Whole roasted cauliflower impresses as a vegan centerpiece or fills you up as a one-dish meal. The vegetable can play the same role in outdoor cooking, but needs to be cut up first. If you haven’t tried grilled cauliflower, you’ll want to: It caramelizes beautifully on the outside and develops a chewy juiciness on the inside, making it the best meat alternative for live fire cooking. It’s naturally a little sweet but still mild enough to serve as a canvas for any sauce or topping.

But you can’t throw a whole head of cauliflower on the grill. By the time it cooks through in the dry heat, the florets either burn over a hotter fire or shrivel to jerky over a lower heat. Cauliflower “steaks” — thick slabs that leave you with floret-dense rounded ends, which are the best part — have been popular in the last decade, but they can’t hold together and may fall through the grill grates.

My solution is to cut the cauliflower in quarters from top to bottom, leaving the core and leaves intact. These fat wedges offer a generous curve of florets and some meaty stalk and are easy to turn on a grill for even charring. To keep them from withering and becoming tough, I start by steaming them just until they lose their raw edge. While you can use a stovetop steamer, I prefer to “steam” them in the microwave on hot days and when I’m in a rush.

Grilled cauliflower with charred salsa verde, sliced serrano chiles, pepitas and golden raisins.

Grilled cauliflower with charred salsa verde, sliced serrano chiles, pepitas and golden raisins.

(Genevieve Ko / Los Angeles Times)

A shower of olive oil and salt infuses the grilled cauliflower with enough flavor to serve it unadorned as a side dish. Add a pool of salsa verde, zhoug, hummus or guacamole and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, sliced chiles, or nuts or seeds and you have a main dish. Dried fruit, such as dates or raisins, complements those savory elements, as does a final burst of acidity with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Chop up any leftover grilled cauliflower to scatter over a grain bowl or salad, stir into fried rice or stuff into tacos.

30 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

This grilled cauliflower recipe works as a vegan main dish

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