Zucchini Crust Pizza

Saturday nights are Pizza nights. We’re not terribly predictable people but come Saturday night, there is ALWAYS pizza for dinner, and probably a glass of wine or two.

I’m sure we used to do a lot of barbecues on the weekends, but as the child numbers grew homemade pizza’s became an appealing (and cheaper!) option, and it somehow ended up a regular event. The toppings can be adapted easily, they are cooked quickly, make great leftovers, can be made in advance and frozen, and because we frequently have visitors dropping by for dinner (lots of kids!) it’s no trouble to make a few extra to feed everyone.

And let’s face it – with 3 young kids we don’t get any better offers so eating pizza on a Saturday night is often the highlight of the week!

We used to think we were terribly clever, buying pre-made pizza bases or using pita or turkish bread, then making our elaborate tandoori chicken, pumpkin spinach & feta or potato & rosemary toppings. The kids ALWAYS just have cheese & ham, with salami if we have any.

A few years ago our friends Hayley & Damian came to stay for a few days with their son Luke, and Damian taught us how easy homemade pizza dough is to make… the recipe is still hastily scrawled in my recipe binder as ‘Damian’s pizza dough’, and the dough hook on the stand mixer makes it so easy & quick to make. Here’s the clincher though- I am absolutely useless at making the bases! I just don’t have a knack with bread…but Mr B. makes a ripper pizza base. Saturday nights are now as follows…

5pm – Mr B. works his pizza dough magic, lets it rise, then rolls out to size and puts on trays.

5.30pm – Bases get pre-cooked for a few minutes, then Mr B. yells out “Your turn” and disappears with his glass of wine.

5.35pm – I cut, dice, smear, drizzle & spread our favourite toppings, add mozzarella then bake for 10-12 minutes. Think about cleaning up kitchen but decide glass of wine is a better option.

6pm-ish – Dinner is on the table, bellies are happy with that floury, greasy familiarity and all is good in the world. Until a few glasses of wine hours later when we realise kitchen is still a mess.

So…Mr B. flew back to work this morning for a 2.5 week stint. It’s Saturday, and pizza’s are mandatory – it’s all on me. I spectacularly destroy the kids pizza base (not really, but mine really isn’t as good as Mr B’s!), and decide that I will make a zucchini pizza crust for myself because:

a. I’ve eaten far too many mocha brownies this past week and need a carb intervention.

b. I’ve read Jane Kennedy’s second cookbook OMG! I Can Eat That? (See her first cookbook reviewed here, this book reviewed soon) and her zucchini pizza crust recipe looked super easy & delish.

c. I’ve seen the cauliflower pizza crust recipe on pinterest repinned a gazillion times but I never have cauliflower in my fridge (I’ve tried…mine goes brown and gross within a day or two so I don’t bother with it very often…oh, and it gives me gas!) BUT I always have zucchini – bingo!

I adapted my zucchini crust recipe slightly from the original, here’s my version:

Zucchini Pizza Crust

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 50g mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  • passata, tomato paste, or pizza sauce
  • pizza toppings of choice
  • extra mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C, and line your baking tray with a piece of baking paper (this is important, it will stick otherwise!).
  2. Grate the zucchini into a mixing bowl and squeeze out excess moisture, then whisk egg into the zucchini. Add grated cheeses and mix to combine.
  3. Heap the mixture onto the middle of the tray and shape into a circle.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden around the edges. Once out of oven, remove from tray but leave on baking paper to cool whilst you prepare your desired toppings. Turn oven up to 220°C.
  5. Spread gently with passata, tomato paste or pizza sauce. I topped mine with a little bacon, spinach, basil, mushrooms, red capsicum and sun dried tomato, then finished with mozzarella.
  6. Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbling, cut and serve!

Verdict – really good. So good that I ate half the pizza. Then I ate the other half, kind of defeating the purpose of a healthier pizza huh? It was a small pizza though, really…

It was definitely much floppier than a dough base – maybe mine had so many toppings and was too top heavy, but it was a 2-hand deal. The zucchini has such a subtle flavour that it allows the toppings to really steal the show, and OMG no guilt! (Except if you eat the whole thing yourself – don’t do that).

