potato + pizza = the jam

potato pizza lead

It’s been a long time since I lived in New York, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still transport myself to my favorite spots, still hear my favorite sounds (guy on the stoop rockin’ on the accordion, I’m talkin’ at you), and taste my favorite foods.

Two New York foods I keep at the ready for my daydreameatings are chocolate ice and potato pizza. I had not eaten either of these since moving to the West Coast, and I miss them terribly. I’ve got a recipe for chocolate granita somewhere that I keep meaning to try, but I just know I won’t get it right. And I’d have to find those little paper cups to serve it in…anyway, too much of a hassle for what would likely be a huge disappointment.

So that leaves potato pizza. This was the treat I would get after my lunchtime optometrist appointments. I worked downtown and my optometrist was in Chinatown, upstairs from a furniture shop. (It didn’t have its own door—you had to walk through the furniture shop and find the secret staircase up to the office!) Anyhoo, after the appointment I would walk back up Broadway and stop in Dean & Deluca to grab an Orangina and a piece of potato pizza. Ritual.

I don’t even know what bakery they got it from, but I can only assume it’s super famous in some circles and it wins tons of fancy awards, because this onion-potato-rosemary-olive-oily flatbread is indeed the jam. Served as a room-temp, palm-size rectangle of starch and oil and herb, it really is a treat.

Oh, and it turns out, super easy to make. Let’s.

What you need:

dough for one thin pizza (half of your favorite 3 cups flour, 1 cup water…recipe), room temperature
one yellow/sweet onion, for somewhere reaching 1 cup, sliced thin and cut in half
one giant russet potato (or a pair of medium potatoes), peeled and sliced suuuuper thin
as much fresh rosemary as you can handle, just the leaves, no stems
olive oil, salt, and pepper

What you do with it:

Get your oven preheating to 475°F.

I’m not kidding here about the suuuuper thin potatoes. Like potato-chip thin. You want to see light through them. I have a mandoline slicer that sits in a drawer 364 days a year. This is where it earns its keep. If your potatoes are not thin enough, they will not cook through and you’ll end up with potatoes on bread. So slice those potatoes, and if you’re afraid they’ll go brown while you’re working and stick them in cold water, make sure you dry them out on a tea towel before go-time. Slice the onions as thin as possible as well, while you’ve got that mandoline out.

Toss the potatoes and onions in just a touch of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Throw in some of your rosemary leaves, but make sure to set some aside—as you lay out the potatoes you’re going to want plenty of rosemary on top, for the pretty.

Room-temp dough is key, especially when you want a thin crust. If you’re pulling your dough from the fridge or freezer, give it ample time to come to temp or it’ll fight you as you try to stretch it and you’ll end up with a thicker, denser crust—not what we’re looking for here. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with olive oil and push the dough all the way to the edges and corners. Give it time and patience so you’ve got an even, thin layer. If it’s not going to the edges or is otherwise being fussy, walk away and let it rest a few minutes, then try again. Brush the top with olive oil and bake for about 5 minutes and pull it out to top it.

On your par-baked crust, lay out your potatoes, scallop style. The sliced onion will come along for the ride. You’re going to want two full layers but not much more or it won’t cook through (see earlier “potatoes on bread” note). Wound up with extra potato and onion? Wrap it in clingyfilm and cook it up with breakfast!

After topping with remaining rosemary, pop it back in the oven (top-rack this bad boy) for 10-ish minutes. The crust will be crispy and brown and the potatoes on top will start to curl up and brown. If your crust bottom is brown but your potatoes up top don’t look done, try the broiler for a little bit. Then get it on to a cooling rack until you can handle it enough to cut into rectangles.

Then let it cool some more. Yes, it’s going to smell so good that you’re going to want to dig in. And who’s looking? Go ahead and try a little piece! But as it comes to room temperature, the flavors come together, the starches bind and set, and then it’s really ready enough to make you not freak out about new glasses costing you four freaking hundred dollars.

Seriously, this is great for next-day lunches, picnics, camping/hiking, marathoning Game of Thrones—anytime you can’t be bothered with refrigeration or reheating. And while it may not make you think of New York, it’s still pretty damn good.

potato pizza end

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childhood favorites: fakey chicken pillows

beyond meat vegan phyllo pillows

Let’s get this out of the way right away: My feelings about Beyond Meat are complicated. CONS: It’s creepily meatlike, it contains soy protein isolates (more on that here, although note that Beyond Meat specifies its soy is non-GMO), and it’s a processed convenience food that comes in WAY too much packaging. PROS: It’s super quick and easy, it packs some protein, and it has a mild flavor that makes it quite versatile and an easy sell to omnis.

