Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quinoa Pizza Crust

I've always loved pizza. Pizza for sleepovers. Pizza for end-of-season elementary school basketball team parties. Pizza nearly every night in college (remember someone knocking on doors around 11 or 12 trying to get together enough people to buy pizza at $1/slice?).

I grew up on Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's, usually on Friday nights. Those days, after my ballet lessons, we'd pick up a pizza and eat the breadsticks on the car ride home. That pizza was always much more edible hot than the day after. I remember discovering "gourmet" wood oven pizzas in high school with "exotic" toppings, like BBQ chicken, and the idea that everyone could order their own.

When I moved to Vermont, I discovered American Flatbread. My favorite was the Punctuated Equilibrium, a combo of red sauce, mozzarella, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and local goat cheese. When I was in graduate school, the Science Teacher and I had weekly date nights at Flatbread after my late seminar. We'd order pizza--half with sausage half without--split a salad of local greens and talk about Slavoj Zizek. Then came my diagnosis...

The first gluten-free bread I made post-diagnosis was a pizza crust. As bummed as I was never to eat another Moonshadow (red sauce, mozzarella, feta, artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red peppers, and walnuts) at Positive Pie, I was comforted to know I didn't have to give up pizza altogether. I've tweaked the first recipe I ever tried here and there, subbing quinoa flour for some of the brown rice flour and starch, but having found a recipe that worked, I didn't really experiment with other recipes.

Until this week. We had plans for dinner and Euchre with friends on Friday. Our friend asked the Science Teacher whether we could order pizza. "Great," the Science Teacher said, "except Kara won't be able to eat it. How about we'll bring the crust and you supply the toppings?" I was feeling a little experimental so I looked through some cookbooks for inspiration. I ended up perusing Jane Brody's Good Food Book. She's a science writer for The New York Times, and her cookbooks all revolve around the premise that whole grains are good for you and sugar/refined grains aren't. She's also the anti-Atkins--you should read her praising the nutritional qualities of the potato. The Good Food Book also is half nutritional information, making it a great cookbook for people who love to read about the food you're eating. I've been cooking and eating from her cookbooks since I was a kid.

She gives a recipe for a brown rice pizza crust. Not brown rice flour, the whole grain, mixed with mozzarella. I thought it sounded somewhat strange, but I'm used to weird ingredients turning into phenomenally tasty food (my chickpea brownies come to mind) by now. I googled the recipe to see whether others had tried it and came up with a few hits describing a similar-sounding crust in Veganomicon. In fact, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen just used a brown-rice crust in a quiche. Sounded promising.

Here's the two mini-pizzas from brown rice I made for lunch to try out the recipe. I mixed shredded mozzarella into one crust and a parmesan/nutritional yeast combo into the other. I liked the parm/nutritional yeast crust though the Science Teacher thought the mozzarella crust had a better texture. Neither particularly tasted ricey, which I found surprising. The crust was also solid with a nice crunch--you could pick it up without fear of disintegration. I made a rice crust and a "regular" crust for our Euchre night--both were a hit (well, at least they were all eaten)!

Last night, when we were having a take-out food night (a very rare occasion in our house) with friends, I decided to make myself a quinoa crust using the same technique instead of ordering out. If you're new to quinoa, definitely give it a try. It has a ton of protein, a nutty flavor, and a consistency similar to that of couscous--and it cooks up in about 15 min.

I liked the quinoa crust as much as the rice version though it took a bit more egg to make the grains stick together. The crust was crunchy with no detectable sogginess and substantial--I could pick it up and eat it. I topped my pizza with red sauce, mozzarella, feta, walnuts, chicken sausage, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut. Yum!

Quinoa Pizza Crust
This recipe could easily work with any whole grain. If the grain is sufficiently glutinous (i.e. a sticker rice), I think you could omit the eggs (and cheese) for a vegan crust.

2 1/2-3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup raw quinoa--I like to toast my quinoa before adding water)
1 whole egg plus 1 white
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup parmasan
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast.
(or try a 1 cup of shredded mozzarella instead of the parm/nutritional yeast combo)

Preheat the oven to 450. Mix all of the ingredients into the quinoa thoroughly. Oil a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Press the quinoa into a pizza-like shape on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 min. Create your dream pizza--don't forget the walnuts--and bake for about more 10 min.


Sheltie Girl said...

I looked at those same pizza crusts, and this is a wonderful take on doing a grain crust. I bet the crust tasted wonderful, as quinoa has such a lovely flavor.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

Karen said...

Wow, way to be creative! Your end result looked pretty tasty.


Tracy said...

That looks like a great recipe. I was diagnosed not long ago too. Pizza was my fav. food! I am lazy and hate cooking in the evenings... so, I have also tried Gluten Free Kneads' Ancient Grain Pizza? It is really good and comes frozen. You just decorate and eat. :)

Sarah Schatz - menu planners for people with restrictred diets said...

I love this idea. I am trying to eat more whole grains and grain-free "grains" like quinoa more. I can't eat cheese so I would try using almond cheese maybe to substitute. It reminds me of quinoa pancakes I made recently with cooked quinoa and eggs. They were tasty and settled in my stomach easier than most pancakes.