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.
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.
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.
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.
Now, scrape the mix onto the baking sheet.
Then 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.
You 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.
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