Australian Avocado Pizza

I HAVE BEEN SO BUSY! I’ve been feeling bad about not posting, but yesterday I looked in my book database and realized it took me two weeks to read the last book I finished. That’s crazy! Usually I finish a book in two days. So believe me, I’m not being negligent because I don’t care about you. It’s just been an insanely busy summer.

In exciting news, Smuckalert is here! I told him I would make pizza Saturday night, so while the oven was pre-heating I asked him what he wanted on his pizza, and he asked me a strange question: “is it tomato- [read: to-mAH-to] based or avocado-based?” Whaaaat? In what country is the default pizza not assumed to be made with tomato sauce? Actually, I’m pretty sure the default in Australia IS tomato sauce, but Smucks assures me that “chicken avocado” is a normal pizza over there. I’ve ordered pizza in Australia and I don’t remember any such thing, but there is the fact that I would likely completely ignore a “chicken” anything pizza on a menu. My response Saturday night was, “I don’t have any avocados and I don’t know what the hell an avocado-based pizza is, so what do you want on your tomato pizza?” But I like to please Smucky and I was intrigued by this avocado pizza, so I decided it was perfectly okay to make pizza twice in three days and dragged Smucky to Wegmans this afternoon to stock up on avocados. Usually avocado-anything is “California-style” (and believe me, it’s appropriate), but I’m calling this Australian pizza because I really do think it’s mostly an Australian thing. The ingredients for this were mostly dictated by Smucks, so it’s also Smucky’s pizza.

Avocado Pizza

pizza dough – the ingredient amounts listed below are about enough for 2-3 large individual pizzas
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1 lime
4 frozen teaspoon-sized cubes of cilantro (Trader Joe’s sells this), or about a handful fresh, chopped
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
your favorite vegan “chicken” – I highly recommend Gardein – chopped into bite-sized pieces
thinly sliced onion
thinly sliced tomatoes
thinly sliced jalapenos
vegan mozzarella

If using frozen dough, remove from the freezer 1-3 days in advance, and from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before baking. Preheat the oven as high as it will go an hour before bake time.

Slice the avocados in half, peel and pit them, and roughly chop them, then place it in a food processor or blender.

Place the cilantro, garlic, and lime juice in the food processor or blender as well and blend until smooth. Add some water to thin so it’s a bit more spreadable than guacamole, then add salt to taste. Blend very well. Place in a bowl just big enough to contain it and cover it to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown.

Defrost the “chicken” enough to chop (if necessary) and chop into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the onions. Slice and chop the tomatoes.

Thinly slice the jalapenos.

Sprinkle some flour on your workspace and shape or roll out your dough, then transfer to a semolina- or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Spread a nice layer of avocado puree on the crust.

Top with the jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions.

Add the “chicken”.

Sprinkle with the “cheese”. I also like to dust it with Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, which I keep in a shaker.

Bake until crust is browned and “cheese” is melty.

Serve hot.

Cut with scissors because it’s the awesome thing to do.

Smucky has come a long way. When I met him nearly 10 years ago, he never would have been this happy about eating vegan food. I let him keep deli turkey and mozzarella slices in the fridge when he stays here, but when I asked him if he was going to put real cheese and chicken on his pizza, he said no, vegan was fine! He said he was a bit nervous about the “chicken”, but after trying it thought it was pretty good. That’s why I recommended Gardein. Every non-vegan I’ve given it to has really liked it, and I’m typically extremely wary of giving fake meat to non-vegetarians.

Smucks devoured his pizza and then helped me with mine…although he was rather displeased about the jalapenos on mine (I left them off of his).

Sometimes I worry I’m going to have to have Smucky’s laptops surgically removed from his face, but I insist on technology-free dinners. I try to extend the conversation after the meal for as long as I can before the boys return to their computers. Here is Smucky after dinner looking very deceptively cute…he’s actually being very evil. BUT I CAN’T TELL YOU WHY.

I worked from home today so I could keep Smucky company. I’m extremely busy at work these days and was quite wrapped up in it, but I did end up having to take a few pictures of the cats, busy as I was.

Thinking about submitting this one to Cat Fancy for their cover.

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Calzones

I consider pizza one of the greatest foods in the world, and I can happily eat it the same way week after week. I consider myself very good at making pizza. Sometimes, though, I like to try something different. Today I thought I would use the dough I’d set aside for this week to make calzones instead of pizza. Calzones use the same ingredients as pizza, just wrapped up inside instead of spread on top, except the sauce: there is no sauce inside a calzone. Instead, you top it with the sauce, or serve the sauce on the side for dipping. Here is what I did:

First, I removed two containers of frozen pizza dough from the freezer (I made this batch with half white whole wheat flour) and let them rise in the refrigerator for a couple of days (overnight is fine). Then, a couple of hours (at least one hour) before bake time, I removed them from the refrigerator.

I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and chopped half a head of broccoli into small florets and put them in a baking dish. Then I chopped about 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes in half and put them in another baking dish, to which I also added several cloves of smashed garlic. I sprinkled both with flaked salt then drizzled with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. The broccoli I roasted for about 15 minutes …

… and the tomatoes 45 minutes.

I removed them from the oven and increased the oven temperature to 500.

I made a tofu ricotta by putting about half a pound of firm tofu in a bowl and adding about 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, some flaked salt, one frozen basil cube, and the juice of half a lemon, then I squeezed all of that together until it was an even consistency. Then I mixed in a hand-full of Daiya mozzarella and a little bit of Daiya cheddar.

