Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I am not one to go shrieking, “Carbs mean carnage!!,” as the unstable duck in the movie Babe does about Christmas. As I’ve noted before, I love carbs. So I’m mildly troubled to report that, since embarking on an ostensibly healthier and lower carb overall eating strategy, I don’t crave them. In fact, the idea of eating a pizza crust, once music to my taste buds, now strikes a less harmonious note. The thought of a full-blown pizza crust, most nights, just sounds heavy and unappealing. For those nights, I give you this cauliflower pizza crust.

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

It turned out well, even with no cheese on hand. It’s not entirely vegan; I used an egg bc I was too lazy to make a flax version. But there’s zero gluten or dairy, and the carb count is low. You can pile on vegetables like there’s no tomorrow—even as a bold, glorious, unbloated tomorrow awaits you because you’re all gluten-free and healthy.

Keep reading for step by step instructions; or just jump directly to the recipe.

Tip Number 1: Don’t buy that crumbled up cauliflower rice because it’s ridiculously expensive, and, to quote Harvey Milk, you don’t know where it’s been. Just cut up half a cauliflower in even size pieces, about an inch or two sized cubes, then throw it in your food processor and chop, chop, chop your troubles away.

Cauliflower pizza crust starts with crumbling the cauliflower in the food processor

If your food processor is like mine, i.e., old as hell, get out the noise-cancelling headphones; chopping anything, especially cauliflower, sounds like a Mad Max death rally, though blessedly, without Mel Gibson screaming about how sane he is. I just dated myself, because nobody who’s not in their Golden Years even knows who Mr. Gibson is. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the greatest Mad Max of All Time is Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron is THE greatest Mad Max ever.

Anyway, now you have a big old bowl of cauliflower crumbles. Many a recipe, either for cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust, provides the mystifying instruction to boil the rice, then squeeze out the water. People, don’t add water to food. Just don’t. I mean, I’m sure there will come a time where I’ll say, yo, add some water to those ingredients. But I can’t imagine the circumstances.

However, you gotta do something to soften up the cauliflower crumbles, and as usual, I advocate roasting. Add some olive or grapeseed oil to the bowl, just about a tablespoon, and some salt, pepper, and spices. I always like harissa (the powdered kind), but a Mexican or Italian blend will work just fine. Evenly distribute the oil and spices, spread the cauliflower out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes in a 400º oven.

Let the roasted crumbles cool about 10 minutes; leave the oven on. Then mix them in the bowl with an egg. A flax egg will probably work if you’re vegan, but I haven’t tested it, so proceed at your own risk. A nice handful of grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese would add crispness and savory flavor. But you might not have cheese on hand, or you might not be a dairy person, in which case you can do what I did for this version: Add a couple of heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Also, some kind of bread crumb, about 1/4 cup for a medium-sized bowl of cauliflower. I used garbanzo crumbs; I’m not quite sure what they are (grated garbanzo beans? toasted garbanzo flour?), but they stood in nicely. Use panko if you want some gluten in your life, a desire for which I will never, ever scold you.

Cauliflower pizza crust, after roasting the cauliflower and adding to other ingredients

Now, scrape the mix onto the baking sheet.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready to rollThen take a piece of wax paper or parchment and press the mixture into an even circle; in a pinch, you can use gloves or your hands, but it’s kinda sticky, so if you use some type of paper, it’s easier and less messy.

Cauliflower pizza crust rolled out and ready to cookYou want it to end up about 10-12 inches in diameter. Remove what you used to push it down, then pop it in the oven about 12-15 minutes. At the bottom, you can see that one little piece of cauliflower that was all, “You can’t crumble me!” Feisty little vegetable.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready for toppings like roasted veggies.

The chickpea crumbles and nutritional yeast imparted a nice saffron-ish color that you’d normally get from cheese. But here’s something you need to be really clear on: If you expect a cauliflower pizza crust to be an adequate sub for regular pizza crust, you will be sad. You can’t rip into a cauliflower pizza crust. You don’t sink your teeth  and tear each bite in that satisfying “I’m a Pizza Pig! Oink! Oink!” way that you can with even a $5 Hot and Ready from Little Caesar’s.

But you can have a nice light alternative that’s more fun than just eating a sturdy, healthy heap o’ roasted vegetables. I piled mine high with an oddball mix of roasted fennel, radicchio, and—yes, this is eccentric—strawberries added for just a minute at the end. Roasted strawberries taste strange and wonderful, but do not overcook them, or you will have some bizarre pale red mush on your plate. Just add them to your pan at literally the last minute if you’re feeling dangerous, as Belle and Sebastian used to say. A few pistachios on top added crunch. #weirdbutgood

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust: The Recipe

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo gluten-free bowl perfect for st. Patrick's day

Emerald Isle Bowl

Ireland is green, green, green, and the fish is—naturally—fresh, fresh, fresh. Steve and I visited a couple of years ago, and loved every minute we were there. Beyond all the stuff we did and people we met, we ate amazingly. I invented the Emerald Isle Bowl while we were there, taking advantage of the gorgeous fresh produce and the fresh-out-of-the-Irish-Sea salmon.

