A few weeks ago, a friend from out of town visited and I took him to Longman & Eagle, my favorite restaurant in Chicago (if you go, you have to try the roasted bone marrow. My yelp review here). While there, I told him about this cauliflower pizza I had made. Later, he asked me what other interesting weekend cooking projects I had on tap. I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and he gave this pizza as an example of something special that one would devote an extra amount of time to, and perhaps make for a special occasion. I told him that I made this pizza because it was a Tuesday and I had some cauliflower. So, segue into a short thought about cooking.
People (generally around my age) are often impressed that I cook so much (by which I mean, every day). I also eat every day, so it doesn’t seem all that crazy to me to put together the things that I eat. Yet when I visit friends in New York, or friends who don’t wear jeans/shorts to work (another reason to love being a grad student), we only eat out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good food out there for the buying, and I’m sure if you do it judiciously it’s also healthy. Maybe I’m just a control freak, but I like knowing what’s in my food, and that kind of transparency just isn’t possible for most places (also it’s cheaper to eat at home but that’s an obvious statement unless you’re prone to eating at Chipotle when you go out and only eat lobster and steak at home). I like how little oil I use, I like knowing my ingredients, I like undersalting food. And I love cooking- the magical alchemy of it, the pleasure of serving others, the satisfaction of pointing at something and saying “Hey! Look world! I made that! I might’ve spent four hours today reading half a page of mathematics and coming up with a list of questions to ask my advisor, but I just made something that will nourish myself and others that I can touch! I’m not a useless waste of space!”
On a bit of a darker note, cooking grounds me in a world of the endless luxury of sitting on a couch that we own and paging through a novel while a 3-year old gets shot at a park ten miles away from me. I mean, the problem of evil is a big one, and spirituality/faith/philosophy are all ways that people deal with it. I guess I’m saying that cooking is a spiritual ritual for me- it connects me with the billions of humans who exist and have ever existed: all of the grandmothers, the mothers, the daughters, and happily, the grandfathers, the fathers, the sons. The friends, the clans, the families- eating together, seeking out nourishment in the physical sense and satisfying the need in the social and emotional sense as well. Everyone who has ever lived has seen/experienced evil in their lives, and closer to every day than not, touched food. Just one little keyboard key away from good. I’m saying that food is good.
Excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (link here for a fuller excerpt):
It matters because food matters (their physical health matters, the pleasure they take in eating matters), and because the stories that are served with food matter.
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sushi “lunch dates” with my mom, and eating my dad’s turkey burgers with mustard and grilled onions at backyard celebrations, and of course my grandmother’s chicken with carrots. Those occasions simply wouldn’t have been the same without those foods — and that is important. To give up the taste of sushi, turkey or chicken is a loss that extends beyond giving up a pleasurable eating experience. Changing what we eat and letting tastes fade from memory create a kind of cultural loss, a forgetting.
So! Cauliflower pizza! Once upon a time boyfriend was “paleo” and we still don’t eat too many carbs. This was my first time making pizza by myself.
First thing you do: take out that food processor! Grate the heck out of your cauliflower florets.
It’ll eventually turn into cauliflower “rice”. Toss it in a bowl with a handful of water, top it with a loose plate, and microwave it for 5 minutes (alternately you can just do the same thing in a pot). Most recipes say to toss it in a sieve at this point, and I tried that, but like no water comes out so I’m not sure why you’d do this. Anyways, throw the cooked pulp into a clean dish towel, wrap that up like you’re a stork, and squeeze. Niagara falls is going to come out and you will be surprised.
Squeeze until you’re sick of doing so, then mix all the dough ingredients together. I had a teeny tiny piece of mozzarella and ran out, so then I subbed in parmesan.
Mix that up, pat it out, and bake it at 400 while you make the toppings. I did a simple tomato sauce by pulsing a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes with some garlic, olive oil, and spices. Then I fried up some ham, drained a can of pineapple, and sliced up some mozzarella.
Top that pizza and throw it back in until the cheese is melted. Yum! This was a fork-and-knife pizza because I made the crust a bit too thick, but I’m interested in experimenting with a thinner crust.
1 head of cauliflower
1 egg or egg substitute (1 Tb flax/chiaseed + 2 Tb water)
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 Tb olive oil (because I didn’t have 1/4 c of grated mozzarella but you could use that too)
Pinches of sea salt, oregano, and basil
Preheat oven to 400. Usually I don’t like preheating too much ahead of time but 400 is super hot and it’ll take this long to get it that hot.
Grate the cauliflower into snow using a food processor. Cook the snow by either putting it with a bit of water (1/4 c) in a pot and boiling, then turning off the flame and covering for 5 minutes, or put it with a bit of water (2 TB) in a bowl and microwave for 4 minutes.
Get rid of as much water as possible by putting the cooked cauliflower mush in a clean dish towel and wringing it (let it cool a bit before doing this step).
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pat out onto a silpat (unless you’re fancy and own a pizza stone etc.) and bake while you prepare your toppings (about 30 minutes). Then top with toppings and keep baking until the cheese melts (another 10 minutes).