Over the holidays, there was a coupon floating ’round the Internet for a free package. So I printed it 4-up and went on a Beyond Meat tour of Portland, stocking my freezer with free food. Because I’m broke and I love grocery stores. I used it in tacos, pastas, stir-fry, and peanut noodles. And I managed to recreate an old favorite from my omni days, which is always a beautiful thing.

Back in high school, my friend’s mom served “chicken pillows” at a party and it was love at first bite. I was already red-meat-free and was struggling getting chicken down my gullet (remember, it was the ’80s in Chicago, so true vegetarianism was just crazy talk). But these were little bits of chicken and loads of garlic wrapped in phyllo for a crispy, sort of fancy little snack.

I’ve since attempted this with tofu, marinated tempeh, soy curls, seitan, a couple of other chicken substitutes—nothing was right. There was too much liquid or the flavor or texture was off. So damn frustrating. But this is it, we have a winner, and it’s space-age fakey chicken strips.

The marinade/filling is simple. Just make your favorite garlic-heavy pesto, but keep it pretty dry. Mine went something like this:

  • 1 bunch parsley (leaves only, completely dried off—the stems contain a lot of water)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, raw
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • nooch, salt & black pepper to taste

I just whizzed this up with my stick blender and added it to chopped-up Beyond Meat (I used the Lightly Seasoned flavor, but whatever you got is OK, I’m sure). After letting it sit for a bit, I laid a bit of the filling into phyllo, rolling it up like little burritos or spring rolls. If you’ve never worked with phyllo before, don’t fret, sweet thing. Check out YouTube for a gazillion demystifying videos.

My technique for these:

  • Spray one phyllo sheet with olive oil (or brush with olive oil or melted Earth Balance…heated long enough to boil off a bunch of the water).
  • Fold in half, the squat way—you don’t want a long, skinny piece—and spray again. Cut a line down the center, to make two pillows from each sheet.
  • Place filling along an edge, leaving space on the sides to fold over and roll carefully, folding sides over at the end.
  • Spray with yet more oil! Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until yummy-brown.

Oh, and bonus! Leftovers, while super soggy and sad when pulled out of the fridge, crisp up nicely in a toaster oven. Childhood favorites for the win!

Extra bonus! Don’t know what to do with the extra phyllo sheets? Roll ’em up with some sweetened-up apples or chocolate chips or leftover mashed potatoes. Aside from water content, this stuff is pretty forgiving.

thanksgiving is the best flavor: veganized downtown cookie co’s stuffing cookies

Thanksgiving really is the best flavor. I can’t think of anything so purely comforting than the smell and taste of sage, rosemary, onion, cranberry, and bread, bread, bread. Not even chocolate. (Chocolate, you know I love you, but it’s…a different kind of love.) Chances are, I’m associating this flavor with the family get-togethers of my childhood, four-day weekends, and confabbing with my brother on the toughest task of the year: The Christmas Wishlist.

Since I was on my own this Thanksgiving (Tom’s still in Nepal, and I do not fly for holidays), I was under zero pressure to put together any sort of respectable feast. So I made these cookies instead.

The headline on The Huffington Post’s article was “Thanksgiving Stuffing Cookies Are About to Blow Your Mind.” Normally, I read this type of hype as more like, “We tried these and they were pretty OK, but we really want you to click on this link.” But come on, “Thanksgiving Stuffing Cookies,” that’s like a hypnobeam, MDMA, and a siren song all ganging up on me. I didn’t stand a chance.

New York’s Downtown Cookie Co offered up their recipe exclusively to HuffPo, and was (duh) very not vegan. But it was very easy to veganize (and cut down on the sugar a wee bit and up the cinnamon, because cinnamon). And these cookies were amazing from start to finish: The uncooked dough was delicious, the smell coming from the oven as they baked was a sweet, herby hug, and the finished product was subtle yet full-bodied. There’s definitely a savory lean to them, but the brown sugar–heavy cookie base really does make them accessible.

I’ve only made the one batch, and I think the only thing I would do differently next time would be to watch my cooking time more closely. The recipe said 10 minutes, but I let them go until they browned up a bit, so they were a little crispy the next day—not a problem for me in the least, but I’d just like to experiment a bit. I was confident enough in them that I brought some to Janessa, who was volunteering at the Tofurky Trot with me, and she gushed a bit more than her normally gushy baseline, so I’ll take that as a good sign. And I might mix things up by pulsing the stuffing in a food processor to break it down a little, for more uniform cookies…because the ones in my photo (again, while delicious and delightful) looked nothing like the ones in the HuffPo photo.

So here’s my veganized version of the Downtown Cookie Co’s stuffing cookie. Note: I made the full amount and came up with 2½ dozen 2.5-ish-inch cookies. This is a lot of cookie dough; I used my biggest mixing bowl and had a hard time mixing at the end without flinging bits over the side.

