My family is not vegan nor completely vegetarian, but we are often plant-based with little to no meat in a given week. A lot has to do with what I am working on and the recipes I am testing. However, I do recognize the value of keeping on our less meat path for our family’s health as well as that of the planet. When I can find extra time, I do hunt for recipes to build up my own repertoire. Cauliflower crusts are everywhere so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I made quite a few and decided I did like the vegan option. More importantly so did the family. (Making crusts with a beaten egg rather than the chia tasted very good and were probably slightly firmer after baking, but I decided this was a time I could go the full vegan route.)
I let everyone choose their own toppings. I decided it was a good time to try out some vegan “cheeses”. I was pleasantly surprised by those made by So Delicious. They tasted good and actually sort of melted. Good to know since quite often a lot of the vegan recipes have meat, cheese, and dairy alternatives. Not all bad, but for me not all good either. I definitely strive for less-processed foods as much as I do plant-based. And just because they are meat or dairy-free is the processing any better? (All new territory for me to delve in to.)
Along with my hang-ups with processed substitutions, I feel weird calling something by a name it isn’t. Especially when it is one of my favorite foods, pizza. Probably my east coast upbringing and sensibilities, but I have definite opinions from childhood on what are classic pizzas. But, as I got older and traveled, I recognized the value of letting some of that go and seeing American regional and world varieties that are no less authentic than my favorites. One of the many reasons I have so much respect for Tony Gemignani. His book The Pizza Bible breaks it down and the recipes are as authentic as can be.
Despite the fact that I am not ready to call this cauliflower crusted round a pizza, I will say it works really well with Tony’s Basic Tomato Sauce.
Makes 2 medium or 4 individual
1 large head cauliflower, about 2 ¼ pounds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 ½ tablespoons ground chia seeds
¾ teaspoon granulated garlic (½ teaspoon if you want a more mild garlic flavor)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
One 14-ounce can ground tomatoes
6 ounces tomato paste
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 basil leaf, torn, optional
¼- to ½ cup pesto, optional (If you prefer pesto to tomato sauce.)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (Up to you if you want to try the vegan alternative.)
½ cup toppings of your choice
To Make the Crusts
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Cut the cauliflower into florets, leaving the tender stems. Working in batches, as needed pulse in a food processor until the texture of couscous. You will have about 6 cups.
Line a colander with a linen towel.
Put the cauliflower couscous in a large steamer basket set over simmering water. I have a huge steamer. Depending on what you have, this might need to be done in batches. Cover and steam until very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to the lined colander and let cool. (Alternatively, the cauliflower can be cooked in a large pot of boiling water. I have also seen recipes that microwave the cauliflower couscous with some water, but I don’t have a microwave.)
Lift the cauliflower in the towel and squeeze out the excess water. I like to squeeze in this towel, then put in a dry towel and squeeze again. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and add the remaining crust ingredients.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with coconut oil.
For two medium pizzas, divide the mixture in half, mounding on the lined baking sheet, leaving room between, and press into two 8- to 9-inch circles.
For four individual pizzas, divide the mixture into quarters, mounding on the lined baking sheet, leaving room between, and press into four 4- to 5-inch circles.
Bake until the crust is slightly firm to the touch and looks dry, 20-30 minutes, depending on the moisture in the mixture.
I found the crusts can be removed from the oven at this point and held at room temperature for about 2 hours. (For us that’s the time we needed to go over to the schoolyard and run around for a while.) Before adding the topping, I put the crusts back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up.
To Make the Tomato Sauce
Meanwhile, make the sauce. If you have an immersion (stick) blender, put the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and salt in a deep bowl. Or put the ingredients in a traditional blender. Blend until smooth. Stir in the olive oil and the basil, if using.
Remove the crusts from the oven. Spoon some sauce on each and spread over the top, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and then add any topping of choice. (If adding a green like arugula, do so after baking.) Return to the oven and bake until warmed through and the cheese is melted, 12 to 15 minutes more.
Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges.