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COOKING WITH JESSICA KARLEY: Low-carb dieter’s delight

This gluten-free, veggie-packed pizza crust can actually be picked up with your fingers. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Jessica Karley

Cauliflower is often an overlooked vegetable. When is the last time you heard anyone say, “Man, I’m really craving some cauliflower for dinner tonight”? Today, I’m hoping to change your outlook about this delicious, cruciferous vegetable.

Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage vegetable family. Touted as the low-carb or gluten-free menu saver, many people recognize the health benefits of cauliflower. I recently spent some time surfing the Internet for cauliflower-based ideas. There are many great and creative ways to use it, but a couple in particular caught my attention: Cauliflower Pizza Crust and Cauliflower Gratin.

Cauliflower Gratin is a more common recipe, but I thought it needed a little updating. This recipe is a great alternative to au gratin potatoes or cheese sauce. I used heavy cream, garlic and nutmeg to form a surprisingly light-tasting cream sauce for the cauliflower. Topped with parmesan cheese and baked for 45 minutes, this cauliflower tastes almost as rich and indulgent as its potato counterpart — a true low-carb dieter’s delight.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust is another great idea. I wish I could say it was my own, but there are many other bloggers that have shared their recipes before me. Most of them leave me feeling like I was missing something because those crusts weren’t quite taking care of my pizza cravings. While it was nice to still have the taste of the pizza, most of the time, they were meant to be eaten with a fork and were more like a layered cauliflower casserole instead of a pick-up-in-your-hands, chew-on-the-crust kind of a pizza.

In my Parmesan Cauliflower Pizza Crust, I accomplished everything I wanted to. I made a pizza crust that, instead of tasting like steamed cauliflower, came out with a rich and nutty parmesan flavor, had a bit of a bite and remained gluten-free.

The first goal was to remove as much moisture from the cauliflower as I could, so it wouldn’t steam itself in the baking process. I read a few recipes that called for cooking the cauliflower in the microwave. Since I knew that wouldn’t remove a lot of moisture on its own, I started the cauliflower cooking process in a saute pan.

I cooked it over medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes and then finished it in the microwave for another 3 minutes. Then, I chilled it for 30 minutes in my freezer. (Actually, this recipe was made on my subzero deck at the time.)

After the mixture was chilled, I removed the remaining moisture by squeezing it in my hands with paper towels. It can take quite a few minutes, but trust me, the results are worth it. After the cauliflower is mostly dry, I added one egg, skim mozzarella cheese and finely grated parmesan to help fill in any open crevices.

Then, I firmly pressed it into a well-greased, 10-inch oven-safe saute pan. Once again, I used a paper towel to press the crust into the pan to remove any excess moisture, then baked it at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes (or until it was a deep golden brown).

After that, I flipped the crust out of the pan onto a baking sheet, which made the well-sealed bottom my new top. Afterward, I added a few of my favorite toppings like sauce, cheese, mushrooms, spinach, cheese, a few pepperonis — to keep in the pizza mood — and cheese.

After 10 more minutes in the oven, you have a delicious, pick-up-with-your-hands, not-missing-a-thing piece of pizza.

Jessica Karley can be reached at Read her food blog at

Parmesan Cauliflower Pizza Crust

  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
  • 2 cloves of garlic, fresh minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup shredded skim mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Add cauliflower to your food processor and pulse until a rice-like texture is reached. In a 10-inch saute pan, add olive oil, riced cauliflower, garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until all of the cauliflower is nearly translucent. Remove mixture from the pan and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Remove and place in freezer to chill for 30 minutes or until completely cooled. Remove bowl from freezer and squeeze out remaining moisture using several paper towels. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until evenly combined. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10-inch oven-safe saute pan. Add cauliflower mixture and press firmly with fingertips and paper towels to create a well-packed crust. Bake for 25 minutes or until crust appears to be a deep golden brown color. Remove from oven and flip onto a cookie sheet. Top with desired pizza toppings and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and toppings are cooked through.

Cauliflower Gratin

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a medium oven proof dish, whisk together cream, garlic powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove a small amount of the cream mixture and place into a small cup. Whisk the reserved amount with cornstarch and add it back into the pan. Stir until evenly combined. Add cauliflower and stir to coat. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serves 6.