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Week 12: Il Diavolo

He that is afraid of the devil does not grow rich.

– Italian Proverb

Baked Il Diavolo pizza with garlic, tomatoes, vegan mozzarella, and spices
Il Diavolo vegan pizza

We love spicy food. I also read that during cold and flu season it’s good to eat spicy things. Perfect! We decided to make a vegan version of Il Diavolo this week and spice it up! Il Diavolo is the Devil’s pizza, meaning it is hot as heck and has layers of spicy flavors.

Many pizzerias offer versions of Il Diavolo or Fra Diavolo pizzas. But when it came time to nail down a recipe, we found very few. I looked through our stack of pizza cookbooks and read the recipes I found online, looking for consistency in the ingredients. We came up with our own version and it was one of our favorite pizzas so far. Simple, spicy, and with enough garlic to scare the Devil away.

ingredients for the Il Diavolo pizza, garlic, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, red peppers, and spicy pizza sauce
Pizza toppings including fresh and sundried tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper

Garlic, vine ripened tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and spicy pizza sauce, what’s not to like? We like it all, and lots of it!

For this dough, we used an adaptation of this recipe that comes together in as little as 20 minutes.

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm to hot water (about 110°)
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-2.5 cups bread flour or all purpose flour

Instructions

  • Mix yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl. Let stand for 3 minutes, until the yeast begins to bloom.
  • Add olive oil to the mixture.
  • Stir in 1 cup of flour, stir with the end side of a wooden spoon or use your hands to bring the dough together.
  • Add the salt and 1 more cup of flour.
  • Optional: add 1 teaspoon of dried basil or oregano or other herbs and spices. For this recipe, we used oregano.
  • Take a look at your dough. You want it to be a little sticky to the touch. If it feels too dry, add a splash of water or olive oil and knead to work the liquid into the dough.
  • Cover with a tea towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. If you have an hour to let it rest, great, the dough will develop more flavor.
  • Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Use semolina if you have it. If not, the bread flour or all purpose flour you used for the dough works fine too.
  • Turn the dough out from the bowl and onto the surface, flip it once so that both sides are dusted with flour.
  • Roll it out with a rolling pin or stretch it with your fingers to get the shape you want (not all crusts need to be round).
shaping the dough
Stretching out the pizza dough

Our goal for this pizza was to generate some heat. Some recipes rely on spicy pepperoni to do the job, but for a vegan pizza that won’t work. Instead, we built layers of heat, starting with a store bought spicy pizza sauce. Diavolo pizzas typically feature peppers of varying heat intensity. We bought roasted red peppers for this purpose but decided against using them. For us, it was a good choice. We loved this pizza as created. Of course you can add slices of habanero or jalapeno or any peppers your heart desires.

crushing garlic over the pizza base
Crushed garlic makes a pizza taste good

Layering

To start, brush olive oil around the edges of the pizza using a pastry brush. Crush a few garlic cloves onto the dough base. Spoon about 1/2 a cup of pizza sauce onto your pizza and spread it out, leaving 1/4 inch crust all around.

Slice 2 medium tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt, and layer them on the pizza. Using kitchen shears or a knife, cut 2-3 sun dried tomatoes into small bits and toss them around the pizza. Sprinkle some red pepper flakes on the pizza. At this point, your pizza will have a fiery, red, Devilish look.

Il Diavolo pizza, ripe and red
Preparing the Il Diavolo pizza

Slice 2 cloves of garlic as thin as you can and place them around your pizza. If you have the time (an extra 15 minutes), toast your garlic in a frying pan before adding them to the pizza. They will add a little crunch and a richer flavor.

Il Diavolo pizza, almost ready to go in the oven
Add slices of garlic for deeper flavor

Your deep red pizza is now starting to look white. Add a handful of a good quality shredded vegan mozzarella. We love Violife. It’s made of cashews and coconut oil and it tastes and melts like cheese.

Bake for 13-5 minutes in 500°F oven. Slice and enjoy!

“You can’t make everyone happy. You’re not cheese.”

– Anonymous

blue plate of spicy Il Diavolo pizza
Il Diavolo pizza, baked to perfection

If you make this recipe or have your own version of Il Diavolo, let us know.

