As a kid, I grew up eating bland, steamed cauliflower with just enough salt to make it barely palatable. And I consumed it solely because my brother and I weren’t excused from dinner until we had finished everything on our plates. Unable to hide the large florets in my dinner napkin or feed them to our Miniature Poodle, Colette, under the table, I had limited choices.
Memories of said vegetable were enough to make me steer clear of it well into my adult life. However, sometime in my mid-thirties, I decided to give cauliflower a second chance. I found that when combined with proper ingredients, seasonings, and garnishes, cauliflower could prove to be quite tasty.
In recent years, I’ve had the vegetable in a variety of carnations – roasted cauliflower, cauliflower soufflé, cauliflower gratin, curried cauliflower, stir-fried cauliflower, cauliflower crudite, and cauliflower soup. Last year, I even made cauliflower steak, a sliced slab of cauliflower that is pan grilled and served over a Romesco sauce made of blended roasted bell peppers, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, chickpeas, toasted hazelnuts, blanched almonds, paprika, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper.
So, I thought I’d done it all – tried, tested, and tasted all things cauliflower. Boy, was I wrong! Have you ever heard of cauliflower pizza? Well, I hadn’t until just last month when a friend of mine was talking about making it. She told me that the recipe calls for the vegetable to be “riced,” or ground into rice-sized pieces, in a food processor (some grocery stores actually sell the cauliflower already crumbled). It is then substituted for flour in the pizza “crust.” What??? This highly intrigued me and I decided I had to try it myself.
I started by cutting up a whole cauliflower into florets and pulsing the pieces in a food processor until they were all ground up. A medium head should yield about two-and-a-half cups of the “rice.” Afterward, I transferred the processed cauliflower to a microwave-safe bowl and cooked it (you can also steam it if you wish). Once it cooled down, I wrapped the cauliflower in a triple layer of paper towels and squeezed out the water, then repeated the whole process again.
Of course, a crust with only crumbled cauliflower would not taste good, nor would it stick together. You also need to add an egg, Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella, Italian seasoning, and a little kosher salt. I mixed everything together and shaped it into a 10-inch round on a pizza stone lined with parchment paper and coated with olive oil (you can also use a flat cookie pan).
After heating the crust to golden brown in a 425-degree oven, I removed it and it looked like this:
Then I topped with pizza sauce (recipe below, or make it easy on yourself and buy a jar at the market). I also added thin wedges of fresh mozzarella and sliced red onion and red pepper, but you can add any toppings that you like. Then, I returned the pizza to the oven and baked until the cheese melted and got bubbly.
Cauliflower pizza looks exactly like regular pizza, complete with nice crispy edges, but I bet you are wondering if it tastes just like regular pizza? The answer is no, but it’s still pretty darn good. I’d say the crust tastes more like a polenta – cheesy and salty with a rich texture. As far as being able to pick it up in your hand, fold it, and jam it into your mouth, that’s not happening (which is what my friend Nancy G. was dying to know). However, you can gently pick it up and bite into it, or cut it with a fork and knife. The crust actually has a nice chewy consistency, and the cheese, pizza sauce, and vegetables bring you back to that pizza state of mind.
So, what’s my verdict? Cauliflower pizza is gluten free, low in carbs, and pretty tasty. Your brain will tell you it looks exactly like traditional pizza, however your taste buds will deny this – I think they’ll be pretty happy though!
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 fresh mozzarella ball
Assorted sliced vegetables or other toppings of your choice (I used red pepper and red onion)
1/4 cup Spicy Pizza sauce, recipe follows
Olive oil for brushing parchment paper
Spicy Pizza Sauce, Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond:
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
Three 15-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper
For the pizza: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a pizza stone or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil.
Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor to a finely groud (you should have about 2 1/2 cups). Transfer the processed cauliflower to a microwave-safe bowl and cover. Microwave until soft, 4 to 6 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, wrap the cauliflower in paper towels and wring out as much moisture as possible, transferring to a second set of paper towels if necessary.
In a large bowl, stir together the riced cauliflower, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, egg and one cup of shredded mozzarella until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pizza stone or baking sheet and press into a 10-inch round. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven and top with the Spicy Pizza Sauce. Add fresh mozzarella and any toppings you would like. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 minutes more.
Spicy Pizza Sauce: Heat a pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, throw in the garlic and chopped onions and give them a stir. Cook until the onions are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid reduces by half. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool, then puree the sauce.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups