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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Pickled Jalapenos

Wow, have I been busy! I was thinking earlier today that it has been a while since I’ve made a post and lamented the fact it seemed it’d be even longer until I’d have a chance to do so, until I decided to make burritos for dinner and realized I could use and then write up my pickled jalapenos! Which I was trying for the first time and which turned out fantastic! So here goes! (I’m addicted to exclamation points today!)

Pickled Jalepenos

1 pint jalapenos
1 small carrot, sliced on the diagonal
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppercorns
white or cider vinegar to (just barely) cover other ingredients (about 2 cups)

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until jalapenos are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a clean glass jar.

Refrigerate for at least three weeks.

That’s it! The hardest part is not eating them for the three weeks. I actually ended up waiting four, but they were worth the wait.

Tonight I minced up a few …

… and stuffed them into a burrito. They were REALLY good! I don’t know why I’d ever buy pickled jalapenos again.

The second hardest thing about the pickled jalapenos was getting a picture of them that didn’t involve Gomez, who kept getting between the peppers and the camera. This picture was taken with Torticia climbing atop me as I squatted on the floor. SO MANY KITTENS!

Nona, if you’re reading this, I really do think he looks like a baby Crookshanks.

So. In other news. Boston. It’s full of Australians and vegans! Mark and I accompanied this handsome Australian fellow to Boston:

We stayed with a friend Smucky’s known “since birth”, Nick, and I’ve decided that all the Australians I know are the greatest people in the world. I’ve never met an Australian I didn’t love! And on top of that, I met a vegan! This is very exciting because I’ve never actually MET a vegan in real life, other than Mark, who converted after I met him and probably because I met him, and this girl who lived in the apartment above me in one of my places in Baltimore (who was probably my biggest inspiration when I went vegan because I figured if she lived in the exact same place I did and she could do it, I could do it). I’ve ALMOST met other vegans numerous times but this is the first time it actually transpired. Not only that, but Smucks, Mark, and I knew him through Twitter for reasons completely unrelated to veganism. So we met up with him on Saturday and he took us to The Other Side, where I ordered the raw Mock Chicken Salad:

Zach promised to take us to Peace O’ Pie on Monday, which I was extremely excited about, but then it turned out they are closed on Mondays and I shed tears of pain and grief (as we were leaving on Tuesday). Apparently the entire city of Boston shuts down on Mondays. Smuckalert asked us to walk along the Charles River with him so he could take pictures on Monday and I told him it was probably closed. (It wasn’t, but it was very, very, very hot. I thought Boston would be an escape from the heat?!) Zach mostly redeemed himself by suggesting we go to Addis Red Sea instead, which was conveniently located right down the street from Nick’s place, and although it took forever the food was fabulous (although not quite DC Ethiopian fabulous; that’s one thing DC does right). I LOVE Ethiopian food, so I was about to burst with excitement, as well as hunger. I was so hungry and excited, I quite forgot to take a picture of the grub, but I DID take this picture, which I wanted to submit to The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks, but it turned out too blurry.

Not too blurry for my own blog though! (Which may soon turn into the Blog of Unnecessary Exclamation Points.) It says, “Hi! My name is ‘MESOB’. I am serving you as a ‘TABLE’. Please do not lean on, I am very fragile.”

Busy upcoming weekend; it may be another few days before I’m able to post again, but I found a vegan grill cookbook in the library, so I’m looking forward to grilling up a bunch of stuff in the very near future and I’m sure I’ll have my camera in hand. Until then, mates, g’day!

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Celebration of Celebrations 2009

Mark and I have an annual summer party, called the Celebration of Celebrations, that usually coincides with a visit from Smucky. This year’s party was this weekend and like last year, I managed to not take any real pictures of any of the food I made. However, I did get several requests for recipes, so here’s a run-down of what I served, as well as some horrible photos. Most of the food had already been wolfed down before I was able to get a second to take pictures.

Here is some of the spread:

That’s homemade Italian bread, and with it a dip of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground pepper. I bought a ton of snacks: several different kinds chips (including Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos for the novelty of it because they are vegan and I haven’t had a Dorito in a million years), peanut-filled pretzels, and Virginia peanuts. It was junk food heaven. I made ranch dip, which is what I got the most requests for recipes for. Unfortunately for the world, I just throw things together when I make dips (well, when I make just about anything, really), but this is approximately what I did:

Vegan Ranch Dip
1 jar Vegenaise
1 cup vegan sour cream
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp dried minced onion, reconstituted briefly in hot water then drained
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together then refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.

I balanced all the junk food out with some veggies and hummus. I was going for unusual colors of ordinary vegetables (purple peppers and yellow baby carrots!):

I made two different types of hummus: roasted red pepper and extra garlic.

Hummus, Two Ways

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 can chickpeas
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste for extra garlic flavor)
optional: 2 roasted red peppers (for roasted red pepper flavor)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a food processor, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make my own salsa; it’s usually Mark’s job to make salsa but he didn’t grow any hot peppers this year so he’s not interested in making it. I did, however, make guacamole, which I served with chips and store-bought salsa.

Guacamole

1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe avocados
Tabasco, to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tomato, chopped

If you have a molcajete, place the onion, garlic, and salt in it and mash with the pestle. Add the avocado and mash, then add the Tabasco and lime juice and continue to mash. Stir in the tomatoes, and serve in the molcajete. If you don’t have a molcajete, put all ingredients except tomatoes in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth-ish, then stir in the tomato.

The guac was such a hit that I had a request/demand to make a second batch around 1 a.m. – it it was all gone by the time I cleaned up around 4.

At Smucky’s request, the main course was a pasta bar of sorts. I cooked several different kinds of pasta, including a gluten-free penne, and made a couple different sauces.

Marinara Sauce

2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (or to taste)
2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)
1 tsp dry oregano
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
salt to taste
juice of 1 lemon

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring some olive oil to temperature over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and seasonings. Let simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour, add the lemon juice, then use an immersion blender or blend in batches in the blender until to desired chunkiness or smoothness.

Pesto

2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups (packed) basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese, or nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

The main attraction, however, seemed to be Hamburger Noodle Bake, of which I made a double batch and had only a small bit leftover – even after filling everyone up on junk food for a couple of hours before serving it. I was a little surprised how popular it was considering there were no other vegans or vegetarians (I don’t think, anyway) at this shindig. Even the ever-skeptical Smucky enjoyed it! I prepared it Friday night, put it in the fridge overnight, and baked it up Saturday afternoon, which made it perfect party food because I didn’t have to worry about it the day of, everyone loved it, and it tasted fine sitting out buffet style all night long. I can definitely recommend that recipe for appeasing omnivores!

I didn’t take any pictures of the pastas, but in this photo by Smucky – which also shows you the snacks in much better detail – you can see them at the far end of the table:

I also made mint chocolate chip ice cream, it being Smuck’s favorite flavor, but I forgot to tell everyone it was in the freezer! Fortinbras made short work of in the morning (and by morning, I mean “3 p.m.”, which is when I think he got up), however, when doing his usual rummaging and foraging, and Smucky’s had a bowl or two today…and I’m having one right now!

Smucks also got an unattractive shot of me looking a bit crazed while putting all the food out:

But hey, guess what? I finally got to spend most of the weekend in the pool, so maybe I’ll stop complaining about the lack of summer? I sure hope so and I’m sure you all do too!

And finally, here are me and Smucky celebrating!

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