Polenta Pizza with Gorgonzola and Spinach

Pizza, Vegetarian

Polenta Pizza with Gorgonzola and Spinach

Adapted from cooking.nytimes.com

And so my obsession with polenta continues. At home we often bake polenta into little rounds topped with some tomato purée and cheese. I also just like plain polenta. It never occurred to me to use polenta as pizza “crust.” This was a wonderful discovery and I look forward to trying out different combinations. Even my father, who doesn’t really like polenta all that much, liked this pizza.

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • Salt
  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal (see Comments below)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
  • 1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Polenta Pizza with Gorgonzola and Spinach, masa II

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F (232C). Grease a pizza pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk with 2 ½ cups of water and a pinch of slat. Bring just about to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add the cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thick. The consistency should be similar to thick oatmeal. If it becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water.
  3. Stir 1 tablespoon of oil into the cooked cornmeal (polenta). Spoon it onto the prepared pan, working quickly so polenta does not stiffen. Spread it evenly to a thickness of about ½ inch all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about an hour or until it is firm.
  4. Put the polenta in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until it begins to brown and crisp on the edges. Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onion from the pan and set aside in a bowl or plate. Add the spinach to the skillet and sauté until it releases its water and the pan becomes dry. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Remove the polenta from the oven and sprinkle with the Gorgonzola. Spread the onion and spinach evenly on top of the cheese. Put the pizza back in the oven for two minutes or until the cheese begins to melt and the vegetables are warmed through. Cut into slices and serve hot.

Polenta Pizza with Gorgonzola and Spinach, costado

Comments: As in previous recipes, I did not use cornmeal as I have instant polenta from Argentina (Presto Pronta). If using this, you need only follow the instructions on the package: you boil the liquid, turn off the heat and add the polenta in a steady stream while whisking. It makes the job easier but it may not be available to you. When refrigerating the pizza pan with the polenta, you may refrigerate it overnight if you prefer. The original recipe also uses 4 ounces of chopped pancetta, which you cook with the onion. As I have never liked pancetta and am vegetarian, I omitted it. Some other suggestions from the recipe are to top the polenta with thin slices of fresh mozzarella before putting it in the oven, topping it with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes or some tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves. I think, however, that in the future I may just use some of my regular pizza toppings with polenta as the crust.

Polenta Pizza with Gorgonzola and Spinach, pedazo

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Pizza with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Walnuts

Pizza, Vegetarian

Pizza with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Walnuts

Adapted from nytimes.com/cooking

This pizza was quite unlike anything I’ve had so far. It definitely makes top of my list. It is very nouvelle cuisine. It is a work of art (of course, until you cut it up into slices). The blend of the mushrooms, goat cheese and arugula is divine. The walnuts give it just a hint of a nice crunchy texture. Once you have the dough done, which you can make ahead of time, it takes less than an hour to make this pizza.

Yields 8 slices (1 12- to 14-inch pizza)

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ pound baby bella mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 walnuts, shelled and chopped
  • 1 heaped cup arugula leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F (232C). Roll out the dough onto a 12- to 14-inch pizza pan.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and moist. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese into a bowl and add the walnuts. Lightly toss together.
  4. Top the dough with the mushrooms. Sprinkle with thyme and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the goat cheese and walnuts over the crust and return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and the cheeses has softened. Remove from the heat.
  6. Toss the arugula with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Scatter over the pizza and serve.

Pizza with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Walnuts, close-up

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Adapted from eatingwell.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ½-2/3 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Combine the flours, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the hot water and oil in a bowl. While continuing to mix, gradually pour enough of the hot liquid into the bowl with the flour mixture until a sticky ball is formed. The dough should be quite soft. If it seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water. It it’s too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour.
  3. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and then knead for about 1 minute.
  4. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray or oil and place it, sprayed-side down, over the dough. Let the dough rest for about 30 to 40 minutes before rolling.

 

Comments: Lately, every time I’ve made pizzas I’ve been trying out different whole wheat doughs. The problem with the whole wheat doughs is that they are tougher and not as elastic. Surprisingly, the recipes that are 100% whole wheat use honey that may help solve that problem. It’s something to keep in mind for next time. You can always buy refrigerated pizza dough. I know Trader Joe’s at least has a whole wheat one; I’m not sure if it’s 100% though as I never buy pizza dough. When preparing the walnuts, make sure you actually use 4 walnuts; if you buy a bag of walnuts at the supermarket they usually come as walnut halves. To chop them finely, I used my mini food processor. I like, as you already know, baby bella mushrooms but you can use any kind of mushroom you desire. I used Trader Joe’s crumbled goat cheese, which tastes almost as good as the goat cheese back in Europe. If you buy a goat cheese that’s already crumbled you, of course, don’t have to crumble it except maybe if there are some bigger chunks.

