Earlier in January on Global Montreal I spoke about the mighty cauliflower and how it was one of the foods to watch in 2014.
Cauliflower along with its cousins broccoli, bok choy, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are all part of the cruciferous family, a group of vegetables with a wide range of well-documented and impressive health benefits that I recommend consuming 3 or more times weekly.
Although cauliflower represents an excellent source of vitamins C, K and fibre, the health hallmark for this vegetable isn’t so much in its micronutrient profile (vitamins & minerals) but in its phytonutrient profile. Phytonutrients are plant based compounds that are built into the vegetable’s own self-defense system. In turn, when we eat phytonutrient-rich foods like cauliflower, they work by shielding our cells from damage through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, which over time, protects the body from disease.
I’m not one to play favourites with vegetables, but if I had to choose, cauliflower would definitely make my top three. And not because of its nutritional perks (although they’re hard to ignore) but because cauliflower is one of the most delicious and versatile veggies around. And if a cauliflower crust pizza isn’t enough proof of versatility, then I don’t know what is.
I have been making cauliflower couscous/rice for years (do this by pulsing raw cauliflower in a food processor). I will use it in place of rice or as a base for salads. But take this one step further, and you’ve got cauliflower crust!
I first came across this brilliant idea via Recipe girl (I strongly recommend following her on instagram if you aren’t already!) and have been playing around with it ever since.
As Italian tradition dictates, pizza is to be eaten with our hands. So put down those forks and knives. Enter my first issue with most cauliflower crusts: they tend to fall apart in your hands. Simple solution? Make minis. They hold together nicely besides being extra kid friendly. Another issue with cauliflower crusts is that most of them contain more cheese than they do cauliflower. So as with any recipe, an easy way to cut back on cheese without losing flavor is use a strong-tasting cheese, where a little can go a long way.
Mini Cauliflower Crust Margherita Pizzas
Makes 6 mini pizzas
1 small cauliflower cut into florets (to yield 2 cups cauliflower rice)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella or provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked plack pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup grated mozzarella or 6 cocktail bocconcini, patted dry and sliced
6 fresh basil leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse cauliflower florets until it resembles the texture of a couscous or short rice. Transfer to a glass bowl.
3. Microwave or steam the cauliflower for 4-5 minutes (careful, it will be hot!).
4. When the cauliflower is cold enough to handle, remove all the extra liquid in the cauliflower by placing it in cheese cloth or clean kitchen towel and ringing it as tightly as you can over a bowl and discard the liquid.
5. Transfer the cauliflower to a dry mixing bowl, add both cheeses and stir to combine.
5. In a separate small bowl, combine the egg, parsley, salt, pepper and oregano. Whisk to combine and add to the cauliflower mixture. Mix well.
6. Using your hands, scoop few tablespoons of the mixture, roll it into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Pat the ball down firmly, shaping it into a disk directly on the baking sheet, approximately 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining mixture, to yield 5-6 small pizzas.
7. Place in the oven 20-25 minutes, until the bottom of the crusts turn a nice golden brown.
8. Remove from the oven and top with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella/fresh bocconcini and return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted.
9. Garnish each pizza with fresh basil and serve.
Are you a lover of cauliflower? How do you prefer this vegetable?