  • 1 c original Earth Balance (I use the tub, because I have no other use for the way-greasy sticks.)
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • ¼ c white sugar
  • 6 T water, plus 2 T ground flaxseed, whisked together and set aside for a few minutes to get all goopy
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1¾  c AP flour
  • ¼ t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • 2½ c dry Arrowhead Mills savory stuffing mix, with any giant bread chunks removed (I got mine at Food Fight! but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods.)
  • 1 c dried sweetened cranberries

Normal cookie instructions apply. Get the flax mixture started in its own little bowl so it has time to come together. Mix your dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the EB and sugars, then beat in the flax and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients until it all comes together uniformly. The stuffing mix will be a combination of small bread chunks and crumbs, with just a few too-big chunks. While you’re mixing, if some of them just seem ridiculous or not wanting to play with the rest of the dough, I highly recommend you pluck them out and eat them immediately.

Drop 2-tablespoonish dollops of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and smoosh them a bit to round them out. Bake in a 350° for around 10 minutes.

tomatomofo: my favorite pasta with the last of the pretty tomatoes

tomato_shallot_pasta

I made this last week and forgot to photograph it, so the other night, when Tom was on his way home from work, he tried to pick up some more of these pretty heirloom cherry tomatoes. Alas, he was told by the grocer that he’d missed them by a couple of days; the season was over. Boo!

But then I found some at another store. Yay!

This is one of those 10-minute meals, where it’s totally possible—if you’re coordinated and don’t have a migraine at the time (which I did)—to seemlessly and fluidly put together everything and have it all done at once. It’s super hearty, and with the Beyond Meat, you should be able to convince an omni partner or friend that even vegans can eat full, well-balanced meals.

What’s in it? (Serves two hungry adults)

  • 1 pint of the prettiest cherry or grape tomatoes you can find
  • 2-3 shallots, depending on the size (you want about a handful), sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped if the leaves are still pretty big
  • ½ package Beyond Meat (I like the grilled one best), cut into bite-size pieces
  • olive oil, salt, red pepper (dundicuts, if you can find them)
  • ½ pound pasta—maybe just under, ’cause this is a lot of food!

While you’re getting your water boiling, chop everything so it’s ready to go.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and add the shallots. After a few minutes, add the Beyond Meat, salt, and pepper.

Your water should be boiling now, so get that pasta going. After about 5 minutes, toss your tomatoes in with the shallots and pile on your spinach. After about a minute, stir it all up and check for seasoning. If your tomatoes aren’t acidic enough, you could add a dash of lemon juice.

The pasta should be done by now, so drain it and stir it all up.

chicagomofo: homemade italian “beef” seitan sandwiches with giardiniera & “juice”

vegan_italian_beef_sandwichYesterday I posted homemade giardiniera (hot peppers in oil). Today we’re putting it to use in an old Chicago staple—veganized, of course—the Italian beef sandwich.

I’ve been missing Chicago lately, with Riot Fest dominating my Facebook feed and Upton’s Breakroom opening, so I’ve been thinking about the foods of my childhood. This is a big one. All over Chicagoland (the city proper and surrounding suburbs), you’ll find Italian beef joints. Sure, they sell hotdogs, but they’re there for the Italian beef. What is it? Well, if you’ve had a French Dip before, you’re close.

The parts of the Italian “beef” are:

The bread: Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Not being in Chicago, I don’t have access to the bread (Gonnella or Turano will work). In Portland, I have a wide variety of baguette, but most are too delicate and airy to handle what I need to subject it to. Find a softer baguette or long roll with as much give as possible, if you’re making do like me.

homemade_seitan_slicedThe “beef”: I just made a batch of beef-style seitan, doing recipe testing for Joni Marie Newman’s next cookbook, so I used this, slicing it as thin as possible.

The “juice” or gravy: The broth should have all those Italian flavors you think of, so I added oregano, red pepper, crushed fennel seed, and thyme to my very strong vegetable broth. I also added a little olive oil, because it is the best. Even as a child, I thought the beef was pretty gross, but I loved me some gravy bread (just the bread soaked in juice with some giardiniera oil).

The giardiniera: You can actually find this in some specialty shops all over the country. I found it once at Cost Plus World Market. The Internet is loaded with recipes, but it’s easy to make, really just a matter of brining the vegetables to suit your taste and covering in oil.

Putting it all together: Soak and reheat the sliced seitan in the broth. When you’re ready to go, either dip the open bread or spoon your broth into it. Then stuff it with an unholy amount of seitan and top with giardiniera. You should really have a bunch of fries with this, preferably served in a paper bag covered in leaky oil spots.

Barrel-chested bonus tip: Ever heard of a combination? That’s when you throw a sausage on top of it all. (Since it’s vegan, it’s not necessarily a recipe for a heart attack.)