Pizza with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Walnuts, pedazo

Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza

Pizza, Vegetarian

Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza

Adapted from Cooking Light May 2010

I remember the first time I went to Chicago. One of my dad’s friends took us to Gino’s East Pizzeria. We ordered what seemed like a normal amount of pizza for the amount of people we were. We all gaped at the waiter as they brought out these monstrous pizzas. I could barely even finish one slice. Nonetheless, it was delicious. For a while I wanted to make a Chicago-style pizza. Finally, I was given this magazine and I immediately decided to make this pizza. Great stuff!

Yields 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 12 ounces bread flour
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups (5 ounces) mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1½ cups Basic Pizza Sauce (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Deep-Dish Chicago-Syle Pizza II

Directions:

  1. Pour ¾ cup of the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with it dough hook attached. Weigh the flour and add it to the ¾ cup of water; mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.
  2. Combine the remaining ¼ cup of water and the yeast in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly.
  3. Add the yeast mixture, oil and salt to the flour mixture; mix for 5 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover the surface of the dough with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate for 6 hours.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand, covered for 1 hour or until the dough comes to room temperature. Punch the dough down and turn it out into a 13×9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Press the dough into the bottom and partially up the sides of the pan. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap.
  5. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450F (232C).
  6. Arrange ¾ cup of the mozzarella evenly over the dough. Top with the Basic Pizza Sauce, Parmesan and remaining ½ cup of mozzarella.
  7. Place the pan on the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden. Cut the pizza into 12 rectangles and serve hot!

Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza, plato

Basic Pizza Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Remove the tomatoes from the can using a slotted spoon and reserve the juices. Crush the tomatoes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, juices, salt and oregano to the saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Comments: I made the great mistake of not reading the recipe fully before actually doing it. It came as a surprise when I saw that I had to refrigerate the dough for 24 hours! This amount of time really shocked me but I just went with the time that I had (6 hours). The crust came out perfectly. Next time I make this pizza I’ll test the 24-hour refrigeration to see if it really makes that big of a difference. We all really liked the sauce. Even though it was really simple, it had a lot of flavor. San Marzano tomatoes are traditionally used in Neapolitan pizza sauce and they have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. (I later spread leftovers on sliced bread and made AMAZING grilled cheese sandwiches!) The bread flour contributes to the bready, chewy consistency of the crust. If you want to add toppings like pepperoni or vegetables, place them on the first layer of mozzarella and then add the tomato sauce. Though this definitely may take longer than other pizza recipes, it is definitely worth it!

Revision March 6, 2016: I made this pizza again yesterday, but this time I refrigerated the dough for 24 hours (and added some olives!). The increased refrigeration time really made a difference. The crust came out bubbly, slightly chewy but crisp. If you have the time, I recommend you refrigerate the dough 24 hours; it can be helpful with a mid-week meal. If you can’t, you can always wait less like I did the first time; it will still be good!

Deep-Dish Chicago-Style Pizza, plato II

Whole Wheat Veggie Calzones

Pizza, Vegetarian

Whole Wheat Veggie Calzones

Adapted from superhealthykids.com

For several months I had been craving a calzone. I remember the first time my mom made them many years ago back in Spain; I fell in love instantly, but I don’t think she ever made them again. I finally decided to make some but the problem I faced as I skimmed through my mom’s cutout recipes was that they all had ham. So I turned to the Internet for inspiration and found this recipe. I liked it because the dough was whole wheat (unfortunately not 100%) and because it had a great variety of vegetables.

Yields 8 mini calzones

Ingredients:

  • 1 package yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ cups white flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ zucchini
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • ½ yellow bell pepper
  • ½ cup baby bella mushrooms
  • ½ cup Italian shredded cheese blend

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water and let set for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the salt, olive oil and flours. Then add the yeast mixture. Cover with a dishtowel and let the dough rise in a warm, dark place for about 30-45 minutes.
  2. Place all the vegetables in a food processor and shred. Place them in a bowl and add the cheese. Mix well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425F (218C).
  4. Once the dough has risen, roll out a small portion of the dough at a time, for mini calzones use a golf ball size piece of dough. You don’t need extra flour, as it won’t stick to the counter. Using your hands, press the ball of dough into a round disk. Top the middle of the disk with a scoop of the filling. Fold the calzone in half and crimp the edges with a fork. Set on a baking tray.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. The dough is done when it sounds hollow when tapped.

