Monday, June 11, 2012

BLT Pizza

This weekend we started harvesting lettuce from our victory garden!  How exciting!  Soon we will be picking heirloom tomatoes and okra, zucchini and squash and herbs and... you get the picture.

Lettuce and basil and radishes ready for harvest!

Tomatoes and zucchini and okra coming on strong!

To celebrate our first harvest we decided to prepare this simple BLT pizza.  By using prepared pizza dough we saved a huge amount of time, but if you like, you can always prepare your own favorite pizza dough recipe and substitute it.  I like to use bottled ranch dressing on the pizza to avoid making this pizza too tomato-ey (is that a word?).

This makes a terrific light supper, but would be perfect for brunch too!

The Tiki in June!

BLT Pizza
serves 6-8

2 packages prepared pizza dough (I like Trader Joe's)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cornmeal
freshly cracked black pepper
 3/4 cup bottled ranch dressing (I like peppercorn ranch)
1/4 tsp ground dry thyme
1 small onion, finely sliced
8 oz grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 grated parmesan
6 slices of thick bacon
2 medium tomatoes sliced

1 cup chopped lettuce
6 fresh basil leaves chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450F.  Grease a 9x13 jelly roll pan with olive oil, then dust with cornmeal and sprinkle generously with cracked black pepper.  Pat dough into prepared pan.

Spread ranch dressing over crust, sprinkle with thyme and then layer with onions.  Top onions with mozzarella cheese and parmesan.

Cook bacon in microwave (on a paper plate with paper towels) for 4-5 minutes until partially cooked.  Chop bacon coarsely and sprinkle over pizza.  Top with fresh tomato slices.

Bake pizza for 20 minutes until just golden and cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes.

Toss chopped lettuce and basil with oil and vinegar, then put on top of pizza immediately before serving.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vegan Pasta Primavera

So... before you go all veganazi on me, I know you are looking at the picture of this dish and saying:  " Hey, isn't that ham mixed with pasta and vegetables?  I didn't think ham was vegan."

Yes.  It is ham.
No, ham is not vegan.

Listen smartie pants, if you want a purely vegan dish, leave out the ham, OK?  :)

Seriously, this dish is terrific with or without the ham.  I was preparing dinner for a friend and her son, and they are both lactose intolerant, so I decided to whip up this pasta primavera loaded with fresh vegetables and tossed in Alfredo sauce.  The problem is Alfredo sauce is made with butter and milk, and consequently is not very friendly for lactose intolerant folks.

The answer?  I used vegan margarine and almond milk.  The result is a completely delicious Alfredo sauce that tastes every bit as good as the classic Alfredo sauce, and perhaps even better.  I may prepare all my Alfredo sauces this way in the future.

Then I realized that if I left out the ham, this dish is vegan!  Wow!  Who knew I could cook vegan?

What I found most amazing about this dish is that using almond milk the pasta sauce did not completely congeal into a block once the leftovers were refrigerated.  Almond milk helped keep the dish silky and smooth, and it reheated beautifully.

This makes a LOT of pasta primavera so prepare it for a hungry crowd.  But remember the leftovers keep beautifully and this is a wonderful dish to bring to work as the next day's lunch.

I am posting this as a vegan recipe (with non-vegan substitutions in parentheses).  And, yes, the ham is optional!

Vegan Pasta Primavera
serves 10

1 lb Asparagus, woody ends removed
1 lb broccoli florets
2 small zucchini
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 bunch (about 8 or 9) scallions, chopped (both green and white parts)

1 lb pasta (make sure it does not include eggs for a vegan dish)
1/4 cup (4 oz.) vegetable margarine (or butter for non-vegans)

1 lb diced ham (optional)

Vegan Alfredo sauce (recipe follows)

minced fresh basil
grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Drop asparagus into the water and let blanch for 1 minute before transferring to a large bowl of ice water (to stop them from cooking further).  Repeat with broccoli, and un-sliced zucchini.  Reserve water.

In the same water used for blanching the vegetables, cook the pasta according to cooking instructions.  Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Toss hot pasta with margarine (or butter) to keep pasta from sticking together.

Chop blanched asparagus into 1-inch lengths.  Cut blanched zucchini into coins.  Add all vegetables to pasta and toss.  (If using ham, add it now).

Pour Alfredo sauce over pasta and vegetables and toss to coat evenly.  Add basil and toss.  Serve hot or cold with grated parmesan cheese.

Vegan Alfredo Sauce
1/2 cup (8 oz) vegetable margarine (or butter for non vegans)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cloves garlic minced
4 cups almond milk (non-flavored); (or milk for non vegans)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground white pepper

In a large, heavy pot, melt margarine (or butter) over medium high heat.  Add flour and stir to make a roux. Allow roux to cook for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and stir, cook for 1 minute.  Add almond milk (or milk) and whisk into sauce over medium high heat.

Continue to gently whisk sauce over medium high heat until it thickens to desired consistency ( about 8-10 minutes).  At no point should you stop whisking or sauce form a gelatinous paste on the bottom of the pan which will burn.

Once sauce is thickened, remove from heat and season with salt, nutmeg and white pepper.