Right now, my mother is visiting from the UK and because I am on 'best behavior' when it comes to food, we're cooking up all kinds of wonderfully healthy vegan goodies. Massive salads, lots of leafy greens, a veritable rainbow of vegetables from red peppers to deep purple eggplants, and everything along the spectrum. We are also eating low on the food chain and minimizing our use of processed ingredients in an effort to demonstrate that whole food-based meals are not only healthful and nutritious, but delicious too.
But My Beloved and I are not perfect and love our junk food as much as the next person. So, prior to my mother's arrival, we cooked up the biggest honking vegan pizza and devoured it all. Every. Last. Daiya-cheesy. Bite! Oh, and we took pix too so let me share the recipe with you. :)
Our absolute favorite pizza topping is not one that would probably spring readily to mind for most folks. Yes, we like vegan sausage on a pie, but no, that's not it! Yes, tempeh crumbles are sublime, but no, that's not what we reach for either. So what is it? Ok, here's a clue:
Got it yet? Cucumber with Chinese black beans! Yup, I DID say that it might not be the first topping that springs to mind when considering pizza, but please don't knock it until you've tried it because it is simply divine. Here's what to do:
1. Pre-heat your oven to around 450 or as hot as you dare
2. Prepare your pizza crust either by rolling out your dough or by grabbing a pre-made crust. I like to make the dough for my pies, but I can keep your secret if you go the store-bought route!
3. Using a vegetable knife or peeler, peel the skin off two medium-sized cucumbers, or one large 'English cucumber' and halve them lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds so that you are left with cucumber boats and then cut them into half-moons like this:
Ain't this pretty!
You can toss the seeds and pulp but I saved them to give to Darwin the Beagle as a snack. Yes, here's this post's second odd concept: my beagle loves cucumbers...go figure!
4. Finely slice some garlic cloves (how many is up to you but I normally go with around 6 - 8 for a large pizza) and saute in a little oil in a large-ish pan.
5. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add 1 generous tbsp of sambal oelek to the pan and stir well to combine. Sambal oelek is a thinish paste made of ground chillies and is relatively spicy but delish. A little goes a long way and, if this is a new ingredient, here's what it looks like:
6. Next add the chopped cucumber to the pan and stir well to make sure it gets coated nicely in the spicy mix. Add a splash - perhaps 1/4 cup - of vegetable broth and cook over a medium heat until the cucumber slices start to soften and become slightly translucent.
7. And finally: the last 'odd' ingredient goes into the mix....fermented black beans. No, these are not the Mexican kind of black beans as you get in burritos, but are salted, somewhat pungent little critters that I found to be rapidly quite addictive. This is what they look like (apologies for the unfortunately placed price sticker):
Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of these to the cucumbers and continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes or until the stock is mostly absorbed. As it's cooking down, the mix should look like this:
8. Spread the gorgeous cucumber-spicy-black-beany delight on your unbaked pizza crust, cover liberally with Daiya cheese (mozzarella) and pop unto the oven for approximately 20 minutes (or according to the package instructions if using a store-bought crust).
As you are waiting for the crust to bake, the cheese to melt and the whole kit-and-kaboodle to be ready, the smell emanating from your oven will drive you insane, so it's best to avail yourself of a nice glass of wine and resist checking the progress of your pie every 2 minutes. However, once it is bubbly and golden, hang fire for just a couple more minutes once you've removed it from the oven otherwise you will end up with a burned mouth and that is no-one's idea of a party. While you're waiting for it to cool a little, you can admire it up close: