If you’ve read my last few posts, you can tell I’m on a squash kick. It seems I want to use roasted or caramelized squash and onions in every dish I make…except desserts. And this pizza is one reason why. Green flecks of pine-scented fresh rosemary leaves are beautiful against the golden crust and topping of this earthy-sweet and mellow pie. It gets a little kick from optional red pepper flakes and extra creaminess from homemade vegan white “cheese.” And this crust does not just provide a vehicle for getting the other ingredients to your mouth, but contributes fully to the taste and texture of one heck of a nutritious and delicious pizza.
For this recipe and some 170+ more,
I invite you to purchase my first cookbook:
The Blooming Platter:
A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes
Vegan Heritage Press
I created this classic pizza by special request from my foodie pal Anne who felt that the combination of pear and caramelized onions in renditions she had tasted was too sweet, never mind the little challenge of vegan blue “cheez.” Plus, the perfect crust was eluding her.
By poaching the pears in wine and lemon juice and by choosing a white onion (with a little more bite than yellow or red) and adding a little balsamic vinegar to it as it cooked, I toned down the sweetness factor just enough. I also topped the pizza with a mini-salad of mache (nice nutty flavor) tossed with a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice and olive oil. That also subdued the sweetness, in addition to being a lovely contrast in color and texture.
I had an inspiration for the blue “cheez” that worked beautifully. I am a big fan of my very slightly adapted version of Jo Stepaniak’s blue “cheez” dressing and had some in my fridge. But I wanted the top of the pizza to look pretty with little melty hunks on it rather than a drizzled sauce. So, I also had some pre-cubed super-firm (or extra-firm) tofu in the fridge. It occurred to me that I could use my fingers to gently mash the tofu–just so the pieces weren’t so geometric and uniform–with a little of the dressing. I tried it and presto!, I had blue “cheez.” For the crust, I used a California Pizza Kitchen recipe I found online. It was intended for ultra-thin crust pizzas, so I just omitted the rolling step to keep it a little thicker and it was a winner.
I thought the end result was pizza perfection and so did my meat-and-potatoes-minus-the-potatoes husband!
Please don’t be deterred by the seeming length of the instructions. It all goes quickly, as you can prepare virtually all of it simultaneously–you can even make the bleu “cheez” dressing in advance–and it is SO worth it. Certainly, if you want to forgo poaching the pears and opt for a commercial crust, do. I can’t vouch for the results, but if time is a big factor, why not try it?
Rosemary Olive Oil for Brushing on Pizza:
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 stalks of fresh rosemary
Pour olive oil into a small cup or bowl. Gently crush leaves of rosemary with your fingers and add to the olive oil. Set it aside on the counter until ready to use. The longer it steeps, the more intense the rosemary flavor will be.
Creamy Blue “Cheez” Dressing
½ cup sesame tahini
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon crushed garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon light miso
¼ teaspoon pepper (I use white to prevent black flecks)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes or 3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
In a medium bowl or food processor, beat together first 6 ingredients until creamy and smooth. Vigorously beat in lemon juice and vinegar until well combined. Stir in parsley or add a very small rinsed and drained bunch to the food processor and pulse a few times to mince and distribute. Keeps 10-14 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stir well before serving.
Dressing Source: slightly adapted from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak (the only changes I made were to omit all of the water, as it made the dressing far too thin, and add more parsley).
CPK’s Pizza Dough:
1 teaspoon “quick rise” or “rapid rise” yeast
1 3/4 cup unbleached bread or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon granulated or raw sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons tepid water (“quick rise” yeast does not need the traditional soak in warm water to activate it)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
You may use a stand mixer (fitted with a paddle rather than a hook for this small amount of dough), a food processor or your hands. If you use a processor, use a plastic rather than a metal blade, as the latter will cut through the gluten strands preventing a proper rise. Place all dry ingredients in the appropriate bowl. Add water and 1 teaspoon olive oil and beat for 2-3 minutes on medium-low until dough is smooth and elastic; or process just until the dough forms a smooth ball; or knead 5 minutes with oiled hands or until smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky. Do not overbeat/over-knead. Pour remaining teaspoon of olive oil into a mixing bowl and spread with your fingers. Place ball of dough into the bowl and move it around to coat the underside and then flip over and do the same to the other side. Cover loosely with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk about 2 hours. While dough rises, prepare other ingredients.
Note: If you have regular active dry yeast, dissolve it first in the water before adding to the dry ingredients. The water should be 105-110 degrees; any hotter will kill the yeast and prevent rising.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 very large white onion, sliced into slivers
kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add onion and some salt and saute, stirring frequently, until onions begin to turn golden. You may need to lower the heat to just above medium to prevent scorching. Add another tablespoon of oil and check for salt. Continue to saute until onions darken a bit more and oil is mostly absorbed. Add a tablespoon of water and continue cooking until onions turn amber. Add balsamic vinegar and cook until onions are a deep amber. Remove to a bowl to cool. While onions caramelize, poach pears.
2 cups Gewurtraminer (a slightly sweet white wine; a reisling might work nicely too)
4 1/4-1/2″ thick slices of lemon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white or white wine vinegar
kosher salt to taste
1 large Asian pear (I used one almost the size of a small grapefruit. If using a smaller or different kind of pear, you will need two to make a total of 16 slices)
Combine all ingredients except pear in a large cast iron skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Half pear lengthwise, core it and slice each half into approximately 1/3″ thick wedges. Place into poaching liquid in one layer and cook for about 8 minutes. Turn slices and poach for another 8 minutes just until tender. Adjust temperature as needed to keep liquid at a slow simmer. Remove pear slices to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
Before beginning, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place two pizza stones inside and heat them for approximately 30 minutes. Divide dough in half, shape into a ball, dust lightly with flour, and place in the center of a lightly oiled piece of foil about 10 inches square, shiny side down. Beginning in the center and working your way to the edges, use your fingertips to gently press and stretch dough into an 8-9″ circle with a slightly raised rim. Repeat with other half of dough. While stones are heating, make Blue “Cheez” Hunks and have walnuts at the ready.
To Make Blue “Cheez” Hunks:
1/2 cup super-firm or extra-firm tofu cubes
1 scant tablespoon Creamy Blue “Cheez” Dressing
With your fingers, gently break up tofu and lightly mash together with dressing just so that hunks lose their geometric and uniform appearance.
3-4 tablespoons walnut pieces
Assemble and Bake Pizzas:
Spread a few tablespoons of the remaining dressing on each crust to make a very thin layer, leaving a one-half inch margin. Top evenly with caramelized onions, using half of the onions on each pizza, followed by 8 pear slices per pizza in a pinwheel design. Dot each pizza with half of the blue “cheez” hunks and sprinkle with half of the walnut pieces. Using oven mitts, remove pizza stones from the oven. Carefully slide each pizza, foil and all, onto its pizza stone. Return to the oven and bake approximately 11 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, open the door, slide racks out, and carefully brush the edges of the crusts with the rosemary olive oil and dot over pizzas, especially over the walnuts. While pizzas bake, make mache salad (below). When crust is just golden, remove pizzas from oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then slide off of foil onto serving platters, using a spatula to assist, if needed. Place a little mound of mache salad in the center of each pie and serve warm.
2 small handfuls mache greens
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Toss together gently and place half of the mixture in the center of each pizza.