Whenever we call for pizza delivery, the great compromise ensues. It’s impossible to order a single pizza everyone is excited about unless it is a half this and half that crust-confusing hybrid, which is guaranteed to arrive in 30 minutes and totally messed up.
Kids: Gluten-free or hand-tossed crust, pepperoni or pepperoni with bacon (nobody argues about bacon)
Matt: Thin crust, pork sausage and mushroom (not kid-friendly)
Me: Happy someone else is making it crust, Hawaiian or lots of vegetables (did you see the looks?)
See what I mean? The advantage to making homemade pizza is how easy it is to customize, but even then it’s hard to please everyone at the same time all the time. Occasionally, I just make what I like and let the chips fall where they may.
Today is that day.
Top to Bottom Vegetable [Not Veggie] Pizza is the fourth feature in our Five Pies in Five Days series, which because of the wildfire at a our back door last month has far exceeded five days. Thank you for all your well wishes and prayers, and for hanging in there with me, I hope you think these last two pies were worth the wait. Although veg·e·ta·ble doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way veg·gie does, my husband
hates is not fond of the word veggie, so there won’t be any attempt to bow to popular abbreviations for the sake of a catchy title.
With vegetable toppings piled on a Cauliflower-Mozzarella Crust this pizza is a vegetable extravaganza from top to bottom. Don’t get me wrong, we are all serious carnivores around here, but local produce is at its peak of fresh-tasty-ripeness and who doesn’t need more ways to use zucchini? The question remained whether everyone else would go along in this summertime indulgence.
As expected, the questions and comments from the family went something like this:
Matt: What’s for dinner?
Me: Vegetable pizza.
Matt: Oh. Anything else?
Me: No, that’s the beauty of it.
Matt: Oh. No meat?
Me: No, it’s a meatless meal.
Me: Variety. It’s for my pizza series. And I like it.
Did you notice the lack of enthusiasm?
Our daughter, Kayla, who is gluten-free wanted to try the Cauliflower-Mozzarella Crust, so when she came in from work I let her know it was on the menu and would be ready in just a few minutes.
Then it was time for dinner …
Everyone at the table: “Mmm!” (I love that sound!)
Matt: This is really good. You can make this again, maybe with some grilled sausages on the side.
Me: Thanks. I’m glad you like it. Kayla, what do you think?
Kayla: Really yummy, it would be great with chicken sausage on it.
Sometimes they gang up on me.
They may not have been as excited as I was, but thoroughly enjoyed it just the same. Like I said, “Mmm” is music to my hears.
One of the goals for this series was to offer different crust possibilities and inspired toppings. Cauliflower-Mozzarella Crust does not have the texture of bread, but its flavor and texture does not disappoint—everyone gave it a big thumbs-up. It is also a desirable alternative for anyone gluten-free or those looking to reduce grain consumption in general. It might feel awkward patting it out on the pan instead of rolling or pulling it into shape, but most things new feel a little awkward at first. Be sure to use a non-stick pan or parchment paper, it does tend to stick to the pan otherwise.
Another goal was to use the juice that remained from the whole San Marzano tomatoes I used on the Italian Sausage, Prosciutto, Peperoncini, & Smoked Cheddar Pizza. That jar of tomatoes is pricy, so you want to use every drop! Any favorite pizza sauce will work here, but if you happen to have a jar of leftover juice from stewed tomatoes, this is another way to get the most out of it.
It’s summertime, so your options are wide open for fresh vegetables you can use here, this is simply a delicious guideline. Keep in mind, vegetables have a high water content and don’t have strong flavors to stand out among gooey cheese and tomato sauce. In order to intensify the vegetable flavors and prevent soggy pizza, it is important to “wilt” vegetables and mushrooms in a skillet to release some of the moisture before using them for toppings. Regardless the combination of vegetables, garlic and fresh herbs superbly complement the garden theme. Vegetable lovers can scheme to their heart’s content and maybe even the carnivores in your life will appreciate Top to Bottom Vegetable [Not Veggie] Pizza—of course, you could always throw some sausages on the grill too.
Check out the first three pizza pies included in the Five Pies in Five Days series:
- juice from San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste -- or more if needed
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sugar -- to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme -- optional
- 2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms -- sliced
- 2 cloves garlic -- minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
- 1 small zucchini -- sliced into rounds
- ½ can artichoke hearts [in water] -- drained and quartered
- ½ large red bell pepper -- sliced ¼" thick
- ⅓ cup fresh basil or fresh orgegano (or both)-- coarsely chopped
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese -- grated
- ½ cup romano cheese -- grated
- 2 cups cauliflower -- grated
- 1 whole egg -- lightly beaten
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese -- grated
- 1 teaspoon oregano or Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- olive oil or cooking spray
- non-stick pizza pan or parchment paper
- Pour juice from jar of tomatoes into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the tomato paste, sugar, oregano, crushed red pepper, and thyme sprigs and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Taste and adjust herbs, spice, and sugar, as desired. When sauce is done, remove from heat and set aside until ready to top pizza.
- Warm oil or butter over medium heat in a medium sized skillet. Sauté mushrooms with garlic in the butter long enough to allow mushrooms to release moisture and soften, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms from the skillet and add the zucchini rounds to the same pan. Cook over medium heat until zucchini softens slightly and lightly brown in some spots (it is okay if the pan seems dry, that will help the zucchini brown a little). When done, remove zucchini from skillet and set aside until ready to top pizza.
- Preheat oven to 450° and position rack in the lower third of the oven.
- Using a box grater, shred fresh cauliflower until you have a little more than 2 cups (it will shrink as the moisture evaporates). Spread cauliflower in the bottom of a dry cast iron skillet and cook on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, as cauliflower moisture evaporates. Cauliflower will lightly roast and turn light brown in spots, but that is okay. Pour cauliflower out of skillet onto paper towels and let cool. Once cooled, squeeze any additional moisture out of the cauliflower within the paper towels.
- Mix cooled cauliflower, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, and salt until blended. Stir in egg until all ingredients are combined.
- Lightly brush olive oil on a non-stick pizza pan or line other types of pizza pans with parchment paper. With fingertips, press crust mix out on pan to form a 9"-11" crust. Size can vary.
- Place crust in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes in the lower part of the oven (this will help the crust brown on the bottom), until the crust is a light golden brown.
- Remove crust from oven, reposition oven rack to the middle, and turn oven on broil.
- Top crust with enough sauce to cover, leaving a small margin at the edge and level with the back of a spoon. Add as much sauce as you prefer—a thin layer or a thick, saucy base works too.
- Spread ¾ to 1 cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce and then layer the remaining vegetables so that each slice will have a nice combination of each. (It's okay if you have vegetables left over, use them to make an omelet the next day.) Top with the basil, Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Return pizza to the oven and broil to melt cheese and meld flavors. Remove from oven once top starts to lightly brown and edges of crust are golden brown.
- Slice and serve from the pan unless using parchment paper. If using parchment, allow pizza to rest 2-3 minutes, then slide onto a cutting board. Gently roll parchment paper under toward cutting board to remove it from under the pizza and discard. Slice pizza and serve.