Week 11: Freshness

Freshness is essential. That makes all the difference.

~ Julia Child
Kale pesto pizza with butternut squash, mozzarella, and red onions

All Hail Kale!

We skipped over this recipe several times, thinking kale pesto sounded like basil pesto’s less popular cousin. But, we walked by a big bunch of fresh kale at eye level in the grocery store, calling our names. We put it in our cart, intending to “do something” with it during the week. That something turned into kale pesto on pizza. It was surprisingly delicious, with an earthy flavor.

Kale is a Nutritional Powerhouse

You probably know this, and it warrants repeating. Kale is a superfood. One cup of raw kale has 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, and just 33 calories. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s also a food I prefer to disguise in other things like smoothies or rice bowls, or this delicious kale pesto.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of raw kale
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic depending on your preference
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of raw nuts- you can use pine nuts or almonds. We used walnuts toasted for 5 minutes on a sheet pan in a hot oven.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  • Tear the kale off the stems, discard the stems, rinse the kale, either pat it dry or if you have a salad spinner, spin away! Massage the kale for a few minutes to help break down the tough cell structure of the plant. People say this leads to easier digestibility and a better taste.
  • Pulse the nuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the kale and pulse a few more times.
  • Add the lemon juice, salt & pepper. Pulse again.
  • While the blade is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape the sides of the food processor and pulse again. If you prefer a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.
Making the pizza, kale pesto with butternut squash and red onions

We had extra pesto that we stored in the fridge and used a day or two later. You can also make it ahead for quicker pizza assembly.

The Big Green Monster

Kale pesto is the star of this pizza show and for good reason. It’s enough on its own. One of our self-imposed rules for this year of pizza making is that we actually make a pizza each week. Flatbread, breadsticks, and garlic knots don’t cut it, even though all of those bread based items are super yummy. This is about pizza and pizza has toppings.

I was intrigued by recipes that use butternut squash. We happened to have some butternut squash cubes in our freezer. Word of warning, my friend, butternut squash may freeze well enough for soups, but that’s about it. I un-froze small batches by boiling, baking, and pan frying it. The results were the same each time- the texture was mushy.

As Bay Area residents, we are under a mandatory “shelter in place” order due to Coronavirus, so we are making due with what we already have in our kitchen. Next time we’ll make this pizza with fresh butternut squash and use the extra to make this soup.

Despite the mushy squash, my partner commented that this is one of his favorites so far this year (and we’ve had a LOT of pizza!). I like that this recipe showed me a new way to sneak some kale into my cooking. Next time I’d try the pesto with 1/2 kale and 1/2 basil. That makes for a more expensive recipe, but basil freezes well for later use.

Unbaked kale pesto pizza

Putting it All Together

Crust

We made this dough from Bobby Flay, using bread dough, which has a higher protein content than all purpose flour. This recipe is for 2 pizzas, so we halved the recipe. You can use any dough you like, including store bought. There’s no shame in making things easier for yourself and store bought dough is cheap, with an elastic texture and consistent quality. I’d recommend trying a pre-made corn crust with this recipe to complement the earthy kale taste and the delicate squash.

Toppings

Slather on a generous amount of pesto, leaving a 1/4 inch rim around the edge of the pizza. We topped it with slices of red onion and garlic, sautéed in a glug of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. A dash of of salt & pepper and red pepper flakes are great additions and flavor enhancers. You can add them to the sauté or sprinkle over the pizza before baking.

Baking

The longer you bake a pizza the more moisture the dough loses. This is why in Naples piazzaiolos heat their ovens to 900° F and bake your pizza for only 90 seconds.

At home, the best you can do is heat your oven as high as it goes, typically 500° F, for about 45 minutes before you plan to use it. Having a pizza stone or pizza steel makes a big difference and allows you to achieve a more evenly heated crust. We were all set to buy one when the Coronavirus hit and changed our priorities quite a bit. For now, it’s on our wish list.

Bake this pizza for 12-15 minutes in a 500° oven. Let it cool before slicing and serving.

Wishing you and everyone you love much tenderness and love during this tough time.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish blessing:

“May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door, and happiness be with you now and bless you evermore!”

