Blueberry Pizza!?

Despite intuition that blueberries grow in cool climates (think Maine!) we’re right in the midst of blueberry season here in the Lowcountry. Last week I took a day off work and played hooky, heading out to our favorite family owned, organic farm in the area. D and I spent about an hour in the field and came out with about 10 POUNDS of fresh blueberries– many are safely stored in the freezer to be enjoyed throughout the year, but we’ve enjoyed our fair share (if not more!) this year with yogurt, in smoothies, and just popped in our mouths straight out of the bowl. Needless to say, we’ve got blueberries on the brain!

While we haven’t yet tackled canning and pickling of our own fresh veggies to keep them year round, my aunt in New York has perfected jams and compotes, and we are lucky to get to share in her bounty and creativity! She recently gave us a blueberry compote with flavors reminiscent of BBQ sauce (regrettably I don’t know the recipe) and when we found ourselves with an opened log of goat cheese, we knew the tart and sweet combination of the blueberries with the vinegar in the compote, and the smooth creamy taste of the goat cheese would be great on a pizza!

Blueberry compote, goat cheese, tempeh and kale pizza

Blueberry compote, goat cheese, tempeh and kale pizza

Blueberry Compote and Goat Cheese Pizza

1 package whole wheat pizza dough (or be 100% authentic and make your own!)

enough compote to cover the pizza dough–about 4 tablespoons

4 oz goat cheese

1 oz tempeh per person

3-4 large leaves kale, destemmed, washed, and thinly sliced

garlic powder

 

Pull pizza dough out of fridge to come to room temperature about 30 minutes before starting to assemble. About 10 minutes before ready, turn the oven to 400 degrees and put a cookie sheet or pizza stone in the oven to preheat.

Grate tempeh into a skillet with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook about 5 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Set aside to cool.

On a pizza peel or large cutting board, lightly sprinkle cornmeal (or flour, if you don’t have cornmeal) to coat the surface. Stretch out the dough to your desired size and lay on the board, ensuring that the bottom of the dough gets sufficiently coated–you’ll need this to get the dough OFF the board and onto the cookie sheet/pizza stone. (Note: the dog will likely come visit during the stretching step– they have no faith that you won’t drop the whole thing on the ground!)

Spread the compote on the dough like you would with tomato sauce, topping with dollops of goat cheese. Sprinkle the tempeh over the goat cheese. Once the oven is fully heated and the cookie sheet/pizza stone have gotten at least 10 minutes to come up to temperature, remove the sheet/stone from the oven and spray or brush with oil. Quickly transfer the formed pizza to the HOT sheet/stone and as needed, adjust the shape and toppings.

Cook at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. When the crust begins turning golden and the cheese begins melting, top the pizza with the chopped kale and cook for another 3-4 minutes until it begins to crisp up. Remove the pizza from the oven and if you can, wait for it to cool before slicing.

everything you could want in a pizza and MORE!

everything you could want in a pizza and MORE!

HOLY PIZZA! Whether it’s considered a pizza or a flatbread I don’t know, and honestly don’t care. The sweet, the tangy, the crunch, the slight char of the kale, and the soft, chewy dough– this was a great culinary risk considering we had no idea how the compote would fare in the oven. My sole regret is that I can’t share the full recipe, since I don’t have the compote recipe and only have a few more ounces left for ourselves!

We loved this combination and look forward to integrating our fresh blueberries with goat cheese as well. Thanks Aunt Jane for the inspiration and creative use of your own local produce!

What We’ve Been Eating

Sincerest apologizes for the delayed absence, but we tied the knot last week and have been busy with wedding bliss (and reality–newlyweds still have to do laundry, much to my dismay!) Our wedding featured a completely vegetarian menu that we were quite proud of, and which had many friends and attendees exclaiming that “I could be vegetarian if it means eating like this!” This is what it’s all about–spreading awareness and sharing the tasty delights of vegetarian cooking, and reminding people that it’s about savoring what you CAN eat and why it is delicious and better for you, instead of harping on what you cannot have. A full write-up of our vegetarian menu is in the works, but until then, here’s what has been keeping us full in the VegetarianForTwo kitchen the past few weeks:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

We added roasted squash and pumpkin seeds to the top for some texture and as a fun garnish– wash seeds well after removing from your squash of choice. Let sit on a towel for at least an hour, or in a colander for 3-4 hours, to remove the water. Spray a baking sheet with oil, spread seeds evenly, then top with salt and curry powder. Top with a light coat of oil, then bake at 200-250 degrees for about an hour until light brown and crisp. Makes a great snack!

butternut squash soup

Palak Tofu (also called Saag Tofu)

There are a million recipes out there for Palak Tofu (a seasoned Indian dish of slow cooked spinach with either tofu or paneer cheese), but regardless of your favorite, we just HAVE to share this new favorite technique for cooking tofu in dishes where you want it to hold its texture but don’t want to deep fry it!

