Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pizza Cavolfiore

I'm usually a big fan of the home-packed sack lunch. The combination of short work breaks and abundant fast food means buying lunch usually isn't worth the bother. I'd choose a home-made soup and salad, or even a humble sandwich, over most take-out options any day. But. But. Not in New York.

This past winter I worked in SoHo, the home of lunch options both overpriced and fabulous. As I responsibly toted my lunch, in keeping with my intern non-salary, I looked longingly at the daily take-out deliveries. The Asian noodle soups, the Indian thalis, the too-pretty-to-eat sushi. But best of all were the simple pizzas from Grandaisy Bakery.

When you hear the word pizza, it immediately conjures up images of cheesy slices. And in New York, cheesy slices are not bad at all. But Grandaisy makes pizza bianca. This Roman specialty is more of a flatbread than an airy-crusted pizza. The toppings are pretty simple; either a single highlighted vegetable, or just a sprinkling of salt and herbs. The bakery featured a few variations, but the most popular was cauliflower.

I know this seems strange. Cauliflower pizza? But trust me, it's delicious. Roasted cauliflower harnesses all of the sweet beauty of caramelization. Reminiscent of french fries, if you can believe it, but lighter and more delicious. Although Grandaisy topped theirs with a bit of cheese, I omitted that, and added the traditional pizza bianca topping of olive oil, coarse salt and fresh rosemary. Cut into strips, it makes a wonderful appetizer, or accompaniment to a salad. You can also make it ahead of time, and then just refresh it in a hot oven when your guests arrive. We brought it to a salad-based vegan dinner party, and blew their vegan socks off.

Pizza Cavolfiore
roasted cauliflower inspired by Jim Dixon, dough adapted from Jim Lahey via Smitten Kitchen, and the whole combination inspired by Grandaisy Bakery. Phew!

makes 2 pizzas

This dough is a lot drier than most pizza doughs, more like a traditional loaf bread dough than a soupy pizza dough. Don't worry, it turns out perfectly.

1 cup cool water
1 tsp instant yeast (or 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
3 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute whole wheat flour -- add an additional 2 Tbsp water for each cup you swap)

1 large head cauliflower
~2 Tbsp olive oil

leaves from 2 large or 4 small branches rosemary, coarsely chopped
olive oil
coarse salt

Pour water into the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle in yeast and let it soften for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and mix on low with a dough hook to combine, and then increase the speed to medium-high. Continue to knead at that speed for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, and flip over to oil the top. Cover with a dish towel or plastic bag, and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 2-4 hours. Split the dough in half, and form each piece into a log. Let rest on a floured surface, covered, until doubled again, another hour.

While the dough is rising, prepare the cauliflower: preheat the oven (along with your pizza stone, if you have one) to 400. Wash the cauliflower, and remove the core. Slice the head into 1/4" slices (a large portion will crumble to bits, which is fine). Toss in a bowl with the olive oil, until it's all covered with a thin layer, using more or less oil as needed. Place on a single layer on a baking sheet or two, and bake until it begins to brown a bit, turning once. This should take about 15 minutes.

Assemble the pizza: Increase the oven heat to 500. Stretch one of the dough logs out into a circle the size of your pizza stone (or cookie sheet, if you don't have a stone), about 1/4" thick. Drape the dough onto your preheated stone or sheet. Sprinkle with half of the cauliflower, pressing it down into the dough slightly, and half of the rosemary. Sprinkle with coarse salt, and
drizzle on some olive oil. Bake at 500 until the crust is lightly browned and the cauliflower is deeply browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into rectangular wedges, and serve.


  1. This was so good! How lucky I am to have a friend who not only gave me an idea of what to make for dinner, but brought the best part!

  2. your blog is cool! thanks

  3. This is one of my favorite snacks too, I live right near there and work near the one on UWS! I feel like they might us butter too though ...