Vegan Pizza

The great thing about pizza is that it’s pretty much vegan already.  The only animal products are those that people choose to use as toppings.  I’ve been making the same pizza dough for years–it’s very flexible in the sense that it can be started the night before for a well fermented fragrant dough, or started an hour before (like tonight) for a reasonably quick dinner.

For one pizza, combine 2/3 cup warm water with about 1/2-1 tsp yeast for long fermentation (3+hours) or 2 tsp yeast for quick.  Add 1/2 tsp salt, a bit of oil (less for thin crust, more for thick–anywhere from none to a few tablespoons).  Add 1 1/2-2 cups of all purpose or bread flour and combine (I use a dough hook in a mixer).  I like to start with 1 1/2 and add more until the dough is slightly sticky but comes together in a ball.

Knead a bit longer than you think you have to.  This is, of course, much easier in a mixer.  I will leave the mixer on around 7-8 minutes.   Form into a ball, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place (for quick) or room temperature (for slow) until you’re ready to form the pizza.

While you’re waiting, you can get your toppings ready.  Any tomato sauce will do–canned is fine.   When I have time I like to make by own.  I use some high quality tomato puree, olive oil, a bit of garlic, salt and pepper.

I’ve mostly used Follow your Heart brand mozzarella, but Daiya cheese has recently become available in my local co-op.  Daiya will actually stretch, but both taste good.

Let your imagination run wild for toppings, although don’t overdo it.  2-3 will be more manageable than a huge pile.   Tonight I used veg pepperoni, kalamata olives, and fresh jalapenos.  I put the pepperoni under the cheese for better texture.

When you’re ready for form your pizza, bring the dough into a ball and flatten to a disc.  The key at this point is go slow and let the dough take the lead.  Flatten to 8 inches, wait 30 seconds, flatten to 10, wait, etc.  This will lead to a much more uniform pizza with no risk of tears or thick and thin spots.  You can flatten onto a well floured pizza peel if you have a pizza stone, or directly onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

pizza before baking

Before putting in the oven, I like to sprinkle with a little sea salt, some fresh pepper, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

I preheat my oven as hot as it will go, around 550.  The pizza goes in for 10-15 min, until the crust is brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted.  Let sit for a few minutes after taking out of the oven before cutting.

You can have home-made pizza for not much longer than it takes to order and wait for delivery, something like 90 mins.  Sometimes I’ll start the dough and then head to the grocery store for the cheese and toppings while it’s rising.

Feel free to substitute up to 1/3 of the flour for whole wheat.  Experiment with adding herbs/garlic to the crust, or making a stuffed crust by dividing the dough in 2, rolling out very thin, and filling with salted/herbed crumbled tofu with some soy milk to bring it together.

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Vegan Lasagna

Yes, lasagna.  I don’t make it nearly enough.  And it’s so good–that is, if you make it like this:

To me lasagna is all about fresh pasta.  Those wide noodles with the curly edges just don’t do it for me.  Many people are intimidated by fresh pasta, but for no good reason.  It’s quick and easy, especially if you invest in a pasta rolling machine.

Start with about 2 cups of semolina flour.  Add a pinch of salt, a dash of olive oil, and enough cold water to bring it together into a hard dough.  I mix it right on the counter, adding just a few tablespoons of water at a time.  Knead it for a while, then either knead it for 10 minutes or start feeding it through the large setting of your pasta roller around a dozen times.  Either roll it out very thin, or use the machine to gradually thin it to the thinnest setting.  Cut pieces the length of the pan.  It cooks right in the oven.

Meanwhile, I steamed some spinach, squeezed out the water, and chopped it up.  I also made a white sauce–about a tablespoon of earth balance and a tablespoon of flour cooked into a roux, a little salt and pepper, a cup of soymilk (add gradually and whisk until smooth) and a little nutmeg.

The layers go like this:  Olive oil and a little tomato sauce (I used a jar this time).  Pasta. Tomato sauce and cheese (FYH jack or mozzarella slices). pasta. Spinach. Pasta. Tomato sauce. Pasta. White sauce. Pasta. Tomato sauce and cheese.

It goes into the oven at 375 for half an hour or so–feel free to cover with foil or put under the broiler to achieve your desired level of meltiness and crispyness on top.

Other things I sometimes add as layers: fresh basil, sauteed mushrooms, tofu mashed up with herbs, salt, and garlic.

It sounds kinda complicated, but it really only took about 20 or 30 minutes to make!  C and I inhaled 2/3 of it right away.

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Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Many vegans have discovered the tasty whipped cream in a can made by Soyatoo.  It’s pretty good on desserts, although it loses its fluff quickly.  I recently picked up a little box of whippable cream by the same company, and decided to make chocolate mousse. 

