Pesto & Mushroom Pizza

Back in the good old days, (does anyone else feel 85 when saying this phrase?) before I had sprouted a real curiosity or knack for anything within the culinary realm, my best friend and I would always just make Top Ramen when we got hungry.  I’m not sure if my parents were hoarding copious amounts of these enriched noodles in case of WWIII but we always had enough in stock to feed 65 armies.  Being the chefs at heart we were, we would always mix together one beef and one chicken flavored packet and and we called it “Beeficken.” My, oh my, how we have come a long way.

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Well, my best friend still eats Top Ramen.  Taylor don’t kill me, please.  But I will say I have learned just a few things since then. For instance, take pizza.

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In college, pizza was a staple.  No, I don’t want to talk about the freshman 50.  That’s right, I said 50. That, along with Taco Tuesday, and having my name on a plaque in the local bar for drinking 50 days in a row (I went to Santa Barbara, don’t look at me like that), was how we survived.  This is an entirely different pizza than I would have chowed down on in university.  And, for that I am proud.

Rich pesto is slathered on whole wheat dough and it bubbles and bubbles and toils and troubles alongside red onion and mozzarella until creamy crunchy Nirvana is reached. Even its picture alone ignites a feeling of delicious nostalgia…

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Oops, no, that’s not it.

That is a picture of my wine.  Sorry.

Moving forward, I decided to get all house on the prairie and make my own pizza dough.  I thought to hell with it, I’m already going this far, now there is no turning back.  I will post the recipe below, and although a bit labor intensive, the taste of homemade whole wheat thin crust is unsurpassable. Take my word on this one.

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The pesto is pretty quick and easy. It’s so good, I swear I could just slather this stuff on the dough and call it dinner. Pine nuts and fresh basil form the backbone.

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Your typical pesto recipe calls for parmesan cheese.  You may certainly add this in, if you so choose, however this recipe uses nutritional yeast instead.  Nutritional yeast is an amazing dairy swap out for cheese, and it’s loaded with vitamin B, folic acid fiber, and protein.  You can find it in the bulk bins or natural food section of your grocery store…it has a nutty cheesy flavor and comes sold as a yellow powder.  This amps up the flavor of this pesto fantastically and is pictured below to the right of the basil.

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Can you say….YUM

 I also used vegan cheese on this pizza, but you can certainly use mozzarella too.  My favorite brand of vegan mozzarella is Daiya, you can get it in many standard grocery stores 🙂

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If you so choose, you can purchase pre-made pizza dough or even pre-made crusts.  Trader Joe’s has a great whole wheat dough that you can take home, roll out, and use as crust.  My word, with the amount of times I mention Trader Joe’s in my blog they should make me their spokeswoman.  I just love that store- it’s cheap, healthy, and the people are always so nice!  Whole Foods is great and I could get lost in there for hours but I always end up spending my entire paycheck in .6 seconds.

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Pesto & Mushroom Pizza

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour…and a little more for dusting
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 T olive or avocado oil
  • 1 T cane sugar
  1. Begin with the most difficult part: getting the water the right temp for the yeast to grow.  If you have a thermometer, you can use that.  Water should be heated until about 105-110 degrees (F).  If you don’t have one of these fancy tools, use your best judgement when I say “warm” water.  Press your hand to the bowl and if it sears your fingers, it’s too hot.
  2. When you have the right temp, add the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar.  Let sit for 5 minutes with a dish towel covering it.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together 2 cups of the flour, the salt, and remaining 2 tsp of sugar in a large bowl or electric mixer with paddle attachment.
  4. When yeast mixture is done sitting, form a well within the flour mixture and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Then add in the water/yeast/sugar mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Using a muscular arm or a dough hook in your mixer (pick your poison my friends) knead the dough and keep adding in flour in 1 T increments until dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky.  Should take around, oh, 5 minutes.
  6. Once formed into a ball, place in lightly oiled bowl and let it sit, covered with a dish towel or saran wrap, for 45 minutes. During this time the dough should have risen like jesus on easter.
  7. After it has risen, punch the dough down and form into a compact ball again.
  8. Dust a cutting board with some more whole wheat flour and with a rolling pin, roll out dough into the shape of a circle approximately the size of your pizza pan.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  It’s now ready to bake! You can also be more time efficient than me and make this dough the day before.  Before rolling out, just wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and place in fridge.

For the pesto:

  • 2 1/2 cups of fresh loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (others have had success with walnuts, too)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 T lemon juice
  1. Roughly chop the garlic cloves. Place into a food processor with basil leaves and pine nuts.  Process until coarsely ground.
  2. Next, drizzle in olive oil and add the salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast.  Process until a runny green paste forms.  Sounds appetizing.  No, I swear it really is. Addictive, actually.
  3. Add salt or pepper to taste.

For the pizza:

  • 1 batch of whole wheat dough or crust (see recipe above)
  • 1 batch of pesto (see recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan Daiya mozzarella cheese or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms (I used brown cremini)
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to a very high temp.  If your oven is not ghetto fabulous like mine, it will probably get up to 500.  I got mine to 475.  Back up off, we all make sacrifices.
  2. Stretch the dough until it is covering the entire bottom of the pizza pan, then slather the entire surface in rich gooey pesto sauce
  3. Chop the onion finely and slice the mushrooms thinly
  4. Because mushrooms tend to leak a lot of water when cooked, I use a little trick before I put them on pizzas.  I place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (yes I am fully aware this is contributing to my ultimate demise) and microwave them for a couple minutes.  Drain.
  5. Sprinkle onions over pesto.
  6. Sprinkle pizza in cheese.  Add more or less depending on personal preference.
  7. Add mushrooms to the top of the cheese and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper.
  8. Cook pizza, times will vary.  I cooked mine for 13 minutes at 475.  If your oven is hotter, it could take only 10 minutes.  Keep checking. You’ll know it’s done when the crust begins to turn light brown and the cheese and mushrooms also adopt a slightly browned tint.
  9. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.  I know this is torture, but like my glass of wine whilst cooking, it is a necessary evil.

 

I’ve got a little hippity hoppity for you on this post. I am a big fan of conscious hip hop and if I hear a beat that entices me during the first 15 seconds, it’s pretty much a given I will enjoy the rest of the song. This song features a beautiful piano riff and it’s both rhythmic and bad ass.  It’s called Under the Hood, by a three man crew from Montreal by the name of Specifics. They’re definitely worth checking out if you dig that jazzy melodic hip hop vibe.  Pizza party mid week and a new tasty track…not much over here to complain about. Cheers.

 

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