Before I go on, let me let you in a little secret, most pizza crust is vegan. Another little secret, vegan is delicious, simple as that, although I don’t think that’s much of a secret. Let’s face it though, we live in a society that is extremely resistant to vegan food and I begin to wonder, what exactly is it about the word “vegan” that turns off so many Americans? Is it that many cannot imagine food without cheese and meat? Or have we given veggies the bad reputation of being dull and lacking excitement? Whatever it may be, I really feel that we need to start to embrace a vegan diet in this country. I am not saying we must all adopt one permanently (do so, by all means if you wish to) but if meat is something you cannot drop from your diet,just opt for eating it less frequently.
As a culinary student, I feel that chefs need to become the driving force behind the upcoming food trends that will shape the nation’s eating habits. We will have such a big impact on the foods that the country chooses to eat because becoming a chef brings along credibility in the delicious and the appetizing. So, because times are tough and we must find more and more ways to become sustainable eaters, why not lead the way in the efforts to be a more vegetable oriented country? Not only will we become a healthier nation by eliminating a big percentage of saturated fats from our diets, but we have the opportunity to create new flavors with veggies that can potentially revolutionize the way we eat. Just make it taste delicious.
So, your average Joe hears the word, “vegan” or “vegetarian” and immediately thinks “no meat”! Using education and some taste testing, a chef, and just about anyone else who is passionate about good food, can change this so that people start to think of vegan and vegetarian as an opportunity to eat an exciting and creative veggie dish! Despite the fact that a vast majority of people become vegan or vegetarian for ethical, environmental, or religious reasons, it’s not a bad idea for the average American to simply embrace a diet with more veggies and less meat for the sake of health or sustainability.
This is where pizza comes in. Vegan pizza!
I have so much fun making pizza all the time. It is one of those foods that will let your imagination run wild with all the possible ingredient combinations. The best thing about this is that a cheese and pepperoni pizza is merely the top of the iceberg when it comes to toppings. The crust is a blank canvas and whatever you chose to put on it is your artistic expression! Among my favorite pizzas is my caramelized onion and pear with rosemary pizza or a sweet potato with cranberry and walnut pizza with some sprinkled blue cheese crumbles on the top just to add a kick. This morning though, I woke up and decided it was a good day to make a tomato pizza with arugula pesto. Lately we’ve had some cool weather down her in Orlando and my arugula plant has been loving it, so I will be using that arugula with some extra- virgin olive oil and garlic and almonds to make the pesto. By the way, now that we are on the topic of veganism, some vegan pizzas claim to have the cheese substitutes, which are no comparison to the real thing when it comes to flavor. Not only do these cheeses not live up to flavor expectation, some varieties have even more grams of fat per ounce than the real thing. I will not promote which cheeses or cheese substitutes to eat or not, but the point that I want to make is that sometimes its good to step out of the cheesy pizza image and try other flavors and textures!!
When I decided to get into the realm of homemade pizzas, it took me a while to find the perfect thin crust recipe. I finally found one in “The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook”.
1/2 Tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 tablespoom confectioners sugar (domino)
2/3 c warm water
2 cups plain flour ( if using a scale use only 8 oz flour)
pinch of salt
2 TBS olive oil
1. Mix yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large mixing bowl and let it rest for 5 minutes. It will being to bubble after several minutes.
2. add the flour and then a pinch of salt and olive oil and mix
3. Turn the ingredients into a slightly floured surface and begin to knead until the flour and liquid mix and it becomes a soft dough. The more you knead, the more manageable the dough will become. PLace on a clean mixing bowl and cover. let it rise until it doubles in size.
4. When the dough doubles, place it on a flour surface and with a rolling pin roll out into a circle or rectangle or whatever shape pan you have. I usually use a pizza stone.
5. Place toppings on pizza dough. For this pizza I used tomato thinly sliced and arugula pesto made out of arugula, blanched almonds, garlic cloves, and olive oil with salt. However, let your imagination run wild on this step because it is your creation!!
5. place pizza in a preheated oven (375 degrees) and cook until the crust becomes slightly golden.
When it’s ready you will enjoy a crispy and delicious pizza and you’ll forget all about delivery pizza because its just way more fun when you make it at home!