You wanna pizza me?!

Over the weekend, I was in Saratoga Springs, NY for the my first comic convention of the year with my group The Hero Army. That’s a link to their facebook page. You can check out some of our pictures, where we’ll be next, which charity events we’ll be popping up at, and other fun things. We were at the CT Children’s Hospital yesterday, and this coming weekend, we’ll be at the Southington Public Library for Free Comic Book Day! If you’re around, come check us out!hero armyCan you guess which CLOWN I am? That’s right. Harley Quinn. :)

Whenever we do events, we have tons of fun, but people forget that we are in fact working. e look like we’re having a blast, bouncing and bopping around (and we ARE), but we are also on the floor, entertaining, for about 6 to 8 hours at a time. And breaks are infrequent at best. And the only thing worse than a hero with sore feet is a HUNGRY hero. Think Hulk level anger. At least I know that is my part. Other people react differently–they get grumpy, or tired.

That’s where I come in. Part of my duties, in addition of being a character, is to make sure my fellow heroes are well nourished. That means snacks. And to me, snacks do NOT mean chips or cookies or ‘quick’ junk food. I like to make something that has a bit of good, a bit of bad, and a lot of fun.

Enter Pizza Bread. What can make (almost) everyone happy. Pizza. Always pizza. Cheese, and a good dough and some kind of topping. Fabulous. But not always practical. I mean, I can’t just whip out a pizza. So, I found a recipe for pizza bread. What better way to make a great snack even better? I mean, a very convenient and portable meal. Without the mess of hot cheese and drippy sauce–we do have complicated costumes to work with, you recall.

I had some left over roasted red peppers from my last recipe, and thought they would make a fabulous edition to the bread. I kept it veggie, since I wasn’t sure about the refrigeration situation at the con. But it was delicious. The bread was flavorful, the veggies perfectly cooked and dispersed. Just yum.

We ate it the day after I had baked it. It wasn’t as crispy as the day of, but that was still wonderful soft. It would make a GREAT sandwich bread. Just saying.

It is simple to make, it is tasty, and satisfying.

One small thing…after writing my entire post, I realized that I have NO pictures of the process to show you how tasty and tantalizing the bread was. However, I am still posting the recipe because it is WONDERFUL and easy and needs to be shared.

So I apologize for the lack of pictures. Instead I include a pizza pun instead. Because…pizza my heartAnd I promise pictures next post. Honest.

Veggie Pizza Bread
Adapted from Inspired by Charm

Ingredients
2 tsp yeast
1 ½ c warm water
3-4 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 ½ c favorite toppings, diced (I used jarred sun-dried tomatoes, homemade roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, and diced onion. Other options are limitless!)
2 c shredded mozzarella
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Let it sit for 3 minutes.
  2. Start by adding in 3 1/3 cups of flour, the salt salt, and the sugar. Mix using a spoon just until it comes together. (There’s no need for a big stand mixer here.)
  3. Add in the toppings and combine well. The dough will be tacky. Dust with a bit more flour if it feels too tacky.
  4. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour in a warm place, then put it in the refrigerator to continue rising for another hour.
  5. After that hour, take the dough out of the refrigerator. Flour your counter top, and roll the dough into a rectangle about 11×17”.
  6. Sprinkle mozzarella over top. Then, fold along the long side, like an envelope.
  7. Seal sides so cheese is not exposed. Let your loaf rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  8. Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. The original recipe suggests placing a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the loaf about halfway through to prevent it from getting too dark. I didn’t do this, and mine came out perfectly brown.
  9. Another option would be a about 3 minutes before taking the bread out of the oven, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking.
  10. Once done baking, let the loaf rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.
  11. It’s delicious on it’s own, or dipped in marinara sauce.

Do you know which cheese can hide a small horse?

Mascarpone.

HA.

I do enjoy good cheese–be it of the edible variety or the joke variety. One of my favorite memories growing up was going to Friendly’s with my grandparents. I would get mozzarella sticks, clam chowder, kid’s chicken fingers and fries, and an ice cream sundae which I would only eat the Reese’s Pieces from. It was a special treat. It was full of cheese and crunch and salt and all the stuff that I didn’t usually get to eat.

Looking back, that’s a ridiculous dinner for a kid to have, but there you have it. It wasn’t an every day dinner, it was a special grandparents dinner. As a kid, I think my favorite part was the fried mozzarella sticks. There is something so much fun about being able to pick up your food, and  dunk it, and bite into it (while possibly bringing forth a long string of cheese in the process).

So, I decided to attempt to make those sticks at home. Only baked, not fried, and perhaps a bit healthier, and not so much stick shaped as chicken nugget shaped. I mean, they aren’t going to be that much healthier, it is still a hunk of straight up breaded cheese.

If you can’t indulge every now and then, what’s the point?

I substituted cornmeal for the panko in the original recipe (not only because I wanted to try it, but also because I had no panko…). It lends a really nice crunch, but feel free to change that, or mix half cornmeal and half panko. I also seasoned the flour bath with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I wanted each step to have significant flavor.