If you make this or any of our pizzas, let us know. Got a recipe to share? @52veganpizzas

Week 10: Zest

In bad times and in good, I’ve never lost my sense of zest for pizza.

~ Walt Disney (roughly transcribed)
zesty pizza with basil pesto, artichokes, Kalamata olives, mozzarella cheese, peppers, garlic, and onions

Hallelujah, Basil is in Season

We thought we would have to wait a few more weeks for basil to be in season. But we found a big container of fresh, emerald green basil nestled in a corner at Whole Foods, between bagged lettuce and boxed zucchini noodles. Hallelujah! We knew we had to scrap our earlier plan and make a pesto pizza.

Baking tray with two zesty pizzas primed for the oven
Two zesty pizzas primed for the oven

Zesty Pesto

One of the guidelines we set for ourselves in this year of making a pizza a week was not to make more than 2 pizzas from one source. This week we broke that rule because we were excited to try the zesty pesto recipe from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza book.

We’ve made several of her other pizzas and so far hers is the only book on vegan pizza that we’ve been able to find. If you know of any others, please let us know. We did add our own twist and toppings.

fresh basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor
Fresh basil and garlic

Ingredients

4 oz. fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry with a paper towel or spun in a salad spinner
1/3 cup raw walnuts (you can also use pine nuts, pecans, or mac nuts)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, nuts, garlic, nut yeast, and salt. Pulse to combine. Drizzle the oil in through the top of the food processor. Process until smooth.

You can make the pesto ahead and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. This recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. (We made 1 medium and 1 small pizza. I ate the rest of the pesto smeared on a toasted whole wheat tortilla for lunch the next day and it was delicious.)

Putting it All Together

This is a simple pizza to assemble. You can use any veggies you have on hand. We went for a Mediterranean taste with:

Kalamata olives, sliced in half. We found this to be the perfect bite size for these taste zingers.
Peppers, about 1/3 a large pepper, diced small
Artichoke hearts. We used some Spanish artichoke hearts that were stored in oil and herbs along with some quartered artichoke hearts from a can.
Onions, Garlic, Salt and Pepper In our opinion, these 4 ingredients belong on every pizza.

Unlike in previous weeks, we did not sauté the veggies before baking the pizzas. When we make this pizza again (and we are excited to do so because the pesto was so good), I would sauté the onion, garlic, salt and pepper in olive or avocado oil for about 5 minutes before baking. It’s not a necessity, most pizza places don’t cook their veggies before baking, but I think it brings out the flavor a bit more and it’s not a lot of extra effort.

To Cheese or Not to Cheese?

After years (a decade maybe?) of not eating cheese because there weren’t any decent vegan cheeses, I now love two brands of vegan cheese. Miyoko and Violife both make excellent mozzarella cheeses that melt well and still retain their taste and texture. I think adding a layer of mozzarella to this pizza gave it a creamy taste that balanced the sharpness of the artichokes and olives.

Pesto pizza on spelt dough with vegan mozzarella
Spelt crust pizza with basil pesto and vegan mozzarella

The Bake

Most home ovens in America have a max temperature of 500° F. It takes about 45 minutes to reach this hot of a temperature. That’s about how long it takes to make the pesto, chop the veggies, roll out the dough, and assemble the pizza- give or take 15 minutes. We aim for recipes that take around 30 minutes, including clean up.

We used a spelt crust for this pizza. Next time we’d use a white flour dough. By request, and you know who you are, we are experimenting with gluten-free crusts. Many have a long list of ingredients like xanthan gum and tapioca starch. We’ve never used these ingredients before so we want to get the recipe right before sharing it.

If you make this pizza, or some variation of pesto pizza, let us know.

Note: this pizza pairs especially well with King Rabbit Malbec, which was only $9 at Whole Foods. Bon appetit.

Week 9: Quattro

The four seasons come and go, and all pizzas thrive and grow.

~ Confucius (translation disputed)
Four Seasons Vegan Pizza

Honoring the Change of Seasons

Spring is in the air. To honor the changing of the seasons, we decided to make a vegan version of Pizza Quattro Stagioni. Four seasons pizza is popular in Italy and for good reason. Traditionally you split the pie with one person. Each person gets half of each quarter, topped with different ingredients representing the four seasons. It’s like having four pizzas in one, which we think is brilliant.

