Monday, July 23, 2007

Portobella Pizza with F-You-VT-Mozzarella

Phew. What a weekend of f-ing cookery, lemme tell you. E had his going-away party on Saturday night, and I was enlisted to whip up a double-batch of Peanut Butter Cannonballs and about 800 lbs. of Black Bean and Corn Salsa (the 800-lbs-worth in anticipation of our friend Joe coming, since he managed to polish off a whole bowl of this at a prior Halloween party). I also whipped up some veggie sour-cream dip which tasted surprisingly like the real thing but which I won't waste my time adding a recipe for since it basically consisted of a) buying vegan sour cream, b) shaking a packet of veggie-dip seasonings into it, and c) stirring. (I do have to say though that those of you on the internet who keep insisting that Hidden Valley's ranch dip seasoning packet is vegan are OUT OF YOUR FLIPPING MIND--it says "buttermilk" like the third ingredient in on the back, crackheads. YEAH, YOU HEARD ME!)

Anyways, since E's party was on Saturday, we didn't hang out Friday night because he was busy packing and prepping. Which meant freedom-cooking. And freedom-cooking usually means pizza. So pizza it was. And it was good.

I know I bitch all of the time about my disgruntlement with Vegetarian Times magazine, and given this recipe, right now would be a good time for me to explain my disgrunglement a bit more, so it doesn't just seem like baseless whining. One of the things that drives me batty about the VT is their bizarre lack of vegan-awareness in the way of recipes. Now don't get me wrong, they *do* publish a lot of vegan recipes in each issue, and I do appreciate that. But I am puzzled by their inability to offer vegan alternatives to certain of their vegetarian recipes. Now, this pizza is not one of them. So let me explain what I mean really quick.

If someone from the VT were reading this, I'm sure their argument for not offering vegan-alternatives to their vegetarian-recipes would be the integrity of the recipe. And I understand and wholly support that--certain recipes, like this pizza recipe I'm about to post, are not going to retain the integrity of the original recipe if you make vegan substitutions. There is nothing vegan that comes even close to replicating fresh mozzarella. So I can understand 100% why they don't have a little notation that vegan mozzarella can be substituted in. It would (and does) completely alter the integrity of the recipe. No problems there.

But seriously, VT: I can't tell you how many times I've run across non-vegan recipes in your magazine that, were it not for *ONE* minor ingredient (i.e. yogurt, or honey), would be completely vegan. Now herein lies my irritation with the VT. You can*NOT* tell me that substituting in agave nectar for honey or vegan yogurt for regular yogurt in a recipe is going to completely wreck the integrity of the recipe. It's not gonna do it. If you have a cookie recipe that's completely vegan except for 2 T. of yogurt, how hard is it to put a little notation that vegan yogurt could be substituted in, thus reinforcing the fact that it *ISN'T* an impossibility to bake vegan-style? Would this substitution effect the integrity of the recipe? Somehow I highly doubt it. I can understand in the case of this pizza I am posting today--there's no way that my version tastes like the original recipe. No way. But subbing in agave nectar in place of honey--do you *really* think that's gonna completely tank the taste of the recipe? I think not. And posting this vegan-alternative would reinforce the notion that it isn't an impossibility to very easily convert many recipes to being vegan. And that would be a good thing. Then again, in a magazine which will offer up an article condemning the meat industry and pages later publish numerous buttermilk-themed recipes without any sense of irony, I suspect the notion of endorsing veganism as an easy alternative isn't at the top of their list.

/end rant

All that being said, I *DID* alter the integrity of this recipe, and despite the fact that I know damn well it probably only rings faintly of the taste of the original, it is damn good. The portobellas are lush and juicy, the balsamic vinegar gives the pizza-sauce a bit of sophistication. And the arugula is a surprisingly tasty addition, offering up a bit of zingy veggie-goodness. When I baked my pizza, I tried half with parmesan and half without (since I'm not a *huge* fan of fake-parm). Both sides ended up tasting quite good, so I was hard-pressed as to which to recommend. I can say this though: the non-parm side offers up a much more subtle and delicate flavoring. The parm-side is a power-punch to the taste-buds, a lot more sharp-tasting and in-your-face with its flavors. I'd recommend trying each to see which you prefer.

So make it.

And eat it.

And give VT a bit of the finger in doing so.

In the name of all things vegan.

  • 1 12-inch (1-lb.) prepared pizza crust, such as Rustic Crust

  • 1 T. plus 2 t. olive oil

  • 3 medium-size portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 2 c.)

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 T.)

  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar

  • 1 cup prepared marinara sauce (or vegan pizza sauce)

  • 1/3 c. diced red onion

  • 8 oz. vegan mozzarella, shredded

  • 1/3 c. grated vegan Parmesan cheese (optional)

  • 2 c. arugula


Preheat oven to 450F. Coat 12-inch round pizza pan or baking sheet with cooking spray, and set crust in pan. (Alternately, you can put your pizza stone in the oven and sprinkle it with cornmeal, allowing it to heat up while you prep--that's what I did.)

Heat 1 T. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes, or until browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 30 seconds, stirring often. Stir in vinegar, and remove from heat.

Brush crust with remaining 2 t. olive oil. Spread sauce on crust. Scatter mushroom mixture on top. Sprinkle with red onion. Arrange mozzarella over vegetables, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has begun to brown a bit. Toss into broiler for a few minutes to get it to melt the rest of the way, keeping a close eye on it.

Scatter arugula on top. Cut into slices, and serve.

(Original recipe from the Vegetarian Times)

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