Naked pizza

| 30 Aug 2013 | 01:26

It was a humble pie that nearly thwarted my journey from vegetarian to vegan. I craved the tangy, gooey mozzarella, but it was the convenience and community around the pizza pie that was hardest to let go of. A typical Saturday night included friends, a bottle of merlot and take-out pizza. Was it possible to eat pizza and eat well, to use local ingredients and not use cheese? Getting messy with yeast and flour was definitely appealing. Since I was going cheeseless, why not sauceless, too?

The raw dough was a blank canvas and my kitchen studio provided colorful, seasonal inspiration. I roasted a large head of black dirt garlic and pureed cloves with cannellini beans to create a savory first layer. The leftover puree was repurposed as a topping for crostini and a creamy pasta sauce. Next I arranged cubes of cooked butternut squash, caramelized shallots, sautéed cremini mushrooms, chunks of the mellow roasted garlic and tender quelites, a leafy green similar to spinach without the fuzzy mouth feel. If you can’t find quelites, arugula and spinach are excellent stand-ins. After the pizza is safely transferred to the hot stone you’ll have just enough time to clean up and uncork the wine before it’s ready to serve.

Three lessons learned along the way: a not-so-round pizza has rustic character; hand-tossing is futile but that’s okay – pizza making is art; and preheating the pizza stone delivers a crisp, slightly charred pizzeria style crust.