Representing the Four Seasons as Toppings

This is an easy recipe to make vegan. Traditionally the four seasons are artichokes (spring), tomatoes and basil (summer), mushrooms (fall), and olives (winter). Many Italians add ham to their fall quarter and prosciutto to their olives in winter. We debated using faux meats as substitutes, but decided to let the beauty and flavors of the vegetables stand on their own.

One thing we have learned in making our own pizza is that you need only a small amount of each topping ingredient to cover your pie. For example, we only needed 1/2 a tomato, 1/2 a small can of sliced olives, 1/4 of a medium sized onion, 2 mushrooms, and 3 cloves of garlic (we like a LOT of garlic!). Since we are using such small amounts, we try to buy the best quality ingredients we can afford, organic if possible.

Spring

Before our pizza making adventure began, neither of us could remember when we had last eaten an artichoke. My mom steamed them for me as a child and served them with a side of melted butter and salt. They were one of the only veggies I asked for as a child, but as an adult making them seemed like work.

We live in California, not far from the central coast, where good things like artichokes and garlic are grown in such abundance that whole towns smell like savory home cooking. I’m embarrassed to say that despite the abundance of fresh artichokes in season right now, we opted for store bought. To make cooking prep easier, we used quartered artichokes stored in oil and herbs imported from Spain. The spring artichoke section of the pizza was my favorite.

Below are some photos from Monterey, not far from Gilroy, the garlic capital of the USA.

Summer

When we were in Italy we loved munching on a simple Neapolitan style marinara pizza, wood fired in a brick oven and topped with the freshest tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and a few fresh basil leaves. We wanted to start this blog on day 1 by recreating this classic recipe. We looked for basil in our favorite supermarkets and they either didn’t have it or it looked wilted and sad. In today’s world, it’s tempting to forget that produce and herbs are seasonal and that good things come to those who wait.

I was listening to this podcast by A Couple Cooks and Alex said not to build a recipe around basil in February because it’s out of season. Oops!

Since basil is not available right now, we decided to spruce up the summer section with some slices of sundried tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. To give the whole pizza a unified taste, we used a simple base sauce– a few tablespoons of jarred organic tomato paste, thinned with water, with a dash of salt, dried sweet basil, and dried oregano. We also used some hand-torn globs of Mikoyo’s Mozzarella Cheese. If you are lucky enough to have this brand in your grocer’s fridge, I highly recommend her products. She doesn’t use any fillers and the taste and texture is far superior to dairy-based cheese.

Fall

Mushrooms are a fat-free, low-sodium, low calorie wonder food packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Still, my partner and I both have some mushroom aversions. Over the past decade they have become an increasingly popular meat substitute, used in burgers, stir fries, and just about any dish that would otherwise call for animal protein. Having had some really bad portobello mushroom burgers in the past, I mostly avoided them. Happily this pizza journey has brought them back into our kitchen.

For this recipe, we sauteed them along with diced onions and garlic and a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. The result was delicious, my second favorite pizza season.

An abundance of seasonal veggies ready to be chopped

Winter

Olive trees have been cultivated in the Mediterranean for 7,000 years. Sadly, due to climate change, Italy’s olive groves suffered a 57% decrease in production in 2019. California crops were cut in half in 2018 due to early frost, which because of climate change may become the new normal. Olive oil prices have risen the last few years and artisanal olive oil now sells for upwards of $50.

Pizza purists would balk at the idea of using canned black olives. But they are less expensive than other varieties and they remind me of the pizza of my youth, when I roller skated to USA Pizza at the mall after watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. To give the canned olives a tastier companion, we added a few sliced Kalamata olives. If I re-made this recipe, I would splurge on only high quality olives. Lesson learned.

The Dough

We used this recipe for 15 minute pizza dough from Life as a Strawberry. It’s my go-to, never fail dough recipe. I made it a day in advance, let the dough sit at room temp for 3 hours, and then put it in the fridge, covered overnight. It’s best to let dough come to room temperature for 1-3 hours before using it, but we only had 30 min and it was fine.

