Veggie Lover’s Pizza with a Crispy Thin Crust and Homemade Sauce

crispy-pizza

In my opinion, no matter what your favorite pizza toppings are, the crust and the sauce will always be a crucial common denominator. The sauce should be made, at least in part, with fresh tomatoes, with plenty of garlic and herbs. The dough should be thin, crispy, and yet tender. (Sorry we are not taking any counter-arguments against these two rules for PROPER pizza at this time, you gluttonous deep-dish freaks.)

After a lot of experimentation, and many hits and misses, I was so pleased by how these turned out. And especially pleased that they were created without the need for special equipment like the stand mixer or a pizza stone. I used a 12″ oven-safe cast iron pan. As for toppings, I’m sure that is something you’ll want to personalize, as you can see from the photos, I made EVERYTHING pizzas. This included mushrooms, eggplants, kabocha squash, olives, peppers, corn, jalapeños, tomatoes, and fresh basil. If you are looking for ideas, here are some other combos I really like:

  • sliced shallots, sage, and thinly sliced mushrooms tossed in balsamic and black pepper
  • BBQ sauce, cilantro, roasted sweet potato, and red onions
  • Pesto and sliced tomatoes
  • jalapeño, caramelized onions and pineapple

Also pictured here, I used my cashew alfredo sauce and dropped blobs of it over the sauce, then spread them out a bit with the back of a spoon. It does add a little creaminess but I think the pizza is just as good without it!

Homemade Veggie Lover’s Pizza

Makes two 12″ pizzas

sauce*: 

4 big ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

5 sprigs basil

5 sprigs oregano

5 sprigs Italian parsley

some fresh ground pepper

You can always go the traditional route of dropping your tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes and then plunging them into ice water to remove the peel. However, I prefer a different method. Chop each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds. Then, holding a cheese grater over a medium sized sauce pan, simply grate the pulp of the tomato right into, the pan, using it’s skin to protect your fingers until there is no pulp left. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes and by the end you have a tidy little pile of perfectly shredded tomato in your pan. Turn the heat on to medium and add the tomato paste, shallot, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.

During this time is a great opportunity to chop or prepare any toppings you may want to use and have them standing by.

*Note, this sauce recipe makes enough sauce for 4 pizzas, if I’m going to the trouble of making sauce from scratch, I like to make extra to use for pasta, lasagnas, whatever you might want it for the rest of the week! If you want to cut the recipe in half, just make sure to use a smaller sauce pan so it doesn’t burn from too much surface area.

Pizza Dough

1 package rapid rise yeast

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

2 tsp sugar

2.5 cups of flour, plus one more cup for rolling

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1/2 cup for drizzling and oiling the pan

1/4 cup corn meal

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put your 10″-12″ cast iron pan that you plan to use into the oven as it heats. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar, and set aside for about 10 minutes to foam up. After ten minutes stir in the 2.5 cups of flour, salt, and 1/3 cup olive oil. Stir with a big spoon or fork until really well combined and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your work surface, knead the dough until it becomes smooth and doesn’t stick to your fingers as easily, adding more flour as needed. Just a couple of minutes. Using your fingers, start to press the dough into a disc shape.

This is basically what I considered war with my dough, it took forever to get right and only my fingers seemed to do the trick, not a rolling pin. Once it finally starts to obey and lay flat to approximately 10″-12″, carefully pull the cast iron pan out of the oven and drizzle it with some oil. Sprinkle the cornmeal over that. From here you should try to work relatively fast and try to get it into the oven as quickly as possible. Ever-so-carefully, lift your dough up and plop it into the pan, gently pressing it into place so that it retains it’s shape. Some have suggested folding it in half, then in half again, then unfolding it in the pan. I have found that to be a disaster. So just gently slide your hands under it and lay it down gingerly, like an expensive beaded dress.

From here, the crispiness is achieved by lightly drizzling olive oil around the edges of the crust and using the back of a spoon to gently smear it all over. You by no means have to use this much oil, it just depends on a waistline:crispiness internal dialogue that only you can have with yourself!

After that, spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the dough and use a spoon to spread it evenly and thinly. Arrange your toppings on top of the sauce and then pop the pan in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye for that perfect golden color on the edges.

When you pull it out of the oven, use a spatula to lift and slide the whole pizza onto a big plate. Wait a minute or two to cool then slice and enjoy!!!!

crispy-edge-pizza

pizza

Before going in the oven

pizza-party

Porcini Mushroom and Farro Stuffed Honeynut Squashes with Toasted Hazelnuts

honeynut-squash

A little Thanksgiving inspiration for you! I found these honeynut squashes at the store, they are like mini butternuts! They fit in the palm of your hand, the perfect size for a side dish. Add something unexpected, colorful, and delightful to your thanksgiving spread this year. They were pretty quick and easy to throw together.

Porcini Mushroom and Farro Stuffed Honeynut Squashes with Toasted Hazelnuts

Makes 6 servings

3 honey nut squashes (you could also just use one big butternut)

1 tbs olive oil

a couple tablespoons of brown sugar

a dash of cinnamon

a dash of salt

2.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 cups farro

3 cups of vegetable broth

1 tbs olive oil

6 cloves of garlic

a few sprigs of parsley

5 big sage leaves

a few sprigs of thyme

a sprig of rosemary

1.5 tbs vegan butter (optional)

1/4 cup white wine

salt and pepper to taste

1 handful of hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squashes in half lengthwise and scrape out the stringy seeds. Place them cut side up on a baking pan and rub all over with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and salt. Sprinkle on a small dash of cinnamon. Bake until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Soak the mushrooms in a bowl of hot water until softened.

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a medium pot. Add the farro and cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain any excess broth away.

Chop the garlic and herbs and mushrooms finely. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan and sauté the mushrooms for a couple minutes, then add the garlic, herbs, and butter. Sauté for a few minutes until the moisture is gone things start to stick to the pan. Then add the white wine and stir it in, scraping the bottom as you go, and cook another minute or two.

When the squashes are done, pull them out and scoop some of the farro mixture into each one. Spread the chopped hazelnuts on a baking pan and pop them in the oven for a few minutes to toast. Keep a close eye because they can burn quickly. Then top the stuffed squashes with the nuts. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Tapenade Toasts

Mushroom Tapenade Toasts

In the mood for something savory? These flavorful little appetizers are rich and intense, with lots of herbs and umami flavors. Serve them as tapas, hors d’oeuvres, or even have them as a brunch item like I did. There is something about the combination of mushroom, olive, and rosemary that is so delightful. You don’t have to serve these open face either, make a whole sandwich and then press it with a panini press for a deliciously crispy sandwich.

Mushroom Tapenade Toasts

Serves 2

2 tbs first cold pressed olive oil

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, finely chopped

12 pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped

8 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 tsp fresh thyme, minced

2 fresh sage leaves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup white wine

8 slices crusty bread (I used Kalamata olive bread)

1/2 cup tahini (you can also use hummus if you prefer!)

white truffle oil for drizzling

 

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the mushrooms and olives, stir them around to coat then let them cook for a couple minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, herbs and spices. continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes, or till all moisture has evaporated, being careful not to burn the garlic. Pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze and scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir it in. Continue to cook until the wine is evaporated. Toast the bread either in a toaster or on a hot grill and spread a dollop if tahini on each piece. Then top each piece of toast with a scoop of the mushroom-olive mixture, then drizzle with the white truffle oil.

Truly decadent little morsels!

 

Mushroom Tapenade Tapas