Jump to recipe.

With St. Patrick’s coming up and spring trying hard to push back winter, I wanted to get this simple, relatively quick, and very colorful meal in front of you. The textures of the Emerald Isle bowl give your mouth plenty to play with.

They start with the raw. That includes juicy fruit—I used a pear but green apples are terrific as well—crispy cukes, crunchy cabbage and romaine, and chewy kale.

raw ingredients for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

And then we have the cooked: delicate salmon, golden-outside-soft-inside cauliflower and broccoli. I also gave the pistachios a little toast for extra crunchiness.

cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

The herbs, a throw-caution-to-the-Irish-wind blend of tarragon, dill, mint, and parsley, add fresh-meadow flavor. The horseradish dressing does that thing where it kind of opens the top of your head. In Dublin, I went crazy for Graham’s, the absolute best horseradish sauce I’ve ever tasted. But any good horseradish cream sauce will work. Or just add some wasabi or minced horseradish to the yogurt and mayo you have on hand.

the sauce for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Optimum prep includes reusing the same bowl to do all of the following:

  • Toss the cauliflower with oil.
  • While the cauliflower cooks, toss the broccoli with oil.
  • Massage the kale with oil.
  • Toss the romaine, cabbage, herbs, and kale with the dressing before plating.
  • raw greens for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Above all, be sure to improvise. Use whatever herbs you have handy, though dill and parsley are highly recommended. Change up the vegetables if you like; the bowl looks just as pretty with other colors besides green. And if you want a starch, watch your email for my soon-to-appear recipe Colcannon, the classic Irish potato with whatever-greens-I-have-in-the-fridge.

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo-friendly gluten free bowl recipe from le chou fou

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Emerald Isle Bowl: The Recipe

roasted cauliflower, delicious and easy to make

Roasted Cauliflower

I love cauliflower. Apparently, so do a lot of other people at this particular culinary moment. Like kale before it, it’s hot. Unlike Brussels sprouts after it, it’s versatile. A batch of roasted cauliflower keeps for several days, and in that time you can throw it into pretty much anything—a bowl, pasta, on a pizza, etc. And, as with all roasted vegetables, it’s easy, easy, easy.

Jump to recipe.

This cauliflower is hanging out with its roasting buddies. (And in case you want a different vegetable from this pic, here’s the recipe for Roasted Kale Chips.)

cauliflower waits to become roasted cauliflower

You can sub cauliflower for a huge mass of things. Paleo and ketogenic diets use it as a potato swap, though I will warn you that it won’t ever be as creamy as mashed potatoes. It makes an ok pizza crust as long as you don’t try to pretend it’s the real thing. I see it standing in for meat; cauliflower steaks pop up all over the place. That particular iteration strikes me as a little too trendy. I’m not a huge fan of the “let’s pretend this is something it isn’t” phenomenon when it comes to food. Just use the florets as nature intended, naturally bite-sized, without all this silly knife and fork biz.

As will all Roasted Vegetables, the process is ridiculously easy. Start by heating the oven to 400º. While it heats, cut the florets of the main cauliflower stem; many will be the right size, but some will be unweildy to stab and put in your mouth. Keep that in mind as you halve any giant florets. Put them in a bowl with some oil—you can use melted coconut, olive, or grapeseed—salt to taste, and the spice mix of your choice. I really like the Harissa blend from Whole Foods, but use whatever you want. cauliflower prior to roasting

Toss the florets well, lay them out on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Roast, then check after 20 minutes. Stir, then roast another 10-15 minutes. I like the florets beginning to brown, soft but still possessing some texture. The roasting brings out a wonderful sweetness.

I’m fond of having these on hand to add to whatever I’m eating that day. I’m equally fond of just noshing on them. Enjoy with a complete lack of guilt, because on the health front, cauliflower—with properties that fight cancer and inflammation and a load of vitamins and minerals—rocks.

roasted cauliflower after cooking

Roasted Cauliflower: The Recipe

Vegan Mole Bowl

Vegan Mole Bowl

Mole—rhymes with “guacamole”—wears its Aztec roots with pride. This vegan mole bowl revels in a deep, thick,  mysterious sauce, which livens up what’s otherwise a simple of rice, beans, and vegetables.

There is, however, not a simple way to make mole. This recipe, adapted from a recipe by Margaret Shakespeare*, is close. If you get all the ingredients out ahead of time…

mole-ingr

….you can pretty easily get your mole on while everything else cooks.

mole-cooking

That, by the way, shows the chocolate before it melts. The chocolate is what gives mole its color and hard to pin down flavor.

(Click this link for the mole sauce on its own.)

As stated, this is a vegan mole bowl, relying on my old favorite cauliflower. (I’m not sure where I’d be without that vegetable.) If you don’t have a cauliflower, zucchini will roast up nicely, though in about half the time. If you have fresh corn, spectacular. And the mole will complement chicken, steak, or a robust seafood like scallops, shrimp, or cod—in other words, a fairly sturdy fish, though more bland is better. Salmon is out. Fresh tuna…you’re on your own.

