When I signed up for this month’s installment of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, I checked off the box for “beets please!” without giving it much thought. And then I promptly began to panic: I’ve never cooked with beets before. Never even eaten a beet, in fact! (Well, I’m at least 99% sure, so don’t quote me on that.) Next thing you know, my mind turned – as it always, inevitably does – to pizza.
As it turns out, pizzas are beet-friendly in a multitude of ways. You can blend ’em up and put ’em in the dough to turn the crust neon pink. (Bitchin’!) Or perhaps you’d rather cut your beets into fun shapes and arrange them playfully atop a pizza pie. (Crafty!) Mash them up and turn them into a hummus or a pesto and for a tasty and colorful base. (Neat-o!)
Me, I decided to convert one of my favorite homemade cheese recipes into a delicious hot pink mess. Enter the Cheddary Cashew Cheese from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza, which I adapted special for this potluck. Since beets don’t have much of a taste, this sauce may look sweet, but it’s 100% savory, with cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion, and paprika colliding into a plate of gooey goodness. As for the toppings, I decided to keep it simple, since I didn’t want any olives or mushrooms distracting from the pretty pink beet hearts. Just beeting hearts and Daiya cheese, please.
Shane wanted to call this a Bleeding Heart Pizza – and perhaps that would have been a more appropriate title, seeing as how the beets bled all over their pillows of mozzarella Daiya cheese, staining them a glorious shade of pink.
Ah well. Whatever you call it, you’ll be begging for seconds!
Pretty in Pink Double Cheese Pizza
Five to six large beets, canned or fresh and roasted
Cornmeal or cooking spray with which to coat the pizza stone or pizza pan
Vegan mozzarella cheese to taste (I used Daiya)
…for the Hot Pink Cashew Cheese Sauce
(Based on the Cheddary Cashew Cheese Sauce from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza.)
3/4 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least a half hour and then drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup beet scraps (or one medium- to large-sized beet)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
…for a Fluffy White Pizza Crust
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F / 45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
If you look closely, you can see Peedee’s ears off in the distance, poking up beyond the horizon of the picnic table. I didn’t even notice him until I was editing the photos!
1. Begin by roasting the beets if necessary. (I found the instructions here and here quite helpful.) When cooled, peel and slice into rounds about 1/4″ thick. Using a small, heart-shaped cookie cutter (or other adorable shape), cut each round into hearts. Arrange the heart-shaped beets in a single layer in a large, shallow Tupperware container greased with cooking spray. Cover and store in the fridge until ready for use.
Set the scraps aside for later use. (Some will go into the cheese sauce; I threw the extras in a bowl of apple cinnamon oatmeal and it was delicious!)
2. Next, make the cheese sauce. Combine the ingredients in a blender and process until nice and smooth. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan and heat on medium-high until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for five to ten minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken up, whisking the sauce all the while. When the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature before spreading it on the pizza.
3. To prepare the dough: stir the water, sugar, and yeast together until dissolved. Add the olive oil and salt. Stir in the flour until blended. Form the dough into a small ball and let rest in large bowl, covered loosely with a towel, anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
4. When you’re ready to assemble and bake your pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
5. As the oven’s heating, spread a dusting of cornmeal onto your pizza stone (or lightly coat your pizza pan with cooking spray). Using fingers dipped in olive oil (optional), pat the dough onto the stone, spreading it out evenly.
6. When you’re done shaping the dough, spread on a generous helping of the cashew cheeses sauce (probably you’ll have a little leftover, and that’s okay!), followed by the mozzarella cheese and heart-shaped beets. The cashew cheese really amplifies the processed stuff, so use a light hand!
7. Bake at 500 degrees, for between 15 and 20 minutes for a single pizza, or 30 minutes for two pizzas. Enjoy warm, preferably while listening to a Simple Minds cassette.
See you next year?