Jon’s birthday was Saturday and, as is our custom, we always begin celebrating a few days leading up to the event — mostly with the honoree’s favorite foods being enjoyed.
This year, Jon’s birthday blow-out coincided with a visit from some of our best friends who also enjoy the same food penchants we do, including doubling up on the garlic, olives, or hot chiles in most any recipe!
One of Jon’s birthday meal requests was pizza (as it is most every year!) I decided to make the Tuscan White Bean Pizza from Vegan on the Cheap (see May 13 post: http://veganplanet.blogspot.com/2010/05/tuscan-white-bean-pizza.html).
Don’t get me wrong, that pizza is utterly fantastic in its own right, but I have to tell you that I’ve made a good thing even better with a few embellishments. Here’s what I did:
1. I doubled the amount of garlic in the white bean topping.
2. Not only did I mix lots of fresh basil into the topping, I also liberally spread basil on top of the topping as well.
3. I used thinly sliced super-sweet grape tomatoes on top along with halved and pitted kalamata olives.
4. For a big finish: I dabbed small spoonfuls of green olive and tomato tapenade on top of the pizza.
Everyone eating this amazing pizza was speechless — mostly because their mouths were stuffed with pizza! But between bites, we all agreed it was outstanding. If you haven’t tried it yet, I hope you will — and let me know if you add any “extras” — I think next time I’ll add a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes or some slices of my homemade vegan pepperoni!
The stunning pizza photo was taken by Matt over at No Meat Athlete who recently blogged about my recipe for Tuscan White Bean Pizza from Vegan on the Cheap. The main thing I like about this pizza recipe is that it allows you to enjoy a healthy and delicious pizza without the need for cheese of any kind. Sure, there are some tasty vegan cheese products out there, but they can be high in fat and expensive.
The idea of cooking vegan “on the cheap,” is to make great-tasting healthy food without using expensive products. That’s where using a creamy garlicky bean topping on the pizza comes in: it’s low in fat, high in protein, and, best of all, it’s cheap to make. The topping isn’t meant to mimic cheese in any way, it just makes for a satisfying and delicious pizza. In the recipe, I also use sliced tomatoes and basil as toppings, with the suggestion of sliced pitted kalamata olives added if you want to “splurge a little.”
Of course, there’s no need to stop with the basic recipe (below). Favorite pizza toppings are a very personal matter and limited only by your own preferences and imagination. So why not let this idea inspire you to come up with your own creative pizza variations. Here are some of my favorites to get you started: (Keep in mind that certain toppings, such as olives and artichokes, are pricier than others and will add to the cost of the pizza.)
Pizza topping ideas:
vegan pepperoni slices (recipe in Vegan on the Cheap)
roasted or grilled vegetables
tossed baby greens salad with a light vinaigrette
crumbled vegan sausage and marinara sauce (recipes in Vegan on the Cheap)
sliced artichoke hearts and tofu feta (recipe in Vegan on the Cheap)
hummus, sliced tomatoes, and sliced pitted kalamata olives
Some suggested variations from Matt’s post include adding a splash of lemon juice to the white bean mixture for a bit of acidity, (although the sliced tomatoes do that too.) I also like the idea of using white whole wheat flour, but you can use anything from regular all-purpose flour, to half whole-wheat/half a.p. flour, to your favorite gluten-free flour blend. Another suggestion is to add some dried herbs to the flour mixture when making the crust for added flavor. Of course, you can always just make the recipe as is. And for something completely different, try the Polenta Pizza with Roasted Vegetables (also in Vegan on the Cheap.)
Do you have any other great pizza ideas you’d like to share?
Tuscan White Bean Pizza
Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza
(Recipe from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley and Sons.)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
2 ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Stir in the water until combined then use your hands to knead it into a soft dough.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding additional flour as needed so it doesn’t stick. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature in a warm spot until double in volume, about 1 hour.
3. After the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and gently stretch and lift it to make a 12-inch round about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the round to a floured baking sheet or pizza stone. Let the dough rise in draft-free place for 20 minutes. Adjust the oven rack to the bottommost position of the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
4. Make the topping: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the beans, salt, and pepper.
5. Mash the beans to break them up, then stir in the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is creamy, about 8 minutes. Stir in the basil and set aside.
6. To assemble the pizza, spread the bean mixture evenly on top of the dough round, to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Arrange the tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake until the crust is browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Splurge a little: Add sliced pitted kalamata olives when you add the tomatoes. Garnish with thin strips of fresh basil leaves.
More Vegan on the Cheap sightings:
Another gorgeous photo by Mackenzie Mollo posted on Vegan.com. This time, it’s the Tiramisu Bread Pudding.
A lovely notice on GoDairyFree.org. Thank you Alisa!
And the Vegan on the Cheap cook-through over at Two Vegan Boys is still going strong. Great job, Krys!