S.M.A.R.T : Tomatoes Week – Bruschetta

So for this weeks SMART meal we were given the topic of tomatoes, wonderful! Tomatoes are such a versatile fruit to use in just about everything from curry, to condiments. Let’s not forget the old stand-by of pasta sauce, but my favorite way to eat tomatoes is raw. About a month ago I did a recipe on bruschetta and I knew I had to make it again because it’s just that tasty.
In total this cost me about $6.00 to make and you could easily get 6 servings, making it only $1.00 a serving.

For the original recipe go to: HERE
The only variation between this and that is I didn’t have fresh parsley this time, so instead I used some dried oregano. Would have been better with some fresh basil or parsley, but sometimes we need to make due without.

Non-Traditional Bruschetta – Vegan (with directions for Gluten-Free)

Ingredients:

2lb ripe tomatoes (I used two HUGE beefsteak tomatoes)
1 regular size French style baguette
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1/4 cup grape seed or olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 medium onion,sweet yellow or red
half bunch Italian parsley, minced VERY fine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch salt or to taste
few cracks black pepper or to taste

Directions:

Start by turning your broiler on. If using an electric stove like myself, move your racks to the middle, doing this step ensures your bread will toast evenly.

With a sharp, serrated knife slice on the diagonal down your baguette about 1/4 inch slices. You will get about 20-24 slices depending on size. Place these on a tray in a flat even layer and set aside. Take a small pan and add 1/4 cup grape-seed oil (you may use extra virgin olive oil also), along with 1 tablespoon of your finely minced garlic, and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dried basil. Put the heat on low and just let slowly heat up, DO NOT rush this. The object of this is to perfume and flavor the oil, not to cook the dried herbs. If you rush this, you will burn the basil and your bread will taste terrible.

Cut your tomatoes into cubes less than 1/4 inch in size. The easiest way to do this is to put the tomato in half, then make 1/4 slices around the tomato. Take those slices onto your board then make long slices, turn those slices then cut long slices again, this will produce cubes. You NEED a sharp knife, if you do not have a sharp knife, you will mush the tomatoes (you could also harm yourself).

Cut your onion into small pieces. The easiest way to do this is to cut the onion in half the long way then cut off the top bit. Now hold the onion vertical and slice 3 cuts into the onion SLOWLY, so you don’t cut yourself, almost all the way to the root but leave a little uncut. This makes layers, now set your onion flat on your board and cut vertical strips along the onion. Follow the natural lines, as this will help. Finally, turn the onion and cut it up and down. Your end result are small pieces of onion. If you cannot do this properly, or don’t like this method. Simply slice the onion thinly and rock your blade around your board until the pieces are small OR use a food processor to pulse the pieces small, NOT puree.

Prepare your fresh Italian parsley (not regular parsley) by washing and drying the herbs. Cut thin slices all along the leaves until you get to the roots (we will not be using the roots however save them in a freezer bag for the next time you make broth/stock, adds amazing flavor). Rock and chop in all directions until your parsley is small pieces, you don’t want large pieces stuck in your teeth. You may have to pile the herb back up to help cut it.

By this time your oil and basil mixture should be starting to sizzle or bubble. Turn off the heat and let it naturally cool down just until it stops bubbling. In the mean time, add all your tomatoes, onions, and parsley into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, remaining 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (see video if using pre-minced garlic from a jar) and approximately 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Stir well, making sure not to squish the tomatoes though. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking, adding more salt or vinegar if needed. However keep in mind it’s not suppose to be super salty or sour, just a subtle hint of each.

Once your oil cools down, take a spoon (obviously metal so it doesn’t melt) and spoon a SMALL amount of oil on each piece and spread it around. Repeat for all the bread slices. Once all the slices are done, scrap off any LARGE clumps of garlic and basil. If you fail to do this step they will burn in the oven, which is not tasty. You also only need to oil one side of the bread. Once all the pieces have been oiled and scraped, stick them in your oven on high broil in the middle racks for about 60 seconds. You will need to watch these very closely. The point is not to brown the bread, but to lightly toast them so they do not go soggy with the addition of the topping. Once the tops are lightly toasted or JUST starting to brown around the edges, flip them all over with a heat proof tongs and replace in oven. At this point I like to turn off the broiler as the remaining heat is enough to finish the job. Leave them in there another 30-90 seconds or until they just start to get crispy. The way you tell is to lightly scrape your tongs or a fork against the top, if you hear a dry sound, they are done. Remove from oven.

RIGHT before serving (do not do this ahead of time) spoon on a couple tablespoons of your tomato mixture (be sure to stir first). Try not to get a lot of juice on the bread. Enjoy! A red wine goes great with this dish or these are great served before pasta dishes. To be honest with you, I just ate a ton of these by themselves for dinner and I was happy! ^.^

For a gluten free version, make sure to use a gluten free baguette or bread. For bread slices, cut them into triangles for a neat design. Toast as mentioned above and be careful you use gluten free vinegar. This recipe is naturally vegan friendly (always check bread ingredients though as some companies use milk).

For nutritional information, its for non-gluten free with 20 servings.

Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Pizza (It’s what was for dinner!)

