Some days I just need a slice of pizza....
January is a pretty blah month in our neck of the woods. It seems as though the sun rarely makes an appearance. And even on the days it does, it seems to be only for a brief moment around noon. Dark when we wake, dark when we go to sleep. The rain is either in full release or jusssst enough to make the frizz come alive on this authors mop. The cold, damp feeling in the air makes me crave casseroles, chilies and slow cooker concoctions. And sometimes...pizza.
Ironically though, January is also the month we tend to lean toward lighter food. After a drink & treat filled holiday month, in this house, we usually welcome the chance to lighten up our meals. Time to put away cheese & bread and rich desserts, in place of more smoothies, salads and soups. And in this case...pizza.
It's about the third or so week of January the perfect storm hits. Where my system finally feels cleansed of the damage I did to it the month prior and the weather is just so gloomy only a warm slice of melted cheese on bread will cure the winter blues. I can completely rationalize with my inner food devil that I have not only "earned" this slice of pizza (I so have not) but it will make me feel soooo much better (it so will not). But this year, happy to report, that little devil and I?
Enter the cauliflower pizza crust.
This is not my first go at trying to make a lighter pizza crust. First, I prefer a thin crust any day of the week and if you do not already own a pizza pan like this one, I highly recommend investing. Not only does it aerate for a crispy thin crust, its great to toast crustini's or baguettes or any type of bread/hot sammie. But as I have been trying to remove some of the gluten (and white carbs) from my diet, even the thin crust has been getting a work over. A couple years ago, my insanely talented (shameless plug) lil sister, the Mister and I spent an entire day attempting to perfect a flax based gluten free crust for a recipe contest. It was nutty, crispy-ish and crazy healthy. We were
rightfully sadly passed over.
Then, in the past few months, I had started seeing more and more folks talk about the cauliflower. It has been touted as one of the next big food trends (so we can finally push the kale chips aside for a moment). I, personally, am a fan of the white florets. Roasted in the oven with salt, pepper, EVOO & dark balsamic they are a great snack or salad topping. Pulse it raw in the food processor and toss it in a stir fry for just the last minute and its makes a fantastic rice substitute (a great recipe here). And most recently, as a pizza crust.
This took some playing around with to get it just right but once you do, it really does work. Its surprisingly airy and the grated parm adds the right amount of salt and bite. The key is cooking it long enough, at the right temp, in a proper pan. I have not tried this with a stone, although have read it does work. I topped this one with a reduced tomato sauce that was thick enough not to make the crust soggy, then simply some grated mozzarella and finished with arugula. While I didn't here, I do like this drizzled with a balsamic glaze - the tangy sweetness works well with a peppery green.
And at the end of the day, while it may not replace your deep dish loaded Chicago style pie....
.... for me it was a pretty good compromise.
Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Margarita Style)
For the Crust
1 head of cauliflower (very large size) 2 garlic cloves (more or less, depending on your preference) 1 egg, beaten 1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano 1/2 grated mozzarella cheese 1 Tbsp dried Oregano 1 Tbsp dried Basil
Toppings for this Margherita Pizza
Pizza Sauce - I sauteed garlic & onion, then added canned tomatoes, oregano, a Tbsp of Agave & a splash of dark balsamic. Bring to a boil, then reduce and let simmer until thick Fresh grated Mozza Fresh arugula
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. "Rice" the cauliflower. Break up the cauliflower into smaller pieces and run it through your food processor on a pulse setting. You want to process it until it resembles "rice". Not too much so it becomes granular but better to over process then under. Throw in the garlic cloves with the cauliflower.
3. In a medium size bowl, mix together the cauliflower "rice", the egg, the two cheeses & spices. Stir until well combined.
4. Press the mixture into an aerated pizza pan (or baking sheet if you do not have one). It will not be like a pizza dough. Your best bet is to dump it onto the pan then then press and shape it together to the desired thickness. Do not go too thin or it won't hold up to the toppings.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are a golden-brown color.
6. At this point you can start the sauce or just open a jar of pizza/pasta sauce. I recommend a thicker sauce to prevent the crust from getting soggy.
7. When the crust is ready, remove from oven & allow to cool for five minutes. Gently slide a metal spatula around the edges to loosen from the pan slightly.
8. Add your sauce and cheese and any additional toppings, then back into the oven for another 10 minutes. I like to broil mine for the last couple minutes but do not take your eye of it. Ovens are very personal so the first time you make this, keep a pretty close eye on it. I have a hot oven so my cooking times may not be long enough.
9. Remove from oven. Slide onto a cutting board. Top with fresh arugula. Slice and as always...