cookbookery gluten-free life in morocco recipe semi-vegan vegetables vegetarian

Vegetable Pizza with a Polenta Crust

22 July 2013

[Fruit at the market, July 2013.]

A grey day here today, as it’s been the past few days, at least in the morning; except for the press of heat outside the windows I could almost pretend it’s San Francisco (well, sort of). I am up early to eat oatmeal and struggle through the last bit of cookbook edits — after a fitful night’s sleep, I foresee lots of coffee in my future. I jolted awake around 3:30 a.m. and was treated to a full 45 minutes of the early morning call to prayer — we are situated smack between two mosques — and then I couldn’t really get back to sleep, tumbling in and out of strange dreams in which I still partially lived in Washington, DC, but could somehow drive to California in a few hours … Whatever caused it, pretty much the last thing I want to do is re-write my introduction but it must be done. A pain au chocolat surely will help.

[Fresh orange juice — we didn’t use the sugar, July 2013.]

This weekend was a bit of a lazy one — lots of lounging about for me, unaccountably tired after what turned into a rather long work-week (I’m supposed to work 20 hours a week but that usually tends to stretch out to more than that), involving a trip to Rabat and lots of meetings and planning. Come Friday night it was all I could do to churn out a quick pasta for dinner that, I will admit, was not my finest effort. It happens. Yesterday morning we went for a run/walk down on the beach; the tide was in and we saw a few happy dogs and early swimmers and even a surfer, then came home for coffee and decided to go back down to the beach again to scout out a fancy(ish) beach club for (a pitifully slim) lunch and some more lounging about. I didn’t even swim, that’s how slothful I was. It was glorious. Home to roast a bunch of vegetables for dinner and now I am staring down at the words I wrote back in April and trying to edit them into something more coherent.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been cooking even more than usual here, mostly because of the effects of Ramadan. Saturday night I made a large batch of rice noodles and slicked them with a quick peanut/lemon/soy sauce blend then tossed it all with stir-fried vegetables. A girl at the consulate has organized an organic farm share and we were inundated with all sort of goodies last week, including tomatoes!, squash, a raggedy but delicious bunch of arugula, lots of herbs, potatoes. I hesitate even to mention how much it cost because I feel like I’m getting away with something but — a 1/4 share, which turned out to be an enormous quantity of vegetables, was $6.50 U.S. The farm also sells eggs (and, it turns out, whole chickens), which makes me irrationally happy, and I will avail myself of those soon.

Then last night I finished off some white beans I’d prepped earlier in the week, sauteeing them with olive oil, a small red onion, and the rest of the arugula, and served them with roasted potatoes, carrots, and more onions (plus a piece of salmon en papillote for DW). I’ve also made a delicious pasta dish with fresh ricotta and fresh peas (recipe soon), various quinoa and vegetable and chickpea stir-fries, quick spaghettis with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, a vegetable-stuffed tart with emmenthaler and parmesan cheeses. I am trying to use what is available to me — no mushrooms just yet, no sesame oil, no greens (!), no tofu (though I have it from two reputable sources that there is a place to get tofu and other organic grains + goods; I will scout that out soon). Next year we have grand plans to grow a garden, but until then … So I have to be a bit more creative here, starting off, lacking my familiar cooking ingredients (not to mention implements; what I’d give for a good knife!) which is not bad necessarily, just a little more work.

Last week I put together something that I consider one of my best successes yet: a pizza with a polenta crust.

The recipe for the crust comes by way of Nikki at Art & Lemons and it caught my eye immediately because 1. I had all of the ingredients on hand, 2. It seemed fairly quick to put together, and 3. It was gluten-free. I am heading back to California on Saturday morning (more on that come this Friday) to spend some time with my brother and sister-in-law who will be visiting; faithful readers will remember that Emily is gluten-free, and thus I am always thinking about things I might like to cook for her when I see her. This pizza/tart, made simply from gritty polenta, olive oil, and water seemed just the thing. But I needed to test it out first.

First I sauteed the few vegetables I had left from a trip to the market the weekend before — I think I just had zucchini and a large red onion. Then I made the crust, using a tart pan with a removable bottom, which worked quite well, though at some point I’d like to make it on a cookie sheet in a more free-form, pizza-like fashion. I spread a can of tomato paste across the bottom of the crust — lacking fresh tomatoes for sauce, this was a good substitute — sprinkled the vegetables across it and topped it all with a healthy sprinkling of pepper, dried oregano and basil, and shredded mozzarella cheese. I baked the pizza until the cheese was melted and bubbling, then slid it from the oven to admire before we devoured.

Now, this will not taste like a traditional pizza in any sense beyond the topping. The crust is not made with yeast and there’s not a speck of flour to be found. And yet, it is wildly satisfying, especially with the traditional flavors of tomatoes and mozzarella; I think it would be especially wonderful with fresh basil, and I intend to make it again next week for Emily using the freshest herbs and vegetables I can find. It’s also a forgiving recipe: you can incorporate as many or as few vegetables as you like into the vegetable topping, and I think you could even skip the cheese if you’re vegan or more health-inclined. Just make sure to include a healthy amount of herbs to punch up the flavor.

Meanwhile — it’s back to work with me. I’m looking at these next few days as the final push, another minuscule step towards publication. And when the day comes when I hold that book in my hand … well, all these tired mornings will be well worth it.

  • Lisa Horvath 22 July 2013 at 6:09 am

    Yum! I’m going to have to try this recipe this week. Of all the things Michael can’t eat, he misses pizza the most! Hope you’re well, miss you.

  • Art & Lemons 22 July 2013 at 5:01 am

    As soon as we’re all on the mend from this summer stomach bug, I need to try your version which looks so incredible. I also love the versatility of this pie, especially with all the fresh market produce to choose from.

  • Marie @ Little Kitchie 22 July 2013 at 4:41 am

    How gorgeous!