Cut a piece of PRESSED tofu into the desired shape and size for the recipe at hand. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet with oil or PAM. While its preheating, add a few tablespoons of cornstarch to a medium bowl. Add seasonings that reflect the recipe you’re making (for Palak Tofu, we used curry powder and garam masala) and stir throughout–you should have about a 4:1 ratio of cornstarch to spices. Dredge the tofu pieces in the cornstarch and shake off the excess before laying on the baking sheet. Spray with a final mist of oil to ensure browning. Cook for about 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the tofu) or until the edges of the tofu are crispy and brown– the tofu should LOOK deep fried. When tasting, it should range from mushy in the middle to crunchy like a crouton, depending on your preference. Voila– “Deep Fried” tofu without any of the oil, calories, or mess! We served our Palak Tofu atop a bed of quinoa and with some naan on the side to sop up the extra sauce!

palak tofu

Zucchini Peanut Noodles with Tofu and Mushrooms

We wanted a pre-wedding dinner that was light on the carbohydrates, so we made ‘noodles’ out of a zucchini (we used a mandolin, but by hand is fine as long as they’re thinly sliced) and let them sit for about 30 minutes over a towel to release some of their natural water. We then marinated tofu and mushrooms in a mixture of soy/hoisin/rice wine vinegar and a little bit of vegan Worcestershire (seasonings to taste). We mixed up a sauce of peanut butter, soy sauce, and other favorite Asian flavors, then tossed the ‘noodles’ in the sauce to let sit while quickly stirfrying the tofu and mushrooms. Mixed all together, it was a great hot meal and we definitely didn’t miss the pasta!

peanut zucchini noodles

Tri-Pesto Pizza

We got a pizza stone and wooden pizza peel for the wedding and were very excited to try out pizza at home with the proper equipment! With summer weather coming to an end, we wanted to savor one of our favorite summer flavors–basil! This tri-pesto pizza has a pesto base, pesto marinated tofu, and a deconstructed pesto topping–pine nuts and parmesean cheese! Topped with some goat cheese and fresh basil, this was perfect for an indulgent carb-fest after the wedding! Next time, we would recommend cooking the tofu separately from the pizza, then adding the pre-cooked tofu atop the pizza to ensure sufficient crunch. Yummmmmmmm basil!

Pesto Pizza

Vegetarian Chili over Spaghetti Squash

One of the best go-to meals in the cooler months is a hearty vegetarian chili– you can make it with your favorite combinations of beans, protein sources (we like crumbled tempeh and soy crumbles to act as ground beef), and whatever veggies you fancy. Stick it in a CrockPot or in a large soup pot for a few hours and freeze for easy weeknight dining when you don’t have time to cook! To cut the carbs, wash a spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then bake (cut side down) for about 30-40 minutes. Pull apart the flesh with a fork-it will look like long strands of spaghetti (thus the name!) and top with chili and your favorite toppings. A quick weeknight dinner that’s hearty, healthy, and carb-conscious without missing any of the meat!

spaghetti squash with chili

The Summer of Kale

Since I didn’t grow up in the South, eating ‘greens’ doesn’t come naturally. I ate plenty of iceberg and romaine, not to mention spinach, growing up, but chard, kale, collards, and the like just didn’t cross my plate until I moved to SC. After we became vegetarian, I didn’t know how I would do greens without a hamhock or bacon, so I just kinda steered clear entirely until this summer.

This week, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs in the produce department and we ended up with an enormous bag of kale–and there’s only so many kale chips a girl can eat! We went with a version of a prior spinach salad with a combo I’ve been dying to try–pine nuts and blueberries!