 

Comments: In my father’s words, these calzones were interesting and different. We all really liked them though my mom said she would have liked them with a little more cheese; I loved them just the way they were. One great thing about this recipe is that the dough is relatively quick to make; you only have to wait for it to rise for 30-45 minutes. Other doughs you have to let rest for about 45 minutes, knead it and then let rise again. It’s a really easy recipe, good for the middle of the week and very kid-friendly (you can sneak those vegetables into their dinner). They’re also really cute as mini calzones but you can make one large calzone though the cooking time will be longer. You can make them up to 2 days ahead and keep them refrigerated and then bake them. They also freeze well but thaw completely before reheating.

Whole Wheat Veggie Calzones II

Oscar’s Famous Pizza

Pizza, Vegetarian

Pizza Oscar, masas

Some years ago, my uncle ran a small pizza business in Argentina from his home. His pizzas are some of the best around. Here follows the recipe for the pizza crust and the basic steps for making a pizza. Be as original or classic as you want it comes to the toppings.

Makes 4 Pizzas

The Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg all-purpose flour (I like to use whole wheat flour)
  • 30-50 grams instant dry yeast
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • About ½ can tomato purée (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Weigh the flour and place it in a large bowl.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in 500 mL (about 2 cups) of warm water. Then add a pinch of salt and some sugar.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and stir. Add more warm water to the flour, as needed, to get sticky and elastic dough.
  4. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and leave it to rise in a dark, cool place for about an hour.
  5. Knead the dough and divide it into 4 smaller balls. Leave them to rise another hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350F (176C).
  7. Spread the dough into round disks on 4 greased pizza pans.
  8. Spread each round with tomato purée or sauce if you prefer.
  9. Cook the pizza doughs in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until it is firm but not golden.
Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza, uncooked

Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza, uncooked

Greek Pizza, uncooked

Greek Pizza, uncooked

Pepperoni Pizza, uncooked

Pepperoni Pizza, uncooked

Assembling the Pizzas

Ingredients:

  • Pizza crusts (recipe above)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced, or other of your choice
  • Other toppings of your choice
  • Italian spices

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 420F (215C).
  2. Top the prepared pizza crusts with a generous amount of cheese.
  3. Add any other cheeses or toppings you desire.
  4. Cook the pizzas in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the dough has turned a golden brown.
Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza, cooked

Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza, cooked

Greek Pizza, cooked

Greek Pizza, cooked

Pepperoni Pizza, cooked

Pepperoni Pizza, cooked

Comments: When making the dough, do not be afraid to use your hands! You can start out by mixing the mixture with a fork or spoon; however, I find it easier to use my hands near the end to mix well and to feel the consistency of the dough. After letting the dough rise you can always freeze it for later use. Here are some suggestions for toppings. One of my favorite pizzas is with goat cheese, apple slices and caramelized onions. Another pizza I tried was a Greek-style one with myzithra cheese (or substitute for feta) and eggplant slices with an abundant amount of oregano and nutmeg.

A Slice of the Greek Pizza

A Slice of the Greek Pizza

A Slice of the Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza

A Slice of the Apple and Goat Cheese Pizza

Homemade Pizza

Pizza, Vegetarian

Pizza

 

Adapted from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child

The recipe for the pizza dough can also be used to make white bread, French breads and rolls. I decided to make it with whole-wheat flour but the original recipe calls for white all-purpose or bread flour plus 1 tablespoon of whole-wheat flour.

The Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (a scant tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup tepid water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 lb whole-wheat flour
  • 2¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast in the tepid water with the sugar for 5 minutes. After this time, it should start to bubble. Then stir in the cold water.
  2. Measure the flour and salt into a food processor with a Steel blade. With the machine running slowly, process in the yeast and water until the dough balls up on the top of the blade. You may need to add some more droplets of cold water. Let it revolve 8 times. Stop the machine and feel the dough, which should be soft and pliable. If it’s damp and wet, process in a tablespoon or so more of flour; if the dough is dry, add a Little more cold water. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Process the dough for about 15 more seconds. Remove it to a floured board or counter and let it rest for 2 minutes. Knead it vigorously by hand about 50 times by folding it over on itself and pushing it out in front of you with the heels of your hands. When you are done, it should be smooth and elastic but should hold together when stretched.
  4. Turn the dough into a 4-quart fairly straight-sided ungreased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Leave in a draft-free place for about an hour. The dough will rise to about 1½ times its original volume.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Push and pat it into a 14-inch rectangle and fold it into 3 like a business letter. Repeat this process one more time and return it to the ungreased bowl. Cover it and let it rise once more for another hour and a half. The dough is ready when it has almost tripled in volume.