The Taste Test

We liked the novelty of this pizza. My favorite seasons were spring, fall, summer, winter. My honey liked the seasons in order, beginning with the summer tomato section. We’d definitely make this style pizza again, aiming for summer, when basil is in season.

Note: this pizza pairs especially well with two glasses of Chianti. Buon Appetito.

Week 8: Experimental

You just want to try a bunch of stuff, because you don’t know what’s going to be great.

~ Ira Glass
unbaked Thai veggie pizza with peanut sauce

The Birth of an Idea

In searching for new recipes for our weekly blog, recipes for “Thai Pizza with Peanut Sauce” kept coming up. It sounded odd and I’ve never seen anything like it on a restaurant menu, but knowing we have 52 pizzas to try, we are trying to keep an open mind to new flavor combos. “Thai pizza” popped up on lists of the best vegan pizza recipes in Google searches, on Pinterest boards, and in print cookbooks. It sounded weird, but people were raving about it, oohing and aahing over the combination of spicy peanut sauce and melted vegan mozzarella.

I thought we should try it. My boyfriend was less enthusiastic about the idea of slathering a perfectly good pizza with peanut butter. But… we like Thai food. We like Thailand (gratuitous photos of our trip to Thailand below). So, after some debate, we decided to try it.

Top That

We sauteéd red onion, garlic, red bell pepper, and broccoli (in that order) in avocado oil over medium heat. We let the onions fry for about 3-4 minutes on their own, followed by garlic taking center stage for 30-45 seconds. Mix in the red bell pepper and broccoli, stirring frequently. The entire mix takes about 8-10 minutes to cook. The veggies are going in the oven so they don’t have to be thoroughly heated.

Peanut Sauce – Spoiler Alert, Not Recommended (at least not for pizza)

I adapted a recipe from Grilled Pizza the Right Way. It’s similar to a sauce often I use for noodles, though mine omits the hoisin sauce (brown sugar is the first ingredient) and adds fresh garlic and a small amount of water.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tbsp coconut aminos
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
1 tsp grated fresh (or jarred) ginger

Why would anyone put peanut butter on pizza?

Up to this point, you’ve got a spicy, sweet peanut sauce for noodles, rice, or quinoa. The pizza base is just another carb if you look at it that way. As I was making the sauce, though, I started to get skeptical. Especially when the recipe called for 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

One teaspoon is a LOT of salt. I added a little more than half a teaspoon and quickly learned cooking lesson number 1always taste your sauce before seasoning it.

The sauce was so overwhelmingly salty that we debated throwing it out, but decided instead to try and salvage it. I used 1/2 cup of the sauce above and whisked it with about 1/3 cup of peanut butter. We hoped what others said would be true and that the flavor combo of spicy peanut butter and mozzarella would work well with the veggies.

I used this recipe from Bobby Flay to make dough with bread flour, which has more protein than all purpose flour. It needs to rise for at least 1 hour. (I let it go for 2 and it started ballooning up around the glass bowl it was rising in. I let it rest in the fridge for a few hours, taking it out about 45 minutes before I wanted to use it. It rolled out easily. Go Bobby! I’ll definitely try this crust recipe again.

We were a little reluctant to put the sauce on the pizza, but Bobby’s recipe made enough dough for a back up pizza, should we have needed it.

Assembly

Use a generous two handfuls of vegan mozzarella cheese followed by the veggie mix. Bake on baking sheet or pizza stone in a preheated oven at 450° for 15 minutes or until you smell that your pizza is done.

baked Thai veggie pizza with spicy peanut sauce

The Verdict

We liked the pizza. But we wouldn’t make it again. There are too many amazing flavor combos to remake a pizza that’s just OK, plus peanut butter has a lot of calories and hoisin sauce has a lot of added sugar. I’d rather have a sauce-free pizza and save the extra calories for dessert. The Bobby Flay crust was a winner and the veggie combo was good.

Week 7: Valentino

Romance is thinking about your significant other, when you are supposed to be thinking about pizza.

