I heard there’s this thing calleed “Super Bowl Sunday” going on today. Personally, I’ve never really seen the point. I mean, seriously, what’s the big fuss? A bunch of slightly overweight guys gripping a ball, then running and throwing it and then all that tumbling on the ground. Gee, and all this time I thought bowling was already passé. Silly me!
Well, pizza is one of those comestibles that suits any occasion, sporty Sunday or otherwise. . . so here’s my contribution to all those super bowlers out there.
While switching to a plant-based diet from a more omnivorous one can be traumatic for some, for me, meat was never much of an issue (I explain more about my relationship with meat on myAbout page). Instead, what I missed–and still miss, dearly–is my first love, milk chocolate. Why does something sadly so devoid of nutritional value have to taste so darned good? I also miss whipped cream (so I made my own version), soft-serve ice cream (hard to find a suitable substitute here) and the occasional marshmallow (though come to think of it, all of those others have more to do with sugar content than dairy or eggs).
But meat? Naw.
One exception, though, is pepperoni on pizza. Why the yearning for the greasy, paper-thin, spicy rounds of flesh and nitrates? I can’t be sure, but I think it may have something to do with Sundays during my childhood.
When I was a kid, my dad worked 6 days a week in his butcher shop, leaving our house before we children even emerged, creases still on our faces and with bed-head coiffures, for breakfast; he returned long after our dinner had left the table. But on Sundays, presumably, he rested. And what did he do instead every sabbath? He packed up the wife and kids into the family station wagon and drove back to that selfsame butcher shop so my mom could do her weekly “grocery” shopping from the store! (Sure, she had to go to the regular supermarket for other staples like lettuce, canned soup, canned tuna, etc., but meats, eggs, dairy and a dizzying array of imported crackers and cookies could be got at Dad’s shop).
We’d pile into the car-cum-delivery truck, make the trek across the city through scenic TMR over to Jean Talon Boulevard and into the vacant store. It was then the negotiations began.
“I want a Fruitella!” the CFO would cry; I’d chime in, “No! how about some SweeTarts?” The Nurse (if she graced us with her teenaged presence at all) would reach for the box of boozy European filled chocolates on the countertop.
“Just one each,” our father would admonish, but if we were really lucky (or sneaky), we’d each make off with another prize as well, my favorite: the Icy Square. Then we’d savor our sweets as my mother browsed the glass counters and chose her food for the week.
Behind the butcher block, suspended like offerings from the hand of some robotic deity, were huge salamis hanging on thick steel hooks. They dried in the open air, exuding droplets of fat as if sweating from the exertion of their acrobatic feat of hanging upside down. There were the thinner pepperoni sticks as well, and one in particular that my dad called “karnatzl” (you can see what they look like here–scroll about halfway down the page). I never knew it at the time, but karnatzl is a Romanian word for the garlicky sausage–basially, thin pepperoni. And they were my very favorite Sunday snack.
My father would snap off a length of the solid, dehydrated sausage for us to gnaw on as we roamed about the store while my mother completed her “shopping.” The CFO and I would relish the crunchy, spicy meat that oozed with bits of gooey tallow in each bite. The concept of biting into animal fat now makes me shudder both physically and emotionally, but back then I was a carefree eight year-old happy to munch on a stick of beef parts.
My love of pepperoni endured until my first year or so with the HH, when we enjoyed All-Dressed Pizza Night on a regular basis. (I learned quickly when I moved to Toronto from Montreal that pizza is yet another way the two cities differ; in Toronto, you order by ingredient: “Gimme a medium thin-crust with double cheese, mushrooms, peppers and tomato”; in Montreal, in contrast, pizza is distinguished by title: “I’ll take a small Pepperoni” or “I’ll have a medium All-Dressed.”). When I was growing up, all-dressed pizza meant sauce, cheese, green pepper, mushrooms–and lots of pepperoni.
I decided I wanted a pepperoni pizza. No small feat, considering I don’t eat meat. Or gluten. Or cheese.