 

Shaping the Pizzas

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (recipe above)
  • Tomato sauce (or other sauce of your choice)
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Toppings of your choice
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • Dried rosemary
  • Paprika

Directions:

  1. Set the rack on the lower-middle level of the oven and preheat it to 450F (232C).
  2. Form the dough into 2 smooth balls and let rest, covered for 10 minutes.
  3. Place the balls of dough on 2 separate greased 16-inch pizza pans. Stretch and press the dough into a thin disk on the pan.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce over one of the stretched pizza doughs. Top it with mozzarella cheese. Add any other toppings you like. Finally, sprinkle the seasonings on top.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the top is bubbling, the edges have puffed and the bottom is crisped. Prepare the second pizza while the first is baking.

 

Comments: This comes out as a thin, crispy pizza. If you want a spongier crust, you can try using the entire dough recipe for 1 pizza or use a smaller pizza pan. This time, I topped the pizza with sautéed onions and sliced bell peppers. One of my favorite pizzas is what we call in Argentina fugazzeta that is topped with an overwhelming amount of onions. Another personal favorite is one I have made several times at home: goat cheese, apple slices and sautéed or caramelized onions. At one restaurant, I always order the Gorgonzola and pear pizza which is also a fabulous combination. Feel free to be adventurous!

Pizza pedazo

Summer Vegetable Galette

Pizza, Vegetarian

Summer Vegetable Galette

Adapted from The New York Times

Galettes usually have fruit fillings. They are like pies but with a more rustic look. Melissa Clark from The New York Times says, “A pie is homey. A tart is fancy. And a galette splits the difference, but is easier than either one.” The good thing about galettes is that you don’t need to be extra careful; it’s ok if they look a bit messy because they are supposed to have that rustic look. Here is a recipe for a vegetable galette, which I highly recommend. The combination of vegetables with the goat cheese and crust is exquisite.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • Cream, as needed
  • 113 g (1 stick) butter, cut into big pieces
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 lb eggplant, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • ¾ pound zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 lb tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz goat cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp ground thyme

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, lightly beat the egg. Then add just enough cream to get 1/3 cup. Lightly whisk the egg and cream together.
  2. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use your fingers to break it up. You need chickpea-size chucks of butter. Drizzle up to ¼ cup of the egg mixture over the dough and sir until it just starts to come together; reserve the remaining egg mixture. Mix in the lemon juice.
  3. Put the dough on a lightly floured counter. Knead it into uniform piece and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  4. When you are ready to make the galette, roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle (it can be ragged). Transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill while preparing the filling.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425F (218C). Spread out the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes in one layer on 3 separate cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Spray the vegetables with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil if you prefer. Season them with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for about 35 to 40 minutes, turning the zucchini and eggplant halfway through. The eggplant and tomato will be golden at the edges and the zucchini tender. Don’t brown the vegetables too much. Transfer them to a bowl and toss them together.
  6. Decrease the oven temperature to 400 F (204C). In a small bowl, combine the softened goat cheese and thyme. Spread the mixture over the crust, leaving a 1½ -inch border all around. Arrange the vegetables evenly over the goat cheese. Fold up the edges of the crust, pleating to hold the filling in; again, no need to be neat. Brush the pastry with the leftover egg and cream mixture.
  7. Bake the galette for about 30-40 minutes in the oven until golden brown. Cool the galette for at least 20 minutes before slicing (it will still be warm).

 

Comments: This is another very yummy meal. It is not too hard to make but does take a while. Do not worry if your dough seems too dry. I was afraid mine was; when transferring the rolled dough to the baking sheet, I ended up taking it by pieces and then patching it up again. It still came out great. The recipe says it yields 8 servings. If you are serving this as an appetizer, then 8 servings might work. As a main course, however, it is too little. We ended up cutting it into 4 slices and having salad on the side. I highly recommend this galette.

Summer Vegetable Galette Slice