Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

For me, cooking is more than a chore or the means to produce something yummy to eat - it's a creative expression. Food is art, and not just for experienced restaurant chefs. Combining and layering different flavors, creating new dishes, and reinventing old are all expressions of creativity for the home cook as well. And for me, someone who has zero artistic skill, it's my main creative outlet.

It's well established that art affects the brain in positive ways. It improves memory, resilience and mood. Children who engage in arts have been shown to do better in school and have better social skills. So maybe that finger painting you did in preschool did more than decorate the side of the refrigerator!

Although the research has been done for more typical forms of art, like music, art and dance, I'd argue cooking would demonstrate similar results. Really, it's such a similar mental process. What great about cooking is that it's a much more approachable form of art to most people. Most people would be terrified of the prospect of taking a dance class or picking up a new instrument. But going to the kitchen with a new recipe, while scary for some, is certainly doable for most.

I once read the average family has only seven recipes they recycle each week. This makes me sad. I know many people don't get the same kick out of trying new things as I do, but I won't accept it.

When I try to get clients to step out of the box, we usually start by remaking a favorite dish. They're excited to create something they love in a healthier, but equally satisfying way. From tofu burgers to lentil meatballs to avocado fudgesicles, it's something I do in my own kitchen as well.

This pizza is a perfect example. With a crust made from soaked quinoa and millet blended with water, it couldn't be further from a traditional yeast and wheat dough...yet it tastes so familiar! I expected it to taste pancake-like, but the crust is thin and crispy around the edges with a tender middle. The grains start to ferment and even sprout a bit, which adds a complex flavor similar to yeast fermented dough. Plus, nutritionally it has it's benefits as well!

Gluten free pizza crust can be a bit of an anomaly, and this is way better than any of the incarnations I've tried. If you're on a gluten free diet, this may be your new favorite pizza.

Millet and Quinoa Crust Pizza with Pesto, Spinach and Grilled Squash

Serves 2-4
Adapted from The First Mess

This crust could be made with all quinoa or all millet if you like. I bet you could also use soaked chickpeas, for a crust even more reminiscent of socca. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out in the comments!

3/4 cup quinoa, soaked 24 hours in water
3/4 cup millet, soaked 24 hours in water
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lightly packed basil

Heaping 1/4 cup pesto (I used kale pesto)
1 summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2-in slices
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch small leeks, trimmed, sliced, and rinsed, white and light green parts only
1 bunch spinach
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Fresh basil to garnish

First, prepare the toppings. Heat a grill to medium-high. Spray the squash with olive oil spray and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 5 minutes per side until lightly charred and tender.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add leeks and saute 2-3 minutes until tender. Add spinach and red pepper flakes and cook until wilted. Season lightly with salt and set aside in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse grains in a fine-mesh sieve then scrape into food processor. Add water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Blend until you get a thick, pancake batter-like consistency. Add basil and another 2-4 tablespoons water if needed to thin (I added another 3 tablespoons water).

Put two (preferably nonstick) cake pans in the oven for 4 minutes to heat. Remove from oven and divide remaining tablespoon of olive oil between the two pans. Place back in the oven to heat the oil 2 minutes, without letting it hit it's smoke point. Remove from oven and divide the batter between the two pans, quickly spreading it even with a spatula. Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully flip the crust, and return to oven to bake another 6-8 minutes. Remove crusts from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle, spread pesto evenly on the crust. Top with spinach, squash, feta cheese. Place back in the oven to reheat the ingredients, for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.


  1. Holy moly this looks INCREDIBLE! And I love how you feel about cooking - I'm the same way. It's a way to express your creative side without having to be a talented artist {of which I am most definitely not} ;)

    1. Thanks Meme! Glad to hear there are other creative non-artists out there!

  2. This looks so good! I need to delve into this homemade-pizza-making awesomeness. I love how you made the crust out of quinoa! :O Pinning for future kitchen experimenting! ;]

    1. Yes you do! Homemade pizza is so fun! Way better than frozen/takeout. Enjoy!

  3. This looks delicious, and I love your cooking philosophy! Yum!

  4. This is just TOO good. Can you believe I've never cooked with millet?! CRAZYYY!!!