In her debut cookbook, Wisconsin blogger Erin Clarke gives cauliflower “steaks” the chicken Parm treatment. If you need us, we’ll be over here drooling.

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Cauliflower Parmesan
Credit: Brie Passano

In 2012, when a friend suggested she start a blog as a creative outlet, Erin Clarke responded, "What is a blog?" Nine years and a career change later (she used to oversee Target's women's swimwear production), she just published The Well Plated Cookbook. "I completely fell in love with cooking and sharing wholesome recipes," she says. Drawing on her childhood and travels, her dishes are full of little tweaks, like swapping processed carbs for whole grains and forgoing meat at least one night a week.

But nothing too radical. "I grew up on true Midwest comfort food made by two of the greatest cooks I know, my grammy and my grandma," Clarke says. She embraces dairy—she does live in Milwaukee, after all—saying judicious amounts are useful for enticing vegetable skeptics.

She also aims for efficiency. "One of the barriers to healthy eating I hear is, 'I just don't have time,'" she says. So she uses shortcuts, like jarred tomato sauce in her (crazy-good) Cauliflower Parmesan. "With every recipe, I think about everything you're going to have to do," Clarke explains. "If there's a single step that I can eliminate, then I will." How nice is that?

Step One: Prep

Place racks in center and upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Trim leaves and base off a large head of cauliflower so it's flat on the bottom. Starting at the center, slice the head into 1-inch-thick "steaks." Arrange the steaks (plus any loose florets) in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Brush over both sides of all the cauliflower. Place loose florets cut sides down.

Tips:

• Fresh garlic can burn at high temperatures, so Clarke prefers powder in this recipe. (Plus it's kind of a pain to mince, right?)

• If you're out of Italian seasoning, use a mix of dried oregano and basil, plus a smidge of thyme.

Step Two: Roast

Roast cauliflower on center rack for 20 minutes; remove from oven. With a thin spatula, gently turn steaks and florets, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan. Return pan to the oven and continue roasting until cheese turns golden and cauliflower is tender and caramelized, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove pan and set oven to broil.

Tip: Clarke serves this dish with whole-wheat spaghetti. Get that boiling now. (And warm some extra sauce for the pasta too.)

Step Three: Broil

Spoon 1 cup marinara sauce over cauliflower. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella. Broil (on the upper-third oven rack) until cheese is melted and turning golden, 1 to 3 minutes. (Watch it closely!) Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and serve with pasta, zucchini noodles or bread and extra sauce, if you like. PS: If you have leftovers, it's worth the time to reheat in an oven (400° for 8 to 10 minutes) to re-crisp the edges.

Tip: How to choose a good-quality pasta sauce: Is it low in added sugar? Can you pronounce the ingredients? That's your huckleberry.

Get to Know: Erin Clarke

Erin Clarke
Erin Clarke

Grew up in Wichita Falls, Kansas. Blogs at wellplated.com. Always has a batch of granola in the pantry.

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Well Plated Cookbook

The Well Plated Cookbook delivers on tempting recipes like Maple-Dijon Salmon and WholeWheat Blueberry Banana Bread (Avery, $30).