~ Nicholas Sparks (first draft, later revised)

How lucky that this year Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday. For my partner, it also started a 3-day weekend. To take advantage of the extra day off, we made two pizzas. We planned to make the Valentine’s Pizza in Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza book, but basil is one of the main ingredients of the pesto and it’s out of season. Instead we made a pizza that doesn’t have a catchy name but it was super good, our favorite so far. We call it the spelt crust – no sauce – mozzarella cheese – sauteed zucchini, broccoli, garlic, and onion pizza. Try it. It’s good. If you come up with a catchy name, tell us and we’ll add it.

The Crust — Thinking Ahead

I made the same spelt crust recipe from last week, but this time I made it a day ahead and let the dough rest for 6 hours in a warm room before putting it in the fridge. Letting the dough sit at room temperature for 6 hours allowed the flavors to develop more. We both noticed a richer, sweeter flavor from this batch of dough. Definitely worth planning ahead by a day or two if you can.

Spelt Dough Recipe, adapted from a recipe by Julie Hasson

Makes 1 large or 2 individual thin-crust pizzas

1 1/2 plus 1/8 cups white spelt flour (no nice way to indicate the measurement here, I used 2 scoops of 3/4 cups of flour)
3/4 tea sea salt
1 tea instant yeast
3/4 cups warm water (do not boil it, use from the tap, aim for 110°)
1 tbs. olive or avocado oil
1 tbs. agave syrup

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt, mixing well with a fork.
Sprinkle yeast on top.
Add the warm water, oil, and agave.
Stir with a fork until well combined and no traces of flour remain.
Do not overmix. The dough will be a little bit wet. It’s it’s too wet to handle, you can add a little flour.

Let the dough sit, covered with plastic wrap or in a bowl with a lid and room to expand. The dough needs to sit for at least 2 hours. Three is better. You could go wild and let it sit in a warm room all day. I let mine sit near a sunny window for 6 hours and put in the fridge when I got home from work. I took the dough out of the fridge the next day and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before rolling it out and baking it. There was a noticeably tastier flavor in the batch of dough that sat overnight, so if you can plan ahead, your taste buds will thank you. You can make the dough up to 5 days ahead and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Toppings and all that jazz

By chance I had the good fortune to discover that thinly sliced zucchini, sauteed with garlic and onions, is one of the best toppings I’ve ever had on a pizza. So, for our V night special, I knew zucchini had to play a central role. We decided to forego sauce to let the flavor of the spelt crust and mozzarella join together. We’ve had a similar version with sauce and it was good too.

The spelt crust easily rolled out to a thin, almost flatbread consistency. We topped it with a generous handful of vegan mozzarella and sauteed veggies.

My favorite sauteed veggies

This is my tried and true method of sauteeing veggies for pizza night, noodle night, rice or quinoa night, you name it, this recipe works.

Heat a skillet over medium heat
Add a glug of oil– olive or avocado are my favorites
Add 1/4 to 1/2 of a diced onion, depending on your preference and the size of the onion
Heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion pieces begin to look translucent
Add 2-4 cloves of garlic
Heat for 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly
Thinly slice a zucchini with a vegetable peeler, add to the pan
The zucchini slices will mash together, that’s OK. Use your spoon to seperate them a bit, but don’t worry about it. They will cook fairly evenly in the pan and again in the oven.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, more salt = more flavor; using a pepper mill for fresh ground is always preferred
Add small florets of broccoli, you can also add thin slices of the stalk

Once all the veggies are added, stir for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and top your pizza. Bake in a hot oven between 425°-450° for 14-15 minutes. Share with the one (or ones) you love. ❤ ❤

Week 6: Celebration

Anyone who says that money cannot buy happiness has clearly never spent their money on pizza.

~ Andrew W.K.
Broccoli cheddar pizza two ways

In celebration of National Pizza Day, we wanted to do something special. We both love broccoli on our pizza, so decided to try the broccoli cheese pizza from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza book. This required three recipes- dough, cheddery cashew cheese sauce, and the put-it-all-together recipe for broccoli and cheddar pizza on page 70 of her book.

Starting early in the day (about 9:30 am, early for us for a Sunday) I made the spelt dough so it would have 2.5 hours to rise. This recipe from Julie is identical to her spelt dough one, just use 3 1/4 cup spelt flour instead of 3 cups of white flour. All other measurements are the same.

I halved the recipe and still had enough dough to roll out two crusts.