Oven Baked Crispy Mozz
Adapted from The Gunny Sack
7Ingredients

1/2 ball mozzarella, cut oval slices about 1/4 in thick
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
marinara or pizza sauce
1
Method
    1. Put equal amounts of cornmeal and Italian bread crumbs to a bowl and mix together.
    2. Beat together 2 eggs and a little milk with a fork.
    3. Put flour in a third bowl and season with salt and pepper and the garlic powder.
    4. Roll each piece of cheese in the flour mixture. 2
    5. Dip the flour coated cheese in the egg mixture3 and then coat with the bread crumb mixture.4
    6. Place mozzarella slices in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Do not skip this step, or your cheese will oooooze all over your pan, rather than get crisped up. 5
    7. Remove the mozzarella sticks from the freezer and place them on a baking sheet. Melt butter and drizzle it over the mozzarella sticks.
    8. Bake in a preheated 400°F for about 8-10 minutes.
    9. Dip mozzarella nuggets in marinara or pizza sauce or ketchup or BBQ, or whatever strikes your fancy. 6

Did you hear about the carrot detective?

He got to the root of every case.

As a hardcore omnivore, who occasionally strays into vegan and vegetarian territory, I have to say that I love veggies. A lot. I have spinach in my smoothies almost every morning. I would eat broccoli and brussel sprouts and more spinach for almost any meal. I eat bell peppers like most people eat apples.

I love veggies.

When the chance came to make a vegetarian entree for a party, I jumped on it…and then immediately regretted that decision. It’s hard to cook for strict vegetarians. In my personal experience, they have such a finicky palate. Many, not all, of the vegetarians I know are more carb-and-dairy-itarians–not so much with the veggies, much more with the cheese and bread. Who am I to judge what they eat. If you like it and you and your body are happy and healthy, then great.

But, I knew that the dish I wanted to make needed to have ingredients that I found satisfying: carbs, dairy, protein…basically a complex and complete meal. I knew I wanted veggies and cheese and a crust. I had been seeing all sorts of beautifully constructed rose apple pies, and through I would create a veggies version.

I had seen a few recipes of similarly constructed veg rose tarts and decided to create one of my own, with flavors that I thought would go great together. That were savory and intense and satisfying.

This is what I came up with. I didn’t get many pictures of the assembly, just the finished product. It’s not as difficult as it looks, but it is still super impressive. And delicious. The crust is wonderfully flaky–just make sure to chill it before rolling it out, and before baking it. I also highly suggest weighing the ingredients if you have a scale. It really does make a difference.

I also have a funny story about this dish. When I posted it to my instagram account, I called it a galette, since that is what similar recipes around the web had called it. One of my best friend’s mother commented saying that “Galette means waffle, in French” and then asked what I had made. So, I have called it a tart. Because it seems more accurate. She is Belgium, and, admittedly, this is what they call a galette…so I can understand our difference in word choice. waffleTechnically a galette, in French, is meant to refer to a sort of free form crusted pastry or cake. So, my tart could qualify. But, I am just going to call it a tart, because saying ‘tart’ is fun, and because it is a bit more accurate in terms of it being an open, filled pastry.

Zucchini, Carrot, and Eggplant Tart

veggie tartIngredients

Pastry

6oz of plain white flour
pinch of salt
3 oz of butter, chopped into small pieces
1/4 c cold water
beaten egg white (optional, if you want your crust to be  shiny and browned)

Cheese filling

2oog of mozzarella
200g of ricotta
1/2 teaspoon of salt
pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of dried sage
pinch of oregano
a sprig of rosemary

Vegetable filling

1 medium zuchinni, top and bottom stalk removed
1 medium eggplant, top stalk removed
2-3 peeled carrots
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

  1. Make the pastry. Place the flour into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. (I used two forks to achieve this consistency.)
  2. Take a fork and add just a few drops of water to bring the mixture into a more consistent ball of pastry.
  3. Wrap the ball of pastry tightly in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch flan tin with butter. Once the pastry has rested, place it on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it into an 11 inch circle. Carefully place the pastry into the tin and rest in the fridge for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Take the pastry out of the fridge, and gently prick the base with a fork. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill it baking beads, or dried beans. This stops the pastry from puffing up while you pre-bake it.
  6. Place it in the oven and blind bake for 15-20 minutes. It should be barely golden. Once it is, remove from the oven and leave to cool and set.
  7. For the filling, break up the mozzarella into small pieces and mix with the ricotta. Beat well with a wooden spoon, and then stir in the seasonings. You can add more seasoning if you like. This base works well for a lot of different flavors. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables
  8. Meanwhile, using a mandolin / slicer/ sharp knife – cut the vegetables into thin strips. I suggest slicing the zucchini in half, the eggplant into 4 quarters, and the carrots in half. Make sure to slice the veggies so that they are in long strips, or ribbons. This makes the tart easier to assemble, and makes it aesthetically pleasing.
  9. Once you have the veg all sliced,  lay them flat and season with salt and pepper.
  10. To assemble the tart, remove the baking beans and paper, and spread the cheese filling evenly into the base of the tart shell.
  11. Working around the outside edge and working in, start layering the veggies around the tart, on the thin edge, so that they are sticking up, almost over the side, rather than laying down flat.
  12. I started with a layer zucchini, a layer of eggplant, and then a layer of carrot. Work your way around and around, in the same pattern, until you fill the entire tart shell.
  13. Brush the top of the veg with olive oil. Place in the still heated (350) oven for 40-50 minutes until the veggies have softened. If the tops are getting too browned, cover with tinfoil and continue cooking.