So I bought a new product the other day at Whole Foods; this vegan gluten free cheese called Daiya. I’ve seen many a vegan rave about this stuff claiming it tastes “EXACTLY” like real mozzarella cheese. Well I won’t go into huge detail about it (review coming soon!); however I will say its much better cooked than not. I started out making a crust which is hard to see since I like thin crust. Sauteing some soy chorizo, prepped all the veggies. Rolled out my crust on a silpat, flipped into a pan. Pre Baked at 375 for 6 minutes, and ladies and gentlemen the rest was history. Now, in my house I have 1 die hard meat eater, and my husband who is more of a flexitarian like myself, however, this pizza has my step son fooled it was meat and my husband shocked it was gluten free AND vegan. Best of all, my stomach didn’t freak out from the milk or the gluten and at the end of the day we were all happy people. The following is the recipe as close as I could guess (I freehand all my recipes) because originally, I didn’t plan to post this, but it was so amazing I couldn’t resist. Depending on your flour brand and climate you might need more water or more flour.

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 cups gluten free flour mix (I suggest using my recipe, click HERE , however any brand will work that’s made for dough)
1 tablespoon yeast
2 pinches salt
1 1/2 tablespoons oil ( I used grape-seed)
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup warm water
heavy pinch corn flour for dusting, optional

Pizza:
1 pre baked crust (listed above)
1 medium (or 3/4 Large) bell pepper, I used red
1 cup green onion tops
small handful cilantro leaves
1/2 can of black olives, drained and rinsed well
1 bag Daiya mozzarella flavor cheese shreds
1 tube Cacique soy-chorizo (or 8-10oz any vegetarian chorizo)
1-2 cups your favorite pasta sauce or see note below**

Directions:

I started with the chorizo. You’ll want to follow the directions on the package because they vary, but you want to cook it over medium to medium high until the color darkens and it gets crispy. You might have to go a few extra minutes. Great thing is, you can precook this an hour in advance or a few minutes like I did.

For the crust: In a food processor put your water, salt, yeast, sugar, and oil. Pulse until the yeast is blended in well and let set 5 minutes giving it time to “bloom”. We will not be letting this dough rise, however, blooming the yeast will give it the traditional taste of pizza crust without the hassle.

Once your yeast starts to bubble and look like a science experiment. Take 1 1/2 cups of flour and add it to your food processor. Turn it on and let it blend. Slowly add more flour until the mixture comes together and looks like dough. You might need 2 cups or 3 cups of flour, it just varies. If you add a bit too much, don’t worry you can always add a splash of water.

At this point, preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Get a silpat or a piece of parchment or wax paper and put it on your counter. Put your dough on the counter and roll it to your desired thickness. We went for thin crust which only needs to prebake for 6 minutes, however; if you want something thicker you’ll want to 2X or 1.5X this recipe and prebake it for 12 minutes. Optionally you can take a pinch of corn meal at this point and dust on-top of the dough all over, this will prevent sticking later. If you prefer you can use nonstick spray on the pan. A good tip for transferring the dough is to put the pizza pan ontop of the counter with the dough sheet, slide your hand under the paper (silpat) and center it. Now in a rather quick, but smooth motion, flip the pan right-side up while holding the dough in place. Carefully peel off the paper or silpat and its that simple. Prebake your pizza until the top starts to firm up.

While crust is prebaking, prepare the toppings. Cut up bell pepper into 1/4 inch pieces. Halve the black olives, slice the tops off green onions, finely mince cilantro leaves, take the cheese out of the fridge, get your pasta sauce (see note if you don’t have**), and let your chorizo warm up if pre-made.

Take out the crust; spread your sauce on. I don’t like a lot of sauce, but use more if you want. Add the bell pepper, half the green onions, cheese, chorizo, other half of green onion tops, black olives, and cilantro. Adding the toppings in that order ensures the veggies cook enough to be tender and the chorizo is still crisp.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes depending on how well you want the crust and the toppings cooked. If your oven runs hot, starting checking at 15 minutes. When done you’ll have what I nicknamed the “Monster Pizza”. Over flowing with melted gooey cheese, “sausage”, lots of veggies and crazy amounts of flavor. You can’t tell its vegan, you can’t tell its gluten free, but you can tell its awesome, and kid approved! 😉

**Note: If you don’t have pre-made pasta sauce an easy substitute is to keep canned tomatoes on hand. I prefer any fire roasted canned tomato product. Take chopped roasted tomatoes, strain liquid, and pulse in food processor a few times to blend part of it up and then use that in-place of sauce. Its super simple and quick for those pizza emergencies. (this also works as a tasty quick pasta sauce!)

*Also: If you don’t happen to like the toppings I’ve chosen, feel free to change them. I was just using what I had in the fridge at the time.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: If you are making this and/or cooking for someone with gluten allergies or celiacs disease. Make sure to purchase ingredients that are certified gluten free, and clean your utensils very well. Better safe than sorry.

TIME SAVING TIP: You ever tempted by those ready-bake pizzas you buy at the grocery store, well never again! Make the crust, prebake and let cool down. Top with all your toppings and shrink wrap and store in freezer. Pizza will keep for 3-6 months. To bake just add 5-10 extra minutes onto cooking time. Try making mini pizzas and let your kids top their own, fun for the whole family!

(Nutritional information assume you used the same ingredients and serving size is 1/8th)