The result is this faux pepperoni, perfect on pizza or anywhere else you’d use a spicy, smoky slice of meat (I had the leftovers in a sandwich with tomato, lettuce and onion–superb!). The flavor is lovely, with only a hint of sweetness surviving the smoky, spicy marinade and baking time. The key here is to slice the pieces thinly enough to bake up soft and then slightly crispy on the edges (as you’ll see from my photo, this batch is a little thick. Must. Get. Mandoline.) Too thick, and they still have the subtle earthy flavor of, well, beets.
I will warn you, to create the entire pizza from scratch takes time. Next time, I’ll prep the cheese and pepperoni a day in advance, then cook up the crust and top it when I want to eat it for dinner. But if you’re craving an All Dressed Pepperoni Pizza, this makes a great stand-in, without any wheat, heavy processing, sugar, fillers, or isolated soy protein.
Now, isn’t that better than meat?
And speaking of televised events. . . for those of you in the Toronto area, I’ll be appearing on Rogers TV daytime show on Thursday, February 11th live at 10:00 AM (repeat at 5:00 PM) on cable channels 10 and 63 to discuss healthy chocolate Valentine’s Day treats. Tune in and let me know what you think!
All Dressed Pizza with Pepperoni Slices (ACD-Friendly–Phase II)
It’s a classic. . . all-dressed pizza. Great for family dinners, Super Bowl Sundays, or whatever occasion you please.
For the pizza:
1 recipe of your favorite pizza crust–I used this one
3/4-1 cup (180-240 ml) of your favorite pizza sauce (I made my own from canned tomatoes, basil, oregano and garlic powder, but this one sounds good)
toppings of choice: chopped green pepper, chopped red onion, black olives, mushrooms (if you can have ‘em) and PEPPERONI!
For the pepperoni:
3-4 very small fresh beets, peeled and sliced extremely thin (if you have a mandoline, go for it)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos OR tamari OR soy sauce
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 tsp (1-2.5 ml) liquid smoke, to your taste*
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
2-3 drops plain stevia liquid or 1/4 tsp (1 ml) sugar
1/4 tsp (1 ml) garlic powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) onion powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground mustard
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fennel (ground is preferred)
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) sage
1/4 tsp (1 ml) smoked or regular paprika
Preheat oven to 325F (170 C).
Place everything except the beets in the bottom of a 9-inch (22.5 cm) square glass pan or a casserole dish and combine well. Add the beet slices and toss to coat them all; spread them out as well as you can (overlapping slices is okay).
Bake the slices, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip them over and around to re-coat them with marinade and switch the bottom slices to the top and top to the bottom as much as possible. Continue to bake and stir them up every 10-15 minutes until they have absorbed most of the marinade, are very soft, and begin to curl and crisp at the edges. Remove from oven and set aside until you need them for the pizza.
* If you can’t use liquid smoke because of candida issues, double up the smoked paprika.
For the sauce (adapted from this recipe):
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable broth
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 large or 2 small carrots, cut in chunks
1 medium potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) raw cashews
1/4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil, preferably organic
1/2-1 tsp (2.5 -5 ml) fine sea salt, to your taste
2 more cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) yellow mustard powder
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp (1 ml) paprika
In a medium saucepan, combine the broth, onion, cut garlic cloves, carrots and potato and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 mintutes, until the vegetables are soft. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside.
In the meantime, place the remaining ingredients in a blender and whir briefly to combine. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the vegetable liquid and the drained vegetables to the blender and blend to create a fairly thick, smooth sauce. You will need to scrape down the sides several times and then blend again to ensure that everything is well incorporated (if you need a teeny touch more liquid, go ahead and add it–but don’t make the sauce too thin, or it will soak your pizza crust!). Use to top your pizza. Makes about 2 cups–too much for one pizza; I used leftovers on pasta the next day.
Assemble the pizza:
Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
Spread tomato sauce on the prepared crust and top with a healthy drizzle of the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with your toppings of choice. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the pizza is warmed through. Then top with the beet pepperoni slices as desired and bake another 10-15 minutes until piping hot. Makes one large pizza (feeds 2 in our house).
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© 2010 Ricki Heller