Summer always feels like the time for pizza. Sun and cold drinks and pizza on the deck after a day of playing at the beach or in the park. It’s pretty perfect. Summer always comes late to the Pacific Northwest, and June is often nicknamed ‘Junuary’ because of the June gloom. But now it’s July and the air is heating up, and we’ve been doing lots of playing outside. And eating pizza.
I’ve never been supportive of foods masquerading as other foods. And as a pizza lover, I always scoffed at the thought of cauliflower pizza. But, I’m happy to eat my words, because cauliflower pizza is really quite delicious. It can stand on its own as a very good specific type of pizza. Just like Neapolitan pizza is very different from Chicago-style pizza is very different from New York-style pizza, cauliflower pizza is it’s own style.
I first tried cauliflower pizza when I ordered it from a restaurant in Palm Springs. I was surprised at how good it was and decided to recreate it at home. When I first attempted to make my own cauliflower crust, I did what I always do, which is read a lot of other people’s recipes and see what methods and ingredients resonate for me. Many of the recipes I read had a lot of cheese in the crust, to help bind the crust together. To me, that felt redundant, to make a crust out of cheese that I am then going to cover in cheese. Too much cheese for me.
Several recipes used almond flour to create the crust, and that’s the method I ended up going with. I’ve experimented with the ratio of almond flour to cauliflower, and you can too, to create the crust you want. Too little, and the crust is too wet and will far apart, but I have gone as high as 1 cup of almond meal/flour to the (around) 4 cups of cauliflower. It makes for a dense, sturdy crust. So, if that’s what you’re going for, increase the almond flour.
I have also experimented with an egg-free version, and you can substitute a flax-seed and water slurry for the egg with great results. Elie actually prefers the crust with the flax seeds. To make the egg substitution, just put 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed in a small bowl and cover with six tablespoons of water and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes until it forms a gel. Use that just as you would use the two eggs.
If you are a gluten-free person, the cauliflower crust is a great option, because you are not sacrificing flavor or texture by trying to make a delicious, pliable crust from gluten-free flours.
The only other real trick to making a good crust is to squeeze all the excess water from the cauliflower. To do this, just steam it for a few minutes, either in the microwave or in a steamer basket and then let it cool. Dump the cauliflower into the center of a large, clean kitchen towel. Gather the edges together and squeeze the cauliflower until all of the water drains out, like in the photo above.
Of course, you can top your cauliflower pizza crust with any toppings you like. We often just do a simple one, with roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and spicy chiles. Or, in the spring, it’s delicious topped with fontina cheese, morel mushrooms and asparagus, or with spicy salami and squash blossoms. I think I made those versions three or four times over the past month or so. But any pizza toppings work great. Just be sure to pre-cook the crust, then add the toppings and then finish it in the oven to melt the cheese and heat it until bubbling.
You can also make the crust up to a day ahead, and then just do the final baking before serving. If you have a crust and toppings pre-prepped, you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
Theo loves the cauliflower pizza, too, and I will often make just a plain crust for him to snack on, without any toppings. I keep it in a container in the refrigerator and then just pop it in the toaster oven to heat it up and crisp it a bit. Although it’s pretty good cold, too. I’ve made it before as a snack for the plane, because it’s always challenging to find ways to easily eat vegetables on travel days.
It just about kills me to post this recipe without a story attached to it, but that’s usually what prevents me from getting recipes up here. So here you go, a recipe but no story. If you want to know what we’ve been up to these days, read this. Or, follow along on Instagram stories, and you’ll likely see us every day.
In the meantime, please let me know if you like the pizza! And if you like the recipes just fine without the stories, you can tell me that, too.
- 1/2 pint shitake mushrooms
- 2 poblano peppers, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 head cauliflower, cut in food processor until ‘riced’ (about 4 cups)
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup almond meal
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- red pepper flakes
- 1 cup fresh arugula
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces goat or sheep chèvre
- For the lamb
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pull the stems from the shiitake mushrooms. Compost the stems or save them for mushroom stock. Tear the mushrooms in half and place on 1/2 of the parchment paper. Season with salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Place the sliced poblano peppers on the other side of the baking sheet and season with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat.
- Roast the mushrooms and peppers at 425 for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms have lost all their liquid and are starting to brown and the peppers are beginning to darken at the edges. Set aside and let cool. Roughly chop the mushrooms and peppers.
- Combine the lamb with the chopped mushrooms and peppers. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (if the poblanos are not spicy). Saute in a pan with a little olive oil until the lamb is browned. Drain onto a plate lined with a paper towel to remove any extra fat. Set aside to add to the pizza.
- To make roasted tomatoes
- Add stemmed grape or cherry tomatoes to an oven-safe dish with the sliced garlic. Toss in a little olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and a sprinkle of sea salt. If you want it a little spicy, add some red pepper flakes. Roast in 425 degree oven until the tomatoes have released all of their juices and they are starting to caramelize and blacken in spots. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- To make the cauliflower crust
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- To 'rice' the cauliflower, slice or cut the cauliflower into florets. Place half of the cut cauliflower in the food processor and then process until the cauliflower is cut into pieces about the size of a grain of rice. Pour into a microwave-safe bowl. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
- Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. (Alternatively, you can steam the cauliflower until tender, but do not place in water). Place the steamed cauliflower in a clean kitchen towel and let cool slightly before pulling all the sides of the cloth up around the mixture and wringing all the moisture out of the cauliflower. Discard liquid.
- Place strained cauliflower back in the bowl and add the egg, almond meal, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of oregano and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine.
- Pour the cauliflower mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten the cauliflower mixture into a pizza shape, with a very thin bottom and an edge of ‘crust.’ The mixture will be wet.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown and the bottom of the crust in browned and glossy.
- Remove the crust from the oven and pour the roasted tomato mixture over the crust, spreading it out to the edges.
- Return the pizza to the oven until the tomatoes are heated through and bubbling and the edge of the crust is nicely browned. Remove pizza from the oven and top with the cooked lamb, arugula, shaved fennel and chèvre. Enjoy!
- It sounds like a lot of steps, but all of the vegetables (the mushrooms, poblanos and tomatoes) can be roasted at the same time while you are making the pizza crust.