Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Couple of Vegan Pizzas

We were up in Maine visiting with my mother-in-law for Memorial Day weekend and decided to do a little pizza party on Saturday, which was pretty perfect for a rather cold and wet couple of days. We've done this sort of thing several times (though afterwards we always comment about how we should be doing it more), and the basic idea is to make Peter Reinhart's cold ferment pizza dough in advance... at least the night before but it can be several days prior... and then on the day of prep your pizza toppings during the 2 hours where the dough is warming up and proofing.

The Reinhart dough recipe results in enough for 6 (somewhat small) pizzas, but we generally only try to think up 3 ideas and do them twice to keep the ingredient prep from being too insane. Since the MIL is vegan our pizzas thus had to be too, and beyond a fairly typical mushroom pizza I thought we came up with two vegan pizzas that were worth saving:

White Bean and Roasted Tomato Pizza

This white bean and roasted tomato pizza is inspired by one of my favorite pizzas at a local place. I don't know that I got it 100% right, but we came reasonably close. The key to me is for the beans not to just be a puree, but to still have some whole beans in there, which we didn't fully achieve. Next time I will reserve one can of drained white beans essentially as a garnish. Otherwise it's a can of beans in a saucepan with some veggie broth (1/3 of a cup?), fresh herbs (like rosemary, sage, etc), and roasted garlic... smash them up a bit with a wooden spoon or immersion blender... and simmer for about 10 minutes until it gets thick.

The perfect tomatoes for this kind of pizza would be the slow roasted kind but we didn't have any on hand so I needed to improvise. I seeded a few roma tomatoes and cut them into wedges, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with fresh herbs (sage and rosemary once again), and put them in a 450 degree F oven until they started to caramelize (20-25 minutes).

The final... and critically important... aspect of this pizza is some crushed red pepper. I mean, I guess it's fine without if you don't do spice, but personally I think that element of heat really elevates this pizza to another level.

Fiddlehead and Carmelized Onion Pizza

Our final choice was a fiddlehead and carmelized onion pizza for a bit more of a springtime feel, despite the gloomy weather. I had actually never had fiddleheads before... seen them plenty around this time of year, but never really knew what to do with them. Apparently there have been some issues with foodborne illness linked to un/undercooked fiddleheads, so we blanched them for 5 minutes but otherwise just seasoned them with salt to prep them as a topping. They're not super exciting on their own... Anna described the flavor as "green"... but they work quite well in this pizza.

We caramelized onions and roasted some garlic to go on with the fiddleheads, and while I'm not usually a fan of "cheese" products Daiya is pretty decent, actually melts, and the vegans I know seem to enjoy it. Personally I would skip it since I remember what real cheese tastes like, but it's probably no worse than supermarket shredded mozzarella.

All in all a pretty successful pizza making experience. Our only misstep was that I didn't put enough corn meal on the pizza peel for our first effort and ended up needing to roll it into a calzone to get it off. So I guess I will leave you with that final tip: don't skimp on the corn meal/semolina! It's better to wast corn meal than a pizza.

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