“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
-Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson
During the Victorian era, cauliflower was more highly regarded than its less expensive cousin, the cabbage plant. As Twain’s somewhat snarky quote suggests, it was viewed as a more refined vegetable. Cauliflower reproduces by seed and is harvested at the bud stage, before it has a chance to blossom. The edible florets are actually made from small, tightly packed buds, sometimes referred to as “curds.” Cauliflower belongs to the species Brassica oleracea, along with cabbage, collard greens, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Unlike its close relatives, cauliflower is not green. This is a result of the leaves which, if left to grow long enough, cover the entire head, preventing the florets from producing chlorophyll. The resulting white “curds” are a tasty veggie on their own, but they’re also quite adaptable. In recent years chefs and recipe developers have gotten incredibly creative with cauliflower, playing with the texture and using it as a low carb alternative to starchy sides like potatoes, rice and couscous. From soups to salads to gratins, roasted or pickled, cauliflower is a wonder. College education or not, it is certainly one of the most versatile vegetables out there.
Here, inspired by a delicious Cauliflower Pizza Crust recipe I found on my friend Lori’s blog Recipe Girl, I set out to create a summery tomato tart with a cauliflower crust. This recipe is completely grain and gluten free, but it does contain copious amounts of dairy. It’s a cheese-fest, and it’s divine. The cauliflower bakes together with the spice, cheese and egg to create a tasty base for toppings. Though it’s not like a flour crust– the center is a bit soft and slices are best eaten with a fork than by hand– it provides a solid enough foundation for a bevy of Italian-inspired toppings. The flavor is out of this world. Yes, the cheese is an indulgence, but for those watching their carbs it is a terrific substitute for a crusty flour-based tart. If you like, you can use the “crust” as a base for your favorite pizza toppings like my friend Lori did. Enjoy!
If you want to make your pesto homemade, try this recipe: Fresh Basil Pesto
For more cauliflower goodness, see the following recipe ideas:
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- 12 oz. clean cauliflower florets
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp oregano
- 3/4 tsp minced fresh garlic
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup basil pesto - for a homemade recipe, click here
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- A few sprigs of fresh basil
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste (optional)
You will also need
- Food processor, microwave, baking sheet, parchment paper or silpat
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Pulse your cauliflower florets in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbles or couscous (don't over-process to a paste). Alternatively you can hand grate the cauliflower using the fine holes on your grater.
- Place the processed cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high for 7 minutes. No need to add any liquid, the cauliflower will steam itself. While cauliflower is cooking, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Take the cauliflower out and stir it repeatedly to release steam and cool it down, until it is lukewarm (not hot) to the touch.
- To the bowl with the cauliflower, add the mozzarella, egg, oregano, minced fresh garlic, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir the mixture with a fork until well blended.
- Place the cauliflower mixture in a pile in the center of the lined baking sheet. Gently press out the mixture to form a 9-10 inch circle of even thickness, making sure to keep the center as thin as the edges. This is the beginning of your cauliflower "crust."
- Use your fingers to gently press against the outer edge of the crust to form a small edge around the circle.
- Lay both hands flat in the center of the circle and GENTLY press to flatten out the middle, ensuring an even thickness throughout the crust.
- Place the crust into the hot oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet around once halfway through baking, till the crust is golden brown.
- While crust is cooking, slice the tomatoes thin and shred or chiffonade the basil.
- Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Use a spatula to very gently slide the cooked crust off of the parchment paper directly onto a greased baking sheet. Preheat your oven's broiler. Spread out the pesto onto the center surface of the crust to the outer edges. Sprinkle half of the goat cheese evenly across the top of the pesto. Lay the sliced tomatoes on, then sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese across the top. Sprinkle the surface evenly with crushed red pepper flakes.
- Place the tomato tart into the oven under the broiler. Broil for 3-4 minutes until hot and bubbly, keeping an eye on the crust to make sure it doesn't burn (it will get dark brown but shouldn't blacken).
- Remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve sliced warm or at room temperature. Keep in mind that the bottom "crust" of this tart will be slightly soft in the center. Slices are best eaten with a fork and knife.