Blueberry Kale Salad

Blueberry Kale Salad

Blueberry Kale Salad with BBQ Tempeh

kale, washed and deribbed

lemon juice

olive oil

dried blueberries

toasted pine nuts

shaved slices of Parmesan

blueberry dressing from our spinach salad

tempeh

BBQ sauce (your favorite brand)

Massage the cut up kale with olive oil and lemon juice to break down the fibers and soften it. Meanwhile,  cut your tempeh thinly and broil with BBQ sauce until crispy (see prior post for instructions). Let tempeh cool, then add to kale along with the blueberries, pine nuts, and parmesan- top with the blueberry dressing. The flavors combine amazingly (is that even a word) but even better, the kale holds up overnight so it’s great for lunch the next day! The saltiness of the cheese, nuttiness of the pine nuts, and sweet/tartness of the blueberries combine perfectly with the slight bitterness of the kale. MMMM

As if this wasn’t enough kale, we put it on tonight’s pizza. Bear with me—this is good 😉

pizza

Kale Pizza

whole wheat pizza dough (either store bought or homemade)

BBQ sauce (your favorite brand)

red onion, sliced thinly

green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

broccoli cut into small florets

(optional) Buffalo chik’n nuggets, cooked about halfway through and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

mozzerella cheese

kale, washed/deribbed and chopped into small pieces (massage with a small amount of lemon juice to soften)

Spread pizza dough out on a greased cookie sheet that’s been turned UPSIDE DOWN. It goes against all logic, but makes the best crust if you don’t have a pizza stone. (Ours is patiently waiting on our BBB registry ;-)) Spread BBQ sauce on the dough evenly, then top with onions, pepper, and broccoli. Add the chik’n nuggets if you’re using. Sprinkle about 1/2 of your cheese over top and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Pull the pizza out and top with your kale (you shouldn’t have put enough lemon juice on it to have a pool at the bottom, but if you DID, then drain so you don’t dump that on the pizza!), then the remainder of the cheese. Continue baking for another 5-8 minutes, until the crust is crispy (and sounds ‘hollow’ when you tap on it) and the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from the oven, let it cool, and serve.

OH MY GOODNESS. You wouldn’t even know there was kale on it if you weren’t told– it just kind of seemlessly melts into the other toppings. The lemon from the kale is a good acidity against the natural sweetness of the veggies and BBQ sauce, and the red onion adds a little bit of a bite. The chik’n nuggets we used contributed some heat, and the cheese is gooey and mellows things out.

Once you make homemade pizza, it’s difficult to go back to anything else–short of a few FANTASTIC local places doing thin crust, brick oven specialty pies, we don’t even bother eating pizza out anymore. It’s cheaper and healthier to do it at home and you know your ingredients are reputable. Who says pizza night has to be an ordeal or require jumping in the car/calling for takeout? Personalize your pizzas with YOUR favorite veggies for a date night or family meal that’s easy even after a full work day. You won’t regret it!

Better late than never– baba ghanoush and summer stromboli

Vacation seems to throw everything off kilter, and no matter how long I’m gone for or where I go, I seem to need a vacation from my vacation!

D and I headed up to DC for the week to visit family, and while I won’t reveal my mom’s tried-and-true recipes, I DO want to share my new favorite place in the DC metro area. Yuan Fu is a place I drove by multiple times a week growing up and never considered as an option– why would I when I had ‘regular’ Chinese options?! After eating just 3 dishes, I can honestly say I wish I had known about this place years ago– it feels healthier both consciously and dining-wise, and I tried things I never would have considered before! Check out Yuan Fu next time you’re in the area– we got the Peking Duck, Sesame Beef, and the Triple Crispy Delight. Don’t be confused by the names–they name things using meat names to keep it simple.

Before we headed out on vacation though, we experimented with 2 new ways to use up the abundance of home-grown eggplant that are taking over the back yard so we wouldn’t come back to life-sized produce!  We didn’t create any recipes for these, but check out an amazing baba ghanoush recipe (a great car snack with pita and baby carrots!) and our stromboli with fresh garden vegetables. Instead of ham we used the roasted eggplant and some fresh basil from the garden, then our homemade sauce instead of anything canned; the pizza dough was homemade. Both were fantastic and didn’t require much prep work–you could even do the eggplant in advance and prep everything else the night you’re ready to eat!

Moving forward this week we have grilled jerk tofu with grilled pineapple and corn, sauteed mushrooms and brown rice, and some extra-speedy dinners to accommodate a busy week!

Do in advance:

Slice and salt eggplant and leave to sit for a few hours

Slice and salt eggplant and leave to sit for a few hours

What your eggplant should look like after resting

What your eggplant should look like after resting, before being roasted in the oven/grill

Day-of preparations:

Use your favorite marina sauce or make it from scratch -- ours has tempeh instead of ground beef

Use your favorite marina sauce or make it from scratch — ours has tempeh instead of ground beef

Our finished stromboli-- delicious!

