I generally have a hard time following recipes. I guess that’s why I got into creating my own! Generally though, when I set out to follow a recipe from a cookbook or a blog or a friend, I find myself compelled to turn up the spice. I like my food packed with flavor, and that includes all kind of flavor, be it sweet, savory, or hot.
That’s why I was immediately intrigued by Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking by Celine Steen. This book doesn’t hold back on the seasonings, and the resultant dishes are absolutely delicious and perfect for those of us who like our food to have a little kick.
The book is divided into chapters devoted to savory, spicy, and sweet flavors, but in a way the dishes defy categorization. The sweet and spicy dishes might back a hint of savory (try the miso caramel or the Korean-style soft tacos), or the savory dishes might have a little more heat than normal (like the Asian-inspired fondue), but what’s really cool about each of the recipes is how the flavors work together to create some serious deliciousness.
The piri piri pit-za is from the spicy chapter (of course I went for a dish from that one!). But the piri piri sauce also packs sweet and smoky flavors thanks to red bell peppers, smoked paprika, and sugar plum tomatoes, while the creamy cashew sauce gets some extra umami from miso paste. The pizzas were absolutely delicious and pretty darn easy to throw together, with pita bread working out great as an easy premade personal pizza crust. I’m pretty excited about working my way through this entire book.
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 or 2 bird’s eye chiles (to taste), cored and seeded
Generous handful sugar plum tomatoes (the equivalent of a medium regular tomato)
1 small red onion, trimmed and peeled, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp smoked sea salt
1 heaping tsp (3 g) smoked paprika
1 tsp (1 g) dried oregano leaves or
2 tsp (2 g) fresh oregano
2 tsp (11 g) double-concentrated tomato paste
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil or grapeseed oil
Juice from 1 lemon (2 tbsp [30 ml])
8 (8-inch [20-cm]) whole-wheat or regular vegan pita breads
½ cup (120 g) Cashew Spread (page 172) or store-bought vegan cream cheese
2 tsp (12 g) white miso
dried kalamata olives (pitted and chopped)
soft sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)
peppers in a Pickle (page 176)
thinly sliced mushrooms
To make the sauce, place the bell pepper, chiles, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, paprika, oregano, tomato paste, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Process until combined and mostly smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan and heat on medium-high heat. Once the mixture starts to get bubbly, lower the heat and cook on medium-low for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat as needed. The mixture should lose most of its juices and be quite thick. Set aside.
To make the pit-zas, I like to use the broiler to do what follows, but you really must keep an eye on the pit-zas for it to work without scorching them. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Place the pita breads on a baking sheet. Combine the spread with the miso, stirring well to thoroughly combine. Add 1 tablespoon (15 g) evenly on each pita bread. Top with 1 ½ tablespoons (27 g) of piri piri sauce. Apply the toppings that need to be cooked evenly on top of each pita bread.
If using the broiler, baking will take approximately 5 minutes. If using the regular oven, this will take approximately 10 minutes. Keep a close eye no matter which method you choose.
Serve immediately. There will be leftover piri piri sauce. Use it to make more pit-zas, or serve it with roasted potatoes, vegetables and more.
Alissa's note: I topped my pizzas with Kalamata olives and bell peppers, and they were delicious.
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