Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cauliflower-Basil Crust Veggie “Pizza”

So good, you almost forget you're eating healthy!
Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately. It’s been a busy end of summer and trying to get all the fun stuffed in before we sent our toddler off to her first day of preschool has kept us on our toes. Between play dates, trips to SeaWorld, and other activities with family and friends, I haven’t had a lot of time to test, write-up, and post new recipes. But now that we’re settling into a routine, I promise to be better about it.

Anyhoo, a few weeks ago several recipes that used cauliflower as “dough” for low-carb pizza kept popping up on Pinterest. I love pizza—who doesn’t?—but let’s face it, it’s not a health food. But, I figured if there was some magical way to make it good for you, why not try it? Well, notice I used quotation marks around the word “pizza” in the recipe title. That’s because no matter how you slice it (pun intended), there’s no way that cauliflower is going to be as good as regular old pizza crust.

Don’t get me wrong, this recipe was surprisingly tasty. But please, don’t expect the taste or consistency of pizza dough…it just isn’t going to happen using cauliflower. If you haven’t stopped reading and reached for the phone to call Domino's—and you’re a fan of vegetables, fresh basil, and cheese—give this a shot. If not, I totally understand.

I followed this recipe fairly closely but I only used egg whites, cut back on the amount of cheese and marinara sauce, and used green onions and leeks instead of white onion. I also switched up the seasonings a little. Here’s what I came up with.

Cauliflower-Basil Crust Veggie “Pizza”
Makes 5 small individual pizzas
2 ½ cups raw cauliflower, riced (use a cheese grater or—much easier—pulse in a food processor)
1/3 cup egg whites
1 cup reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped (or you can use a food processor)
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¾ cup marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s organic tomato basil)
1 zucchini squash, peeled and thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup green onions, sliced
¼ cup leeks, sliced
¼ cup fresh basil (yes, more basil, this isn’t a typo)
¾ cup reduced fat or fat-free ricotta cheese
Dash Pepper
Dash Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie/baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine riced cauliflower (you can do this by hand with a cheese grater, but if you have a food processor, it makes life MUCH easier), egg whites, mozzarella cheese, garlic, ¼ cup of finely chopped basil, and ½ teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning. Stir well.

Separate the “dough” into 5 equal portions. Using your hands, form the portions into balls in your palm and flatten and shape them, much as you would a burger patty. Place on baking sheet and use your fingers to flatten them out so that they are an even thickness throughout. You can make them square or round (I chose round).
Ready for the oven!
Bake the “crusts” for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Remove cooked “crusts” and allow them to cool a little before continuing. Spoon even amounts of marinara sauce over each pizza. Top with zucchini, squash, green onions, and leeks.

In a food processor, combine ¼ cup fresh basil, ricotta cheese, a dash of pepper, and a dash of Italian seasoning. Blend until smooth. Top each pizza with a hearty dollop of this basil-ricotta mixture. If desired, sprinkle with a little more pepper and Italian seasoning.
The "pizzas" in various prep stages.
Return pizzas to the oven and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes. Remove, garnish with a whole basil leaf (if desired), and serve immediately.

I chose to go vegetarian on these but you could top these low-carb crusts with just about anything. Go traditional and use marinara sauce, a little sliced pepperoni, and an additional sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. Try different veggies like mushrooms, olives, peppers, etc. Or go an entirely different direction and bust out the BBQ sauce, chicken, red onion, and chicken. The possibilities are endless!

As I mentioned earlier, if you are expecting a chewy, doughy, real pizza-like crust, you are going to be disappointed. But if you like the idea of swapping the high-carb refined flour for a vegetable, and you’re a fan of fresh, healthy, tasty ingredients, this recipe will likely surprise you.

 It’s full of flavors, the cheese provides protein and a good—but different—texture, and you feel a lot better about yourself after you eat this instead of the Meal Lovers Thick Crust Delight or whatever the pizza chains are clogging our arteries with these days.

The hubs liked it, I liked it, and though calling it “pizza” is a little misleading, it’s still pretty darn yummy.

Until next time,

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