Our finished stromboli– delicious! Add some grated Parmesan over the top for some extra salt!

BBQ Chik’n Pizza

I’ve been writing for a long time, eating for longer, and cooking for somewhere in between the two, but never before thought to combine them…until a close college friend started bugging me to share the recipes that my fiance and I consider staples. The problem is that we rarely cook from recipes…they’re more inspiration. As an admittedly Type A person, cooking is an opportunity to break outside the box–sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The things that don’t are often given to the dog.

In April of 2012 both my fiance D and I went vegetarian cold-turkey— no pun intended. Out went the meat and in came the fresh produce, the challenge of adapting old favorites, and the satisfaction of knowing we could eat healthy, delicious, and unpretentious meals without meat. Throwing dinner together these days isn’t as simple as picking a meat, starch, and a vegetable but we’ve found it’s infinitely more gratifying.

When you have limited protein sources, it’s important to plan ahead so that your ingredients work together to make a cohesive meal and so your weekly menus have some diversity. Both D and I work full time jobs with ‘normal’ hours…and don’t often get home to discuss dinner until it’s already time to eat. Our go-to technique is to sit down over the weekend and menu-plan. Based on our schedule for the week, we determine which meals we’ll make each night– the nights I work later, D is in charge of getting dinner started so I can walk in the door and help finish things, whereas the days my workload is lighter, I love nothing more than coming home and cooking together. Planning in advance lets us grocery shop for what we need so we’re not scrambling after work and it helps ensure we’re not bored with eating the same leftovers night after night out of exhaustion.

Tonight could have gone very well….or been one of those days we resort to our go-to-staple of instant mac and cheese with edamame (to be discussed in another post–I promise it’ll win you over). D, a teacher, is off for the summer and among his list of things to do today was to figure out our dinner for tonight. I had honestly forgotten about it until I got home, but was pleasantly surprised to see that he had figured out a way to incorporate some of the yellow squash that’s been sitting on our counter since I picked it this weekend– it grows faster than we can eat it!

The most recent yield from the backyard squash crop

The most recent yield from the backyard squash crop

BBQ Chik’n Pizza

1 pre-made whole wheat pizza dough (we like Trader Joes’ or Harris Teeter’s)

your favorite barbeque sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/4 of a small red onion, julienned

1 medium yellow squash, cut into thin rounds

frozen chik’n strips (we use MorningStar)

shredded cheddar cheese

shredded mozzerella cheese

cilantro, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure your oven rack is set in the middle of the oven. Lightly oil your cookie sheet with either olive oil or a pressurized oil spray like PAM. Cut your red onion into thin strips and put into a small bowl with some ice water and set aside–briefly soaking the onion will pull out some of the harsh onion flavor. Put some flour on a clean countertop or cutting board, lightly flour the pizza dough, and stretch it out until it fills the size of a cookie sheet; we used our largest sheet (17.25 inches by 11.5 inches) and the dough fit perfectly, but depending on your cookie sheet you may want to use less dough and set the rest aside for monkey bread, breadsticks, garlic bread, etc.

Spread the barbeque sauce evenly across the pizza dough, then sprinkle cheese on top– a ratio of twice as much mozzerella compared to the cheddar. Top the cheese with the onions (it shouldn’t have to be said, but pull them out of the water first!) and the squash rounds, then the chik’n strips. Finish with a light sprinkle of both mozzerella and cheddar cheese, then some cilantro, and finally with a light mist of PAM. Stick in the oven for 6-7 minutes, pull out and rotate the cookie sheet 180 degrees, then cook another 6-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly brown.

BBQ Chik'n Pizza before the oven

BBQ Chik’n Pizza before the oven…it didn’t last long enough for a photo after baking!

Reaction: This was by far the best homemade pizza we’ve made and will be repeated often this summer. The sweetness of the barbeque sauce was perfect against the tang of the onion and the creaminess of the cheeses, and in pizza you really don’t notice a difference between the whole wheat pizza and a white dough. The squash was a sneaky way to add veggies to an otherwise ‘unhealthy’ pizza, and if you haven’t tried fake chicken strips yet, you should—the first time I had them was in a chik’n tortilla soup and I thought I’d been tricked into eating chicken! The texture is uncanny and in something like this, you honestly cannot tell the difference– try swapping out poultry for chik’n strips the next time you make this or any other chicken dish.