Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smoked Portobello Mushroom, Piquillo Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pizza

Who doesn’t like pizza? But pizza without cheese? Absolutely. If you think about it, pizza is really just a flat bread with toppings, which is common throughout the world. Even though most Americans think tomato sauce and mozzarella, pizza can be a lot more than that. All you need is some kind of base sauce to top the dough, which can be as simple as olive oil flavored with garlic or chiles, and a few toppings that both contrast and mix with each other. This pizza uses a vegan “aioli” as a base and a mix of smoked Portobello mushrooms, sweet piquillo peppers, and salty Kalamata olives for toppings. If you have the dough made, it all comes together pretty quickly.

The base for the pizza is vegan aioli, which will strike my non-vegan friends as wrong and awful. Its main resemblance to aioli is its creamy texture. It’s an incredibly flavorful puree of silken tofu, roasted garlic, lemon, basil, oregano, and capers. It works to hold the toppings in place as well as to seal the dough so some of the wet ingredients don’t make the dough soggy. It’s adapted from the ingenious Millennium Cookbook. As a recent vegan, but long time foodie, I’m astounded at how clever it is and how good it is. Don’t think of it as an aioli substitute – think of it as an amazing sauce that has a creamy texture similar to aioli. It’s astoundingly good.

The aioli has a lot of lemon juice which gives it a bright acidity and makes it a great contrast to the various toppings. The portobello mushrooms are smoked over hickory and add a smoky earthy element. If you don’t have a smoker, you can just use plain portobellos. Roasted piquillo peppers add some sweetness and the Kalamata olives add a salty, briny note that cuts through the other flavors.

Smoked Portobello Mushroom, Piquillo Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pizza

Makes 4 dinner plate sized pizzas.

For the dough:

2 cups white flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 & 1/3 cups of water

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the water. Mix together and then need on a floured board until smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and let it rise for several hours. (I make it in the morning before I go to work and let it sit all day. Some people will say it may over rise but I think it’s fine for pizza.)

For the vegan aioli:

1 - 12.3 oz. package of silken tofu
1/3 cup of roasted garlic
2 tablespoons of white miso
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped (or cheat like I do and use the frozen cubes of basil from Trader Joe’s – I use four cubes)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Lemon zest from 1-2 lemons finely minced
½ cup of lemon juice

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

For the toppings

2 Portobello mushrooms, smoked for 30 minutes over hickory or other wood, sliced
4 piquillo peppers, julienned
16 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise

To assemble:

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll each into circles about the size of a dinner plate.
Add a few tablespoons of the aioli to each and spread it evenly leaving a ½ inch border.
Divide the other toppings evenly among the pizzas. Optionally spray each with a little olive oil.
Bake at 500 degrees for 5-8 minutes depending on how crisp you like the dough.

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