For the Cheddary Cashew Cheese Sauce I soaked my cashews overnight. If you have a Vitamix you can skip this step. Julie’s recipe calls for:

1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Blend all in a blender until completely smooth. Transfer to a saucepan on medium heat. After about 5 minutes the mix started to get warm. I whisked the mix frequently. It did not start to bubble, but seemed warm enough to be considered a simmer. Turn the heat to low and whisk frequently for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Mine thickened at about the 15 minute mark. I stirred frequently but also had my pan of veggies going at the same time.

For the toppings, we heat a glug of avocado oil in the pan (olive works great too).

Add 1/3 of an onion, stir for 4 minutes
add 2 cloves of garlic, stir for 1 minute
add two handfuls of broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
add a dash of salt and pepper

Let fry, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

After several failed dough attempts, I was pleased that this spelt version was so easy to make and rolled out easily. A pastry chef would hang their head in shame, but I roll it out onto a clean counter, cover it with parchment paper, and peel the paper and dough off together.

We used about 1/2 a cup of the cheese sauce on one crust and sprinkled on a handful of vegan cheese.

Julie’s recipe calls for small chunks of raw broccoli to top the sauce and cheese, with an optional sprinkle of dried red chili flakes. We thought the chili flakes were a great idea. In our experience we like broccoli lightly fried with onions and garlic, so adjusted the recipe.

Version 1 before the bake

Pizza number one is more true to Julie’s recipe. Sauce, cheese, broccoli, dried red chili flakes. It was delicious. The agave nectar in the spelt crust gives it a sweet flavor. The crust was more like flatbread than pizza. Delicious nonetheless.

Version 1 fresh from the oven

Since we had extra ingredients, we decided to make another version of the pizza. We mixed the cheese sauce and veggies together and slathered the mix over a light sprinkling of vegan mozzarella cheese.

Unbaked version 2
Fresh from the oven version 2

Both versions were really good. I got carried away adding cheese sauce to version 2. The dough managed to brown well but the sauce mix in the middle of the pizza was not quite cooked through. We liked version 1 a little better, but I’d take either one. Yum.

Week 5: Fallimento

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 pizzas that won’t work.

~ Thomas Edison (pre-lightbulb obsession)

I was excited to find Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza: 50 Cheesy, Crispy, Healthy Recipes. I had all the ingredients for the spelt dough on hand, but decided to start with the “Easy-Peasy Pizza Dough” recipe on page 2. It calls for standard ingredients– all-purpose flour, sea salt, instant yeast, warm water, agave or sugar, and olive oil. The basic ingredients of pizza dough and the building blocks of life.

I let the dough rise for 2.5 hours in a warm place, covered with plastic wrap. The dough increased in size and was a nice color. Unfortunately the dough was too sticky to shape. I added several small handfuls of flour, trying to get the mix to form into a circle and come off my fingers. After adding at least 1/2 of a cup of flour, I decided to split the dough into two.

Do you see that mess, how thick the dough is? Not what we were going for. We tried everything and the dough was just too sticky. I took one ball of dough and brushed it with olive oil and stretched it as far as I could without tearing it. That’s the dough on the left. The dough on the right was made sans additional oil. I added quite a bit more flour to get it to stop sticking to my hands and form into something resembling an oval.

Because I knew the dough was going to be thick and chewy, I added just a few toppings.

Toppings:
Tomato paste thinned with water with a sprinkling of salt, dried oregano, and dried basil
Vegan mozzarella cheese- a thin sprinkle right over the sauce
Black olives- from a can, super easy, you don’t even have to slice them
Sundried tomatoes
Garlic

Bake at 425° F for 15 minutes

The crazy thing is that even though the crust was doughy and not crust like at all, the overall taste was pretty good. Not sure if this dough recipe would work better if allowed to rise longer (the recipe recommended 2-6 hours, I went for 2.5). I’d be willing to try some other crust recipes from this cookbook and see if the spelt or heartier versions work for me. If you have a favorite vegan pizza recipe or crust to share, please do. Happy to have suggestions and try to recreate your faves. Until next time, thanks for joining us on this journey.

Week 4: Creativity

Every pizza you can imagine is real.

