I have always wanted to make pizza at home; but it has been rather easier to just order online and bite into my favorite thin crust pizza from our neighborhood pizzeria. Then I saw pins about gluten-free crusts. It’s not that I am allergic to gluten, but gluten-free essentially meant no kneading. I was more excited to try it because one less step is very welcome on weeknight. Won’t you agree?
Besides, I had made quinoa patties before. It made perfect sense to try quinoa substitute for traditional dough. But in my head, a quinoa crust seemed very dry. What can I do to soften it a bit and yet leave it crisp? I decided to mix some cauliflower I had from my CSA box. Time to use it up in something other than Indian curry and it wasn’t enough to make Pav Bhaji anyway. (Because we can always have another Pav Bhaji night!)
I soaked some red quinoa (red quinoa is more flavorful in my opinion, so I usually have that at home) when I left for work in the morning and thought of whether my plan of making marinara sauce made sense given that the crust will be brown-red. When I came home and started cooking, I had imagined a red color paste when I put well-rinsed and soaked quinoa through food processor. Nothing could have prepared me for monotony of the processed cauliflower and quinoa mixture..
Considering that the germ of red quinoa is still white, it made sense, but I was a bit surprised nonetheless. So I prepared myself back again to expect a regular beige pizza crust afterall. Happily I stuck this dough in the oven and started working on the marinara sauce. In about fifteen minutes as I peeped into the oven, to my surprise I saw a thoroughly browned crust forming! Considering how quickly cauliflower can brown and remembering the split quinoa kernels all over the dough, that made sense too (I felt like Captain hindsight!). And yet, two surprises in one night as I worked away at making this dish.. It was a great reminder of how you could set out to cook something, get your ingredients and procedure right and there is still is so much unexplored and so much unexpected. Indeed that element of surprise is what I cook for! The never ending fascination with all-things-kitchen for me comes largely from the enjoyment I get while playing around. Needless to say, my husband is a rather long suffering victim of my culinary expeditions! =)
Well, after I got my crust ready, I slathered marinara sauce on it and sprinkled our favorite vegetables generously. Read onion, garlic and chilies! Our meals are nearly incomplete without them, but you could put anything you like. To finish there were artichokes, spinach and sunflower seeds! There was no cheese but fresh mozzarella would be delicious. If I had added baking powder instead of an egg to my crust, it would be vegan too.
It was a very tasty and light dinner for us! Simple ingredients- red onion, garlic greens, artichoke, sunflower seeds, spinach and chilies. Collectively, they formed a very colorful picture on the brown canvas of this crisp pizza crust. Baking them toned the flavors down just enough where they complement each other instead of competing! Hint of acidity from marinara was creating a background taste to which crunch from seeds added complex play. This was a real surprise and cause for happiness where all flavors and textures struck that balance which we strive to achieve in all that we do.
By the way, to my endless list of stories from this one meal preparation, there is fun element of working with artichokes; which I will write about soon. And, did you notice that glass of red mirroring pizza pieces in the picture above? That’s Primotivo from Hendry’s winery in Napa. I highly recommend it to accompany savory and spicy foods and if you are a nerd like me, please visit their winery. You would learn so much about the grape growing, the business, the food pairings and more!
Your Map to Pizza
Author: Minty Chai
Total time: 45 min
For the crust-
- 1/2 cup quinoa, soaked for 6-8 hrs
- 1/2 head small cauliflower
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
For the marinara sauce-
- 3/4 can tomato puree
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
For the pizza vegetables-
- 1 stock garlic green, chopped
- 1/2 onion, long thin pieces
- boiled artichoke
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup spinach
- Sliced chilies
- In a food processor, combined soaked quinoa with little water. Add semi-cooked cauliflower, salt and egg. Also add thyme, pepper, garlic and olive oil. Blend everything until you get paste like consistency.
- Preheat oven to 425 degree F while you are blending ingredients for crust. On a pizza pan or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the pizza crust evenly. Bake for 15 minutes or until it starts to look brown. Flip the crust carefully. (I used another sheet of parchment paper, held it on top of cookie sheet and then flipped the sheet to get crust on new paper. Then I slid the crust back, in same flipped position onto the parchment paper already on the sheet.) Bake for another 10 minutes.
- While the crust is cooking, you can start preparing marinara sauce. In a saucepan, add olive oil and when it’s heated add the onion. Cook it for a couple minutes and then add the tomato puree. Cook well. Add oregano, salt and pepper. Add crushed chili flakes. Cook covered for about three more minutes.
- Once the crust is done, take out the cookie sheet and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Then slather the marinara sauce on the crust generously.
- Add your cut vegetables, including artichokes and bake for another five to eight minutes. Add sunflower seeds after five minutes. Add spinach leaves when you have about two minutes left before you pull out the pizza.
- Take it out once it’s fully cooked, slice into square pieces and enjoy with your favorite bottle of table red!!