Monday, September 17, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza Crust {GF + Low-Carb + Vegetarian}

Guiltless Cauliflower Pizza Crust: Gluten Free  +  Low-Carb  + Vegetarian


The Versatility of Cauliflower--Who Knew?

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
It seems apparent to me now that in spite of all of the time I've spent watching shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America on the Food Network that I know practically nothing about cooking beyond the most conventional forms of cooking knowledge--stuff like, don't chop your fingers off and salt your water before cooking pasta as well as an understanding of basic ingredient combinations and uses.  But, recently, with my growing interest in eating vegetarian, raw, Gluten Free, and low-carb foods I'm discovering a whole different set of cooking techniques and ingredients, as well as some surprising but wonderful uses for those ingredients.

Perhaps the most versatile ingredient I've been working with recently is cauliflower.  Cauliflower seems, in many ways, to be a magical vegetable to eaters of raw, Gluten Free, and low-carb diets.  You can make it into a lower-carb version of mashed potatoes referred to as "Cauli-mash" or "Cauliflower Mash," you can food process it into a raw rice-like substance called "Cauli-rice," and you can use the florets in place of noodles in an otherwise traditional-style macaroni and cheese (I highly recommend this, by the way!).  But, cauliflower has yet another trick up it's sleeve--it can become that food of the Gods, PIZZA!  

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I've always heard that bacon is the hardest things for vegetarians and vegans to give up and, also, the hardest food for them to continue to resist eating through the course of their commitments to either diet.  I think pizza is that evil, siren of a food for a lot of Gluten Free and Low-Carb eaters.  In fact, I know that many people who have gone Gluten Free due to Celiac Disease or other issues crave pizza so much that they dream about it at night.

Happily, dreams can come true--at least in the realm of pizza consumption--regardless of whether you're eating a Gluten Free and/or Low-Carb diet through the versatile miracle that is cauliflower.  I discovered this through the website of The Detoxinista whose recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust formed the basis of my own.

The first time I made the cauliflower pizza crust I did not have all of the proper ingredients (I was  missing goat cheese) and I winged it, using a reggiano instead.  Needless to say, the recipe didn't turn out well.  BUT, it was a good trial and error experience because it led me to a Q&A with The Detoxinista about how to make the recipe itself--rather complicated--a bit more simplistic for the everyday, at-home cook.  And, it gave me a good idea of how much or little I can tweak the recipe without causing a pizza-tragedy to ensue.

Cauli-Rice
While the original recipe from The Detoxinista calls for food processing cauliflower florets into a rice-like consistency, steaming this "cauli-rice," and then putting it into a cloth to wring out the extra water, I found that this process can be significantly simplified.  Instead of steaming the "cauli-rice" and then expelling the water from it--which, frankly, was not pleasant as the "cauli-rice" did not cool quickly and the water expelled was very hot!--you can freeze the food-processed cauliflower florets (no cooking necessary) ahead of time, defrost in a colander and THEN proceed on to your squeezing.  Still, perhaps, a little time consuming, but at least this way you are squeezing out cold water onto your hands rather than nuclear hot water!

Before I get on, finally, to the recipe let me say that this Cauliflower Pizza Crust is simply amazing.  To boost the flavor profile, I added some fennel seeds, a dash of smoked sea salt, and pepper to the crust "dough" in addition to the oregano called for and, also, opted to use herb-encrusted goat cheese for extra herby-flavor.  In the future I'd like to add some fresh rosemary and maybe garlic to the crust.

I got a little more creative with my toppings than The Detoxinista in her post, using an organic store-bought red sauce, mozzarella cheese, crumbled herbed goat cheese, minced garlic, chopped spinach, sundried tomatoes, and a ton of fresh, chopped basil.  

[RECIPE] Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients
Baked crust waiting
for toppings!
  • 1 Medium-Large Head Cauliflower, broken down into Florets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 C. soft herbed Goat Cheese; plus more for topping
  • 1 Tsp. dried oregano
  • Fennel Seeds; to your taste
  • Smoked Sea Salt; to your taste
  • Black Pepper; to your taste
  • TOPPINGS--chopped spinach; goat cheese; mozzarella (fresh or shredded); organic red sauce; minced garlic; sundried tomatoes; fresh basil (chopped)
Directions
Done!
  1. Place cauliflower florets in food processor in batches and process into a rice-like consistency to make Cauli-rice.
  2. Freeze Cauli-rice in air-tight container or freezer bag.
  3. Remove Cauli-rice from freezer and let thaw in a colander; transfer to thin dish cloth or cheese cloth and wring out excess moisture.
  4. Beat egg and add 1/3 C. herbed goat cheese and Cauli-rice with excess water expelled; mix well to fully incorporate all ingredients.  Add oregano, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and mix.
  5. Cover a square or round baking sheet with parchment paper--Don't forget this!--leaving crust about 1/3inch thick (I just eyeballed it) press and form the dough into the pan making the edges a little higher to form a traditional crust-look.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 40minutes; remove from oven and cover with desired toppings before returning to the oven for additional 10 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!  

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Well, J.J. what did you think? I'm (only slightly) ashamed to say that the first time I made the pizza I ate the whole thing in one evening! Hope your experience was as positive!

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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