~ Pablo Picasso (quote later revised)
Close up of vegan Hawaiian pizza toppings
Vegan Hawaiian Pizza

After last week’s failed attempt to make a sweet potato crust, I decided to play the crust old school and get creative with the toppings. Thus, our Hawaiian inspired pizza was born. And it was damn good.

For the crust I used this recipe from Life as a Strawberry It’s a reliable recipe I’ve used many times. It really can be done in just 15 minutes, which is the minimum amount of time you need to heat your oven to 425° F.

While the dough rested under a tea towel for 10-15 minutes “proving”, we assembled our pizza toppings. We didn’t have a red onion or bell pepper on hand or we would have added them. We used cinnamon and sliced almonds, a flavor enhancing hack I wanted to try after reading this article.

We sprinkled a generous amount of cinnamon over the pineapple and let them drain on a paper towel so the pizza would not be soggy.

For sauce we used a few tablespoons of tomato paste, thinned with water, and added slices of tomatoes sprinkled with salt to release the flavor.

After letting the dough rest in a bowl for 15 minutes, I used an empty Perrier bottle as a rolling pin and got this shape… do you see the face?

It may look funny but it’s our favorite pizza so far this year. The pineapples add a tangy sweetness and the cheese pulls it all together. Vegan Hawaiian pizza was a big win.

Week 3: Learning

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.

~ Truman Capote

This week I wanted to try a sweet potato crust. I first tried it at Mi Vegano Favorito in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. I was skeptical but the owner suggested it and it was so fabulous I ate there two more times during my vacation and almost missed my flight to get a sweet potato crust pizza to go on our last day in town.

I Googled for a “vegan sweet potato pizza crust recipe” and saw that the results varied wildly. Should I use a chia seed egg replacement? Tapioca flour? Oat? Almond flour or meal? The choices were vast and varied. This is the downfall of trusting recipes you find on the internet. Often they don’t come out well.

Still, we persisted. We chose a recipe, bought the ingredients, and followed the recipe faithfully. I knew before I even put it into the oven that the mixture would be chewy and the texture would be off. Making the sweet potato crust took much longer than we expected and we started getting hangry. I made the executive decision to use a store bought corn crust instead of risking not having lunch.

We baked the crust anyway to see what would happen. After 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven we pulled it out and gave it a try. The flavor was good, but as expected, the texture was chewy, more like undercooked pita bread. We baked some longer, tried some with additional flour, some with less. Ultimately it made a garbage paper weight.

What did we have instead?

Corn crust pizza with one minute sauce and sautéed veggies

Start: Turn the oven to 425. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes for your oven to reach this temperature.

Chop: 1/2 onion. Add a glug of oil in a frying pan. We used avocado oil and it was delish. Olive is a classic. Add the onion and stir occasionally. Give your onions 3 minutes to develop flavor. Add 2 smashed garlic cloves. (I use a Zlyiss to smash it directly into the pan.) Stir for another 30-60 seconds.

Chop your veggies. Whatever you have on hand is great. We added 1/2 a diced red pepper to the pan and sautéed it for about 2 minutes.

We chopped up a handful of Kalamata olives. I used kitchen scissors to cut up 3 sun-dried red tomatoes.

Sauce: We used two tablespoons of tomato paste thinned with a little water and added a dash of salt, a dash of dried basil, and a dash of dried oregano.

Assemble: Place the corn crust (or store bought or homemade flour crust or a sweet potato crust if you are one of the Divine chosen few who can make them) on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Layer: We prefer this order…
Thin layer of sauce sprinkled with nutritional yeast
Handful of vegan mozzarella cheese shreds (store bought)
Sautéed veggies
Olives and sun-dried tomatoes

Was the pizza good? Yes! And, I’m disappointed the sweet potato crust did not work out. I try to sneak veggies into my food whenever possible and I had high hopes for this crust. This may be the Universe’s way of telling us that we need to go back to San Jose del Cabo. In the meantime, I will reach out to the three friends who started Mi Vegano Favorito and see if they are willing to share their recipe. I don’t think I have it in me to try another internet web search version. It’s too disheartening.

Next week we embrace our inner Italian and go with a traditional flour pizza crust.