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COOKING ON DEADLINE: Recipe for battered and grilled whole-head cauliflower

Last summer, the hip way to handle cauliflower was to treat it like a steak.

It was a trick that started in restaurants and quickly trickled down to home cooks looking for fresh ways to make an often overlooked vegetable a little more interesting. Most recipes call for cutting a head of cauliflower into thick slabs that remain intact during cooking. The slabs are seasoned and often grilled, and the result is a delicious, impressive and substantial dinner.

But recently I read about a whole new approach to cooking cauliflower, with "whole" being the key. The food website KitchenDaily.com posted a fascinating recipe for spicy whole-roasted cauliflower in which the entire head is coated with a spicy cumin-yogurt sauce, then slowly roasted. The result is a lightly crisped exterior and a tender interior, all of which is cut into slices like a pie.

I had to try it. But I also had to adapt it. After all, it's summer and I firmly believe anything that can be done on the grill ought to be done on the grill. I also wanted an even crunchier exterior, something savory and a little salty, but that also would play up the textural contrast with the tender interior.

My solution was a well-seasoned blend of almond flour and egg. I simply overturned the head of cauliflower into a bowl of this coating, then set it on the grill right side up. Note that the trick to getting the insides tender without burning the outside is a gentle heat. Indirect grilling is the best bet for this recipe.

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BATTERED AND GRILLED WHOLE CAULIFLOWER

Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (10 minutes active)

Servings: 4

1 large head cauliflower

1/2 cup almond flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon water

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Splash hot sauce

Heat a grill to medium-high, then prepare it for indirect cooking. On a charcoal grill, bank the lit coals to one side. On a gas grill, turn off the burners on one half of the grill. Coat a large sheet of foil with cooking spray.

Use a paring knife to trim away any leaves and protruding stem from the bottom of the cauliflower. Be careful not to cut into the head; you want it to remain intact.

In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the overturned head of cauliflower, whisk together the almond flour, egg, mustard, water, lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Overturn the cauliflower into the bowl, turning and moving it to coat it as completely as possible with the mixture.

Set the head of cauliflower right side up on the prepared foil. Spoon any of the almond flour mixture remaining in the bowl over the cauliflower, making sure it is evenly coated. Set the cauliflower (on the foil) on the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook for 1 hour, or until lightly browned outside and tender insider (you can check by inserting a paring knife at the centre).

Let the cauliflower cool for 5 minutes, then slice into wedges as you would a pie.

Nutrition information per serving: 130 calories; 70 calories from fat (54 per cent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 7 g protein; 620 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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