By Sofia Wilt
Move over kale, the next “it” vegetable according to food trendologist (yes, that is a profession) is surprisingly, cauliflower. This newfound affection for this humble vegetable is largely due to a rise of different grain-free and vegetable-centric food trends. With so many people having adverse health issues from wheat and other grains, gluten-free foods are increasingly popular – and some genius figured out how to use cauliflower in place of grains. Similarly, the “new” Paleo diet (a diet based on foods humans have adapted to for over 200,000 years versus newer foods from the recent advent of agriculture that are 10,000 years old or less) often showcase this extremely versatile vegetable. Plus, many people have simply been cutting back on carbohydrates to achieve weight loss and balance their blood sugar – and cauliflower can be substituted for many starchy favorites. And as always, vegetarians and vegans have been featuring cauliflower in main-dish favorites like grilled cauliflower “steaks” and whole roasted tandoori cauliflower. Seeing as cauliflower is basically a blank canvas, there are multiple directions and flavors to make it into delicious and healthy dishes for just about anyone’s tastes.
Cauliflower is a member of the brassica or cruciferous family, akin to broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other sulfur-rich vegetables that incidentally happen to be the most powerful anti-cancer group of them all. Its low in calories but rich in antioxidants, fiber, and has good amounts of B vitamins like B6, B3 and B5, plus minerals such as potassium, copper, and manganese. Besides your standard white cauliflower, there are also purple and orange varieties. These variations have the same texture and flavor but the purple has the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine. The orange variety gets its color from the antioxidant beta carotene. Beyond basic steaming or sauteing, cauliflower can be roasted, fermented, mashed, made into “rice”, into fritters, tortillas, soups, nachos, bagels, baked “buffalo style” and actually made into a gluten-free pizza crust. Although cauliflower isn’t a signature vegetable here in Hawaii, we are lucky to have farmers grow it locally. It’s available year round at farmers markets.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1 head cauliflower
1 ½ cup mozzarella or jack, plus additional for topping
few pinches salt
ground pepper to taste
1 Tbs minced fresh parsley
heaping teaspoon Italian Seasoning Mix or ½ tsp oregano + ½ tsp red pepper flakes +
½ tsp garlic powder or fresh minced garlic
Marinara and toppings of your choice
1.Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2.Place cut up chunks of cauliflower in a steamer basket in a pot with tight fitted lid and steam for about 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes.
3. Place cauliflower in a food processor and pulse it until its uniform and finely crumbled. (If you don’t’ have a food processor, simply grate the whole uncooked cauliflower on a cheese grater, then steam and proceed to step
4. Place cauliflower in a dish towel, gather it into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
5. Place cauliflower in a bowl and add additional ingredients. Grease baking tray with olive oil or ideally, line the tray with parchment paper and grease it with oil.
6.Transfer cauliflower “dough” onto tray/parchment and form into a circular or square shape, roughly half and inch thick.
7.Bake 10-20 minutes depending on your oven. You may need to (very gently) flip it and cook the other side too for additional time. You want it cooked evenly and slightly brown.
8.Build you pizza as desired, I like artichoke hearts, spinach and kalamata olives. Put back into the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Sofia has lived on the Big Island for more than 20 years. She has worked as a park ranger at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and as a 911 dispatcher for the County of Hawaii. Sofia has a degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, and has worked as a personal chef for more than 12 years. She is basically a food/health/nutrition geek, playing in her kitchen finding new yummy ways to stay healthy and well nourished.