I’m not sure it would win over die-hard pizza fans, but it would definitely win over low-carb folks who still want a tasty pizza…I’m a convert.

And did anyone notice the bacon? As in, I’ve decided I need to add a little meat to my diet, ever so slowly though – I feel like being vegetarian has been part of my ‘identity’ for so long (only 3 years in reality!) I’m feeling quite nervous about it. Like coming out of the meat closet maybe. I’ve been so low in energy levels for ages, and the feta and pine nuts for protein just isn’t cutting it anymore. I’m finding the transition quite difficult so far, but Mr B. keeps telling me it’s all in the head! Baby steps for now…

Anyone else become un-vegetarian lately?

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Zucchini & Tomato Tartlets

Before my youngest was born a few years ago, I quite happily cooked a fairly large repertoire of healthy dinners for my family. A week after Oliver was born however, Mr B. started working away from home – his usual roster is 2 weeks away, 2 weeks home. With two small children and a newborn to keep me busy, my dinner routine was shot whenever Mr B. was away.
I started looking for meal options that I could freeze – not a new concept I know (and huge on Pinterest right now!), but being vegetarian I wanted tasty dinners that weren’t your standard pumpkin soup or casserole. My lovely librarian at the time (who kept a keen eye on my borrowing habits and always knew exactly what I needed!) suggested the Frost Bite books by Susan Austin, which I took home and tried a few recipes from. The meals are designed to be part or fully cooked, frozen and reheated for an easy dinner or when you want to impress unexpected guests. Oh these? I just whipped them up this morning one-handed whilst I rocked the baby to sleep with my other hand! It has genius written all over it!
Even though dinner times are a tad easier as the kids are getting older, I still tend to bake my little heart out when Mr B. is home and stock the freezer, as it takes the pressure off when he’s away.
One of the recipes in the ‘lunch’ section of Frost Bite was originally made and devoured before I could even get them to the freezer – the Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Tarts were absolutely perfect and have become a firm favourite around here. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made these over the past few years and not only taken them to barbecues, picnics etc, but also how many people I’ve passed the recipe on to! One of the problems with these is that when I take them to a function, they get snatched up so quickly by the meat-eaters that the vegetarians (uh, me!) get left with the crumbs – now that I’ve cottoned on to that I make sure I hide a few for myself first!

The lovely Susan now has a blog and a shiny new book – the new version contains the best recipes from the first two books. The recipes contain detailed instructions for freezing and reheating, which many other ‘freezer-friendly’ recipes often lack.

Here’s my adaptation of the Zucchini Tarts from the Frost Bite book – the original recipe and the freezing/reheating steps can be found here. Instead of pie tins, I bake mine in a standard sized muffin tray and end up with 12 tartlets. I usually freeze these in batches of 2-3 for meals for me when Mr B. is away and I’m doing something meaty for the kids. 
Zucchini & Tomato Tartlets
Ingredients
3 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
300 g Zucchini (around 2 medium sized), grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150g ricotta
70g grated parmesan
handful of fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
6 cherry tomato or 4 cocktail-sized tomatoes
1. Preheat oven to 180°C, and grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin. Cut 4 circles from each sheet of pastry then ease into pie tins. I use a 1-cup capacity ramekin to trace around on the pastry with a sharp knife to get the correct size for my muffin tray holes.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients except tomatoes in a large bowl and mix well to combine.  Spoon the zucchini mixture into the pastry. Slice tomatoes and place on top of each tartlet, pressing them in slightly. I used piccolini cocktail tomatoes cut into thirds today but I usually halve cherry tomatoes.


3. Place the tartlets on a tray and bake for around 35 minutes, or until the zucchini filling has set and browned a little, and the tomatoes are a little shrivelled. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
 Delicious served with a salad for lunch or dinner, and a crowd-pleasing canape to boot!