I made a marinara by pureeing a 14.5 oz can of whole tomatoes. I heated some olive oil in a small saucepan, added several pressed cloves of garlic, some chili flakes, flaked salt, and freshly ground pepper, and after sauteing for a minute or two, I added the tomatoes, some dried oregano, and a frozen basil cube. I brought that to a boil, then reduced the heat, covered, and simmered for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next I formed the pizza doughs into circles, though not as thin as I make them for pizza, maybe 1/4″ thick. I placed some of the broccoli, roasted tomatoes, and “cheese” mixture in the middle of each, …

… then I folded each over in half and sealed the crusts closed. (You can brush the edges with water to make them stick if you need to.) I poked some holes on top and brushed them with some garlic oil.

They both got transferred to the oven and baked for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned.

Serve with a tossed salad, with the sauce on the side (or spoon the sauce over the calzones).

I tried to get a picture of the inside of the calzone, but we’d gone downstairs – where it is quite dark – and all I had was my phone. I’d probably be better off just not having any picture at all, but I went through the trouble, so here you go:

This was an interesting change of pace but will never replace good old regular pizza in my book.

Comments (5)

Pizza

In my last post I described how I make my current favorite pizza dough. And now I will explain how to turn it into a full-blown pizza of deliciousness.

First, remove the dough from the refrigerator one hour before you wish to bake it. At the same time, preheat your oven as high as it will go; mine is 550 degrees Fahrenheit, but yours may only be 500. Jeff Varasano, from whom I got the dough recipe, has rigged his home electric oven to heat to 800 degrees, which I kinda want to do, but a) my landlord probably wouldn’t be too keen on it and b) my oven has caught on fire twice as it is so I’m thinking messing with its temperature control is probably a bad idea.

Have your pizza stone in the oven while you are preheating it. I guess you can try baking this pizza on the back of a baking sheet if there is simply no way you can possibly purchase a pizza stone, but I don’t think I could live live without one. I have a Fibrament and it never leaves my oven. Of course, most of the things I put in my oven are pizza or bread, so it’s rather a necessity for me. I don’t like those small, thin, cheap pizza stones you can buy at places like Bed Bath and Beyond. Any stone you are expected to load and remove with the pizza is not a good stone. It needs to be preheated with the oven, and it needs to remain in the oven to cool down with the oven, otherwise it will crack and break. This has happened to me, so I can attest that that is true. Good baking stones are expensive, and many people recommend unglazed quarry tiles as an inexpensive alternative. You can get these at places like Lowes and Home Depot, and I used them for a short time. I found them annoying to deal with because I bake so frequently, but if it’s the difference between having a baking stone and not, go for it.

While the dough is coming to room temperature and the oven and pizza stones are preheating, prepare your toppings. Toppings should be minimal. Even before I was vegan, I hated a lot of junk on my pizza, even the extra cheese well-meaning people wanted to add when they heard I was vegetarian. Especially extra cheese. It’s just gross! Even as a vegetarian, I believed all of the goodness of a pizza was in the dough and the tomato sauce. And traditionalists agree with me. So if you decide to add anything more than I describe here, please try to keep it to just one thing.

There is no need to ever buy pizza sauce. I’m astounded they even sell that stuff. Just buy the highest quality, best tasting canned tomatoes you can find. This is what I’m buying right now, even though as Jeff Varasano points out, this brand using deceptive advertising by burying the fact they are just “San Marazano Brand,” and not really grown in the San Marzano region of Italy.

I buy the whole tomatoes and crush them on low speed in a food processor.

Although I sometimes treat Mark to vegan pepperoni, usually the extent of my toppings are:

Currently we use Daiya mozzarella, although I technically prefer Cheezly. Unfortunately, we can no longer get Cheezly. In the shaker is Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix.

After the dough has sat out of the refrigerator for an hour, sprinkle some bread flour on a workspace and roll one of the dough balls in it lightly, then flatten.

Use your fingers to make a little moat around the perimeter, about where you expect to spread the sauce to, and stretch the pizza out a little.

If the dough resists being pulled out, that is, it springs back, let it rest for several seconds before trying again. If you are making more than one pizza, you can use this time to begin preparing the next dough.

Gently push the dough outwards, keeping a thick lip around the edge, until the pizza is about 12″ in diameter – but do’t worry about keeping it in a perfect circle.

Jeff Varasano recommends NOT using semolina or cornmeal to dust the peel, but I like using one or the other – just a little bit. I once read that cornmeal acts like little casters for moving pizza off peels onto stones, which is an image I like. In any case, transfer the crust to a peel.

Once the crust is on the peel, work quickly so the pizza does not get soggy. Smear some of the crushed tomatoes onto the crust, using less than you think you need – it will thicken up as the pizza bakes. A single 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes should be enough for three 12″ pizzas.

Next I add some dried basil (unless I have fresh on hand), and dried red chili peppers, then a small amount of Daiya.

Then I sprinkle it with some dry “cheese” and just a very few flakes of Maldon salt.

Transfer the pizza to the stone and bake until it’s beginning to char. This takes about five minutes for me.

Remove from the oven.

While I was preparing the pizzas, Mark was cuddling his little babies. Torticia loves to be held like a baby!

Gomez…he needs to be in the right mood.

Comments (10)

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