Meanwhile, I turn once again to the awesome rice/quinoa mix put together by Seeds of Change, which we buy in 6-packs at Costco and that I go through about as often as I do cauliflower. You could also, of course, use your own cooked brown rice, quinoa, or your own blend of pretty much any grain you like.

mole-rice-pkg

Have fun with your toppings. I had a mango on hand and opted for sliced avocado so the mole could star. But if you don’t mind a crowded flavor party, throw a little guacamole on there and the two great Mexican creations can duke it out. Just be sure to have some fresh crunchy Romaine—possibly mixed up with a little green cabbage. Enjoy.

mole2

The Maharajah Bowl

Indian cooking—the northwestern branch of it specifically, as “Indian” is as sweeping a description as American, Italian, or Spanish—is the first exotic cuisine I can remember getting a proper introduction to as a kid. My parents hosted some Pakistani missionaries at our home; and while, of course, Pakistan is not India, the cuisine across the subcontinent has some shared characteristics: rice, spices, vegetables, amazing and mysterious smells, singing sweet music to my suburban California child’s soul.

maha-component3

When I met my daughter’s father Joel, he gave me what has become a cherished lexicon of food from across the vast country: Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, a massive and lovingly assembled compendium from Yamuna Devi, whom Joel had known when he lived in India.

lord-krishna

The sheer luxuriance of color that occurs when I muster up the ingredients for an Indian dish gives me a little shiver. For this one, I knew I wanted to use up some apricot-hued lentils, as well as (of course) a cauliflower and an eggplant that had been waiting patiently. A mix of whole and ground spices provided the depth and complexity that makes good Indian food so special; no curry powder circa 1970, please, which has  unfairly convinced more people they don’t like Indian food than any other single factor. Plenty of mint and parsley on hand, because I had them and didn’t have cilantro, which also would have worked.

maha-ingr

I’ll be the first to admit that the dish, when you first glance at the recipe, is going to seem overly complicated. It DOES have quite a few components. Feel free to skip any of them, and to assemble the dish any which way that suits you. For instance, leave out either the carrots or the roasted veggies, or both, simply serving the lentils with the various toppings and the rice if you like. Or leave out the lentils, which take the longest. Even better, make the lentils and the carrots the day before; the flavor gets better as they sit.

maha-lentils

Another way to simplify is to simply pick up a bottle of garam masala already mixed, and replace the spices with that. One of the great joys of Indian cooking is its improvisation, which rivals Coltrane, Bird, and Monk in their finest hours.

The point, of course and as ever, is to make it yours. And most importantly, as Joel told me, to make it and offer it with love. Namaste.

maha-bowl1

Meditteranean Bowl with Eggplant and Basil

The Mediterranean Basil Veggie Bowl

It’s eggplant season. I mean, technically, you can get eggplant pretty much year ’round, but I tend to crave it in summer, when tomatoes are at their best and the eggplant was freshly harvested someplace relatively close, as opposed to flown in from some hot and faraway place.

Meditteranean Bowl with Basil and Eggplant

I had a huge bunch of basil, and also have a big old jar of quinoa sitting around that I need to make a dent in. This dish came together super easily. Follow a few simple rules of thumb, and yours should come out perfect and yummy.

1. Always salt your eggplant first and let it sit for about 20 minutes. There are two reasons for this: 1) to get rid of bitter juices, and 2) to get the super spongy eggplant as water free as possible. Eggplant is wonderful when you can get it to brown. When you can’t, it’s a weird-textured soggy mess. The initial salting is key.

2. If you’ve been following my recipes, you’ll notice that I nearly always say to heat the pan first—naked, with nothing in it—then to add oil when the pan is hot, then to add food when the oil is hot. An empty pan heats faster. Oil can’t heat properly if it’s got stuff in it. You can’t sauté properly if your oil’s not hot enough. This is the way to love an eggplant, or really, any sauteed veggie.

3. Take your time with the sauté. We just got a new induction cooktop and it ROCKS. Responsive as gas, cleaner than gas as well as the electric ceramic top that I truly found…..challenging. (Or despicable, when I’m in a non-diplomatic mood.) My new cooktop makes it easy to regulate heat, and you want your sauté to be briskly browning without burning, and with the right amount of heat.

Sauteed Eggplant

This is something you just have to learn given your own cooking stuff. Pay attention, smell, look, and taste often. Just get it right the first time. Do-overs can happen, and can make a good dish out of a potential bad one, but it’s so better to just engage in what you’re doing, and constantly ask yourself, is this what I want to eat? If yes, continue; if no, figure out the issue. Not brown enough? Cook longer and increase the heat a bit. Add salt. Or sugar. Or a spice that just seems right.

The vegan-inclined can skip the cheese. (This recipe from Teagan at Half-Baked Harvest includes an amazing vegan Parmesan, as well as an amazing salad that I eat at least once a week.) Lavish on the basil. It’s one of the true delights of summer, and will transport you to a Mediterranean meadow when you close your eyes. Enjoy.

Meditteranean Bowl with Eggplant and Basil