Lazy Sunday afternoons are made for pizza. And today, I wanted pizza. Unfortunately, like many of you, I don't really have the option of calling for delivery. Hrmph.
Life without gluten, tomato, and dairy doesn't leave a lot of options for restaurant pizza. There are a few places in Minneapolis to get vegan, gluten free pizzas, but their crusts have ingredients that don't work for me, and their cheese is that creepy vegan processed fake cheese that I also cannot eat and wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole even if I could. I keep hoping that I'll find a restaurant somewhere that has just the right crust, will make my pizza cheese free, and will offer a dairy-free, nut-free pesto sauce or garlic-olive oil sauce. It will happen. I know this place exists somewhere.
But for now, it seems that pizza as I knew it is a thing of the past.
To be honest, I haven't done much with pizzas in my own kitchen because I get overwhelmed by making crusts. My favorite pizza crusts are the Neopolitan-style thin cracker crusts, and recreating that in a gluten-free form is tricky. I don't like using guar and I avoid xanthan, and that makes it hard to create thin - and most importantly, stable - crusts. Yeah, I've made pizzas on chickpea crepes and other flatbreads, but it just ins't the same. I could make a pizza with a thicker crust, but I don't really like thick doughy crusts, because it is just too much dough. Pizza, for me, is about the toppings, not loads of crust. Writing that sentence, I realize that I feel the opposite way about pies - I could eat pie crust all damn day, often picking off all the crust from any leftover slices and ignoring the filling. Hmn. I wonder why this difference exists.
Anyway, since a proper Neopolitan-style crust seems like a far off dream, I've been thinking of other ways to fulfill my pizza craving that won't compare to anything I used to know. I want to create a new pizza tradition for myself. So, I've been mulling over an idea for skillet pizza, sort of a deep dish-style pizza casserole with a grain-free grated parsnip crust and all sorts of tasty toppings. Having been a very adventurous cook and baker this weekend already, and feeling pretty confident, I decided to see how this idea would all work out. I've been on a roll this weekend, seriously - my good friend B just had to go gluten free, dairy free, and egg free, and she paid me to bake her a ton of tasty baked goods. A batch of muffins, flatbread, waffles, and amazing cookies later, I decided to bake myself cookies, make soup, and try out a recipe for Beet Loaf. I'm also brewing my first batch of water kefir.
My kitchen has been crazy.
On the heels of this madness, I decided to embark on the pizza project, creating a crisp and flavorful crust with parsnip, whipping up a tasty tomato-free sauce, browning ground turkey with Italian seasonings, and gathering other toppings like spinach, onion, and vinegar-free kalamata olives (thank you, Trader Joe's, for these amazing olives). Lacking something cheesy, I whipped up a variation on my favorite recipe for vegan "parmesan" cheese. Raw cashews, a little salt, a little ground mustard, and today, a sprinkling of fennel seeds. Grind it all together, and hooray, you have an amazing sprinkle that is a whole lot like parmesan. The fennel added a burst of amazing fennel flavor. Super easy, and unlike many vegan "cheeses", totally free of nutritional yeast.
Here are photos of my pizza in progress...
Tomato-free sauce and all my toppings!
LOTS of fake cheese. Lots.
A little more sauce so it doesn't dry out...
Fresh from my broiler, hot and crisp.
I love it when the cheese gets brown and kind of burnt.
In the end, I was totally thrilled with how this skillet pizza turned out - it was amazing! I cut out a slice, dug in with my knife and fork, and was overwhelmed with amazing fresh flavor. It had a stellar balance of sweet and salty and spice, with good texture. I was hoping to include a pizza of some kind in my cookbook-in-progress, and I think this pizza will be it. Expect further refinements and the final version to be included in my cookbook! After some suggestions from readers, friends, and my own reassessment, I've decided to expand on the idea of doing just vegetables for the cookbook and make it a more inclusive, featuring new recipes from breakfast through dessert. More work? Yes, you bet. But it will be a better cookbook? Absolutely! So, I'm working very hard. I don't know when it will be ready, and I don't know how I'm publishing it. I'm not going to make date estimates anymore because they just keep getting pushed back, and I am looking over many options from E-books to self-publishing to submitting to publishers. It will be done when it is done, and that's that! Hopefully this will be sooner than later, for everyone's benefit. :)
In the meantime, I thought I'd share this quick little recipe for the "parmesan". Choose to add the fennel seeds or not, but seriously, it adds an amazing punch that you won't want to miss!
I can't wait to eat these leftovers tomorrow for lunch. Or tonight for dinner. Or both.
Yeast-Free Vegan "Parmesan Cheese"
Unlike many vegan "cheeses" this does not use nutritional yeast, so it is acceptable for those of us who are yeast sensitive. If you cannot eat cashews, try using raw almonds, or raw seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, or hemp. It will work just as well! I've made "cheese" sprinkle from all of them with success. This is for a small batch, and works best with a coffee grinder or VERY small chopper/processor appliance. If you only have a large processor or blender, or want a larger batch, double or triple the batch until it is large enough to work with your appliance and needs!
yield about 1/3 cup
active time <5 minutes
total time <5 minutes
1/3 cup raw cashews (or raw almond, sunflower, pumpkin, or hemp seed)
1/4 tsp ground dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt
optional: 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Place all ingredients in a coffee grinder or very small food processor/chopper. Pulse a few times, then process until finely ground. Use as desired on pizza, pasta, grain dishes, or vegetables. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.