A funny thing happened to me when I was in Peru. I had a sudden and altogether unexpected urge to become a vegetarian. Well, actually, it was an urge to go pescatarian. You know–give up meat with the exception of seafood.
I remember the precise moment when it happened. We were dining at the Museo de Sitio Huaca Pucllana, where the restaurant overlooks the ruins. I’d gone to Peru expecting to be a very adventurous eater. Cuyo (guinea pig)? Sure thing. Alpaca? Of course. Snail ceviche? Bring it on. Nothing was off the proverbial table–I wanted to try all of it. But when I opened the menu and found all of these options and more on offer, I felt queasy. I couldn’t stop picturing cute little guinea pigs and sweet baby goats.
I said to Mick and his mum, “I think I’m going to become a vegetarian when I get back home.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I did end up trying the guinea pig and baby goat that night, and later in the trip I tasted a bit of Mick’s grilled alpaca. I’m not in a hurry to eat any of them again, not so much because of the cuteness factor of the animals themselves, but because the taste and textures just didn’t appeal to me. Furthermore, I haven’t been a vegetarian since I got home, not even close. I’ll probably never fully become a vegetarian, and if I ever do, I won’t officially label myself as one. I like to keep my food options open.
That said, I’ve slowly been moving toward a pescatarian diet. I’m losing interest in eating meat–red meat especially–for a variety of reasons, mostly ethical. But that’s a personal choice on my part and if I’ve learned anything in the forty-plus years I’ve been on this earth, I don’t like being judged for my own choices, so I’d better not judge others for theirs. And of course in this case, I still eat meat regularly, so it is, as Joey Tribiani so famously said, a moo point.
So right about now, I’ll bet you’re thinking wait a second, I thought this post was supposed to be about a pizza recipe? I’m getting to that. Yesterday, as part of my effort to eat more vegetarian meals, I made a delicious wild mushroom pizza with cauliflower crust.
Wild Mushroom Pizza with Cauliflower Crust
For the crust, I pretty much followed this recipe. The only change I made, because I’d run out of whole eggs, was to use three table spoons of egg whites instead of an egg. By the way, I made the spaghetti squash pizza crust featured on the same site and it was equally delicious (maybe even more so). So in my mind, these two crust recipes are interchangeable.
Here are the basic ingredients:
1) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
2) Cut up the cauliflower and blanch it for three minutes in boiling water.
3) Drain it and pulse in a food processor until it has a grainy texture.
4) Pour the mixture onto paper towels and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
5) Mix the cauliflower/garlic with the other ingredients in a separate bowl.
6) Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Spread the “dough” onto the sheet and use your fingers to make it as thin as possible while ensuring there are no holes.
7) Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the center of the crust is firm to the touch.
With your crust now done, you can move on to the fun part. Assembling your pizza!
While my crust was cooking, I sliced up my mushrooms (white, crimini, and oyster) and minced a few more cloves of garlic. I heated up some olive oil and sautéed the garlic for a few minutes, taking great care not to burn it (as I so often do). Then I added my mushrooms and softened them up a bit. I didn’t let them get too mushy though, figuring that baking would complete the job of cooking them.
I drizzled olive oil on my cauliflower crust and added about a 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Then I just spread the mushrooms over the top and put the whole thing back in the oven for about five minutes to melt the cheese.
This is the result:
The only thing I’d add the next time I make this (and I will be making it again and again) is fresh chopped parsley or basil. I’d meant to do it before serving this last night and I completely forgot.
One of the best things about this crust is the addition of the red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat. I would’ve added them to the mushrooms and garlic had they not already been included in the crust. Also, while the cauliflower (or spaghetti squash) crust isn’t the same as a bread crust, it’s quite tasty in in its own right. It’s certainly a worthy base for yummy toppings, so make this, stat.