to coat then pour in 2 cups of stock and the ½ cup of water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.

    Once its boiling, stir well and cover fully. Turn the heat down to low and set a timer for 18 minutes.

    Grate the gruyere and set it next to the pot in a bowl. When the timer goes off, you’ll be sautéing cauliflower steaks. Having it ready will help you. Stir the cheese into the orzo and cover the pot again. Turn off the heat and let it just rest until serving dinner.


    Place cauliflower on a flat surface. Use a knife to remove the bottom edge of the root, but you can leave much of it intact even if it has leaves. They taste wonderful!

    Slice straight through the head of cauliflower into 1 inch thick “steaks.” Bits will fall off, that’s ok, just keep going until you have 4 - 6 “steaks”. Lay them flat with the extra bits just off to the side.

    Drizzle the flat “steaks” evenly with olive oil and sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of salt.

    Dust with flour, flipping over to lightly coat both sides. Shake off any excess.


    In a large flat skillet over medium high heat, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil.

    When the butter starts to sizzle, add some of the cauliflower steaks and scatter half of the smaller pieces around. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook for 4 - 5 minutes, until browned. Flip and cook other side for 3 - 4 minutes until its done and the cauliflower is mostly tender. Remove and transfer to plate.

    During this cooking process, if the pan starts to burn, turn the heat down. If the cauliflower is stubbornly pale in color, you can turn it up a bit.

    Melt another Tablespoon of butter and add more olive oil too if the pan seems dry. Place the next batch of cauliflower in the pan. Flip after 4 - 5 minutes when browned, and remove from the pan when done. If a 3rd batch is needed, go for it. Turn off the heat but keep the pan on the stove.

  • 4. SPINACH

    While the cauliflower is cooking, wash the baby spinach. Leave to drain in a colander in the sink.

  • 5. SAUCE

    Zest 1 lemon and juice both of them (bonus points for zesting both but freezing ½ in a tupperware for later - or, stir the extra zest into a ¼ cup of sugar and use in the next time you bake).

    If you have a moment during the sautéing of the cauliflower, you can do that then.

    To the still hot pan, with brown bits in it, add the lemon juice. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and turn the burner to medium, bringing to stock to a simmer. Stir in the capers and lemon zest. Whisk well to scrape up the brown flavorful bits.

    Check for seasoning, add a pinch of salt as needed. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, the parsley and whisk, then return all of the cauliflower to the pan - steaks and loose bits - and simmer for 3 minutes.

  • 6. SPINACH

    While the cauliflower is simmering, heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the clean spinach, some water clinging to it is ok. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and toss with tongs until wilted, about 2 minutes.

  • 7. SERVING

    Serve the orzo with cauliflower. Spinach on the side and generously spoon the sauce over top.

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    sub quinoa, lentils or rice for the orzo. Cook the grain according to the package cooking time as it will vary. Sub out the flour for dredging and instead use just 1 teaspoon of cornstarch (the cauliflower probably won’t be coated entirely which is fine, you don’t want too much)
    in a true bind, sub water, but stock is ideal. If you get a 4 cup box (the standard) you’ll use it all up in this meal.
    green beans, broccolini, halved brussels sprouts, frozen peas, chopped spinach or chard are all great to stir into the grains.
    this lemony sauce is kid friendly but considering serving it on the side to dip. Replace spinach with a familiar veggie if needed or serve cauliflower cut into traditional florets. Considering serving some orzo without the cheese

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. Prep the cauliflower steaks
  2. Wash and dry the spinach (no more than 36 hours ahead)
  3. Pre cook the sauce, reheat on the stove top
Rate this recipe:
2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 52 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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