It turned out pretty delicious, although I would make a little change next time.  I started by melting 8 oz of chocolate (yes, half a pound.  I used Trader Joe’s “Pound Plus” 72% dark chocolate).  Meanwhile, I whipped up the cream with the contents of about half a vanilla bean (it’s fine to use extract, or leave it out altogether).  It took about 4 or 5 minutes on high to get it whipped up really well in the kitchenaid.  I’m not sure if I would attempt it without an electric mixer.

I folded the whipped cream into the chocolate–here’s where I would make a change.  I was worried that the cream wouldn’t be very stable, so I let the chocolate cool down considerably.  It turned out the cream was quite stable, and the cooler chocolate hardened into very tiny chunks in the cream.  Anyway, I continued folding in the cream bit by bit (folding means gently scooping up the bottom of the bowl with a spatula and laying it on top over and over to break the fewest air bubbles).  I served it in some martini glasses with a bit of shaved chocolate on top.

I think this is definitely something I will make again, and work into some other pastry/cake recipes in the future!


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Vegan in NYC

I just got back from a great long weekend trip to NYC.  One of the highlights was definitely the food.  It seems like a great place to be vegan.  Here are some of the highlights:

Longans in Chinatown–these are sort of like Lychees, but tastier and without that annoying papery part next to the seed

Vegan Kebab (somewhere on the Lower East Side)–Authentic Afghani?  Maybe not, but it was spicy and tasy in a grilled wrap with veggies.

Song (Park Slope, Brooklyn)–really fantastic Thai food (and cheap!) with a nice atmosphere.  The flames shot a few feet above the woks in the open kitchen.  We had basil chili wide rice noodles and green curry.

Chinese in Flushing, Queens–Almost like being in China!  Some amazing steamed dumplings at a veg chinese restaurant, and a fried sesame ball.

Indian in Jackson Heights, Queens–A few subways stops away, fantastic Indian food at the Jackson Heights Diner.

Vegetarian Dim Sum–Chinatown, Manhattan–This was actually the name of the restaurant.  Fried banannas, dumpings, steamed buns, tofu rolls, potato balls.  Yum!

Imhotep (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn)–The first vegetarian restaurant in Brooklyn.  It was more of a grocery store with a deli, but the Carribian rice, bbq ribs, tofu, pumpkin, and chicken-y stew (all on one plate) were amazing.

I also cooked up some black beans and rice with fresh thyme, fried plantains and yucca, jerk tofu, avocado and lime juice.  All in all, a great food weekend!

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Chewy Berry Nut Bar

I made up this recipe in no time flat, inspired by something I saw at a Starbucks.  I know, I’m admitting I was in a Starbucks.  I had a gift card and went to go buy a soy chai.  They had this nice looking blueberry bar that looked tasty, other than the fact it was probably way too sweet, full of dairy, and overpriced.

Anyway, I wanted to make cookies tonight but not the same old thing.  And I was feeling lazy.  So this is also a really easy recipe.

I started with a basic shortbread–1 stick earth balance, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour.  I whisked that up (butter and sugar first) until it was like coarse sand.  I reserved about a cup of this mixture and pressed down the rest in a buttered baking dish (9×13).

I had some mixed berries in the freezer and the end of a bag of raspberries (you can use whatever berries you want).  I think I used about 2 cups total.  I added a few tablespoons of sugar (not much) and cooked on the stove until it was bubbly.  I whisked it to break up the berries and spread evenly on the pressed down dough.

I chopped up about 1-2 cups of pecans and walnuts (again, you can use whatever nuts you want) and mixed with the remaining dough.  I sprinkled this over the top and baked at 350 for about 30-40 minutes (until the bottom gets a bit browned).

They ended up super tasty and chewy.  It’s hard to believe that the chewy, solid bottom is made of exaclty the same thing as the crumbly top!


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Croissant update

My vegan croissants baked up perfectly out of the freezer.  I just let them thaw on a baking sheet at room temperature for about an hour and baked at 400.  Yum!

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Baked Potato and Roasted Tomato Soup

We made an especially satisfying dinner last night.

It started with the under-appreciated baked potato.  Just a nicely sized russet potato rubbed with some oil and salt and placed directly in the oven at 400 for about 45 minutes.  Take them out and either wrap with foil or put in a covered bowl for at least 10 minutes.

We served them with vegan sour cream (tofutti), green onions, and little slices of fried up smart bacon.

I adapted the tomato soup from a NY Times recipe.  I took a can (big one) of diced tomatoes, drained off the juice, and baked on a sheet pan with olive oil and salt at 400 until they just started to turn black on the edges.  Meanwhile, I sauteed some onion and carrot with a bit of rosemary and garlic.  I added the tomatoes, the juice, and a bit of water.   That simmered away for half an hour or so.  I added about a cup of breadcrumbs from some leftover sourdough rye bread to thicken up the soup. 

Add a simple green salad, and you’ve got an easy, cheap meal that’s satisfying and healthy.

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