When gardens go wild: Low Carb Pattypan Crustless Pizza Recipe

July 26th, 2011 yum Posted in Egg Free, Garden, Hide your Veggies, Low Carb, Nut Free, Pizza, Rice Free, Soy Free, Vegan Option, Vegetables, Vegetarian, corn free, grain-free, low-sugar, tapioca starch free 14 Comments »

The DH and I have always dreamed of having our own garden. It is a bit hard to do when you live in an apartment, and the only access you have to the great outdoors is on your balcony. Nevertheless, we managed to grow a few tomatoes and basil plants, and were happier because of it. When we bought a house we went a bit wild, and transformed a fourth of our back yard from a neglected underutilized corner to a bustling organic gardening paradise, complete with homemade redwood planters. Once we had the planters, we had to put something in them. We chose a wild assortment of the most exotic things we could think of- purple bush beans, dragon carrots, candy radishes, purple tomatillos, and a ton of squash and gorgeous heirloom potatoes. Ok, squash isn’t usually exotic, but it has a certain appeal to lifetime apartment dwellers because it is not generally something that you can grow on a balcony. (Amazing container gardening magic aside.) The plants were in, the DH put in a drip watering system, and then we waited for the bounty to come rolling in. And roll in it did, with pattypan squash seemingly bursting into existence on the vine right along with fourth of July fireworks.
This gave me pause. I had the basics of organic gardening thanks to reading and a class at Love Apple Farm, but one thing I hadn’t researched was when to harvest my beauties. When was I supposed to take the pattypan off the vine? I wasn’t really sure, but they rapidly grew to an impressive size that I’d never seen at farmer’s market harvest. Why did they pick them when they were so small? I felt rather proud of their size.

Then I went online to research the correct harvesting of pattypan. Whoops. Turns out if you let them get large, supposedly they get rather woody and coarse. I was disheartened but couldn’t believe they could really be that bad. People let zucchini get big, after all. Besides, looking at them gave me an idea. They were such nice, round shapes, and I was reminded of my old traditional eggplant parmesan recipe. They would be the perfect size for a personal pizza un-crust. So, I dipped them in a spiced oil and vinegar marinade and put them on the grill to soften them and add flavor. Then I topped them with a really good pizza sauce and cheese. For my dairy-free Mother, I made a few with Daiya cheese instead. The cheese melted and got all bubbly and delicious, and when I got a bite, I didn’t miss a grain crust at all! They were delicious, and the “hard” rind added structure and texture to the crust but the soft squash interior was still soft and delicious. I did notice that the larger they got, the larger their seeds were, and the center of the round was a bit softer than the rest. It could still hold up to a pizza topping, though, and was easy to eat with a fork, although I wouldn’t try to eat it with my hands just because it is a bit messier than a regular pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with my other giant pattypan and have found that they taste just as good as the littler ones. I like a sturdier squash anyway, and one of my biggest complaints over (bad) zucchini or yellow squash recipes is when they get mushy. It is hard to make these giant pattypan mushy, and they take on flavor and are just delicious sauteed in oil. I did prefer to peel them for sauteed applications as otherwise the rind is hard to eat. It reminds me of kabocha squash, actually.

So, if like me you have monster pattypan growing out of control in your garden- take heart! You can still enjoy them, in a fun way generally only possible when you have a home garden or belong to a garden co-op. You could also try mini pattypan pizzas with farmer market or supermarket babies. In that case, you would probably have to simply slice them in half and take care not to overcook them. They should be just as delicious either way!

Other Pattypan Recipes:
Fried Pattypan Squash Recipe
Pattypan Squash Recipe
Stuffed Pattypan Squash Recipe
Herbed Pattypan Squash Medley Recipe
Simple Pattypan Squash Recipe
Vegan Stuffed Pattypan Squash Recipe

Other innovative recipes using squash as a “crust”:
Butternut Squash Crust Quiche Recipe

Shared with Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Seasonal Sunday

Pattypan Crust-less Pizza Recipe
Mutant, overgrown pattypan squash (5 or more inches diameter)

Olive oil
dash of white balsamic vinegar (brown is fine but will discolor your “pizza” crust)
your favorite multi-herb blend seasoning (italian or other)
salt (if not included in above herb blend)

High Quality Pizza Sauce such as Muir Glen Organic
Grated mozzarella OR Daiya equivalent for dairy-free, vegan

Fresh basil for garnish

Slice your monster Pattypan beasts into 1/2 inch thick slices appropriate for mini-pizzas.

Whisk oil, vinegar, spices and salt together in a pie tin or other medium-sized dish with sides. Keep in mind that pattypan are like eggplant. They are greedy little sponges for oil. Make more than you think you need. Dip both sides pattypan slices in seasoned oil and reserve on a large plate.

Heat your grill or grill pan to a high searing temperature. Lightly shake off any excess oil from your pattypan slices and place them on your grill. Sear and then lower temperature to medium. Let slices soften, and then turn to sear and cook the other side. You want your pattypan tender but not mushy.

You have two options for the pizza preparation if you are using a grill. You can either place your topping on top of your seared pattypan crust in the grill, close the lid and allow the heat to melt the cheese, or you can reserve your slices and heat the topping in the broiler of your oven. The latter option will result in more browning, so I found I preferred to use the broiler. For broiler option, place pattypan slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler on high. Remove when cheese is melted and has browned. You can use Daiya cheese as a dairy-free alternative, but it will not brown in the same way so just remove when melted.

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Bay Area Dining: Tony and Alba’s Gluten-free Pizza in San Jose

January 31st, 2011 yum Posted in Bay Area, California, Gluten Free Dining, Gluten Free On the Road, Pizza 6 Comments »

Tony and Alba’s
3137 Stevens Creek Blvd.
(Stevens Creek & Winchester)
Phone: 408-246-4605
Hours of Operation:
Sunday- Thursday 11am to 9pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am to 10pm

It never would have occurred to me to check out Tony and Alba’s for Gluten-free Pizza if it hadn’t been for the recommendation of a pizza-enthusiast friend of mine who wrote a lovely post on her favorite pizza joints in the Bay area. It is a great article, and you should check it out. This afternoon as the DH and Baby Yum and I were on our way to Santana Row, we passed Tony and Alba’s in a strip mall on our left. I had never given it a second thought before, but thanks to my friend, I knew they had a gluten-free pizza available. So, after we browsed the mall and let Baby Yum run wild in the children’s play area, we went out for pizza together. Yay!

They use the French Meadow gluten-free pizza which comes in its own baking tin. Don’t freak out when you walk in the door and the gluten-free pizza isn’t listed on their menu. I have to admit, I like it when a company offering gluten-free food plasters notices all over the restaurant. However, when you say gluten-free pizza to the staff, they are completely aware of what you are talking about and it is printed in nice, clear letters on your receipt. And, when they bring you your pizza, the waiters announce “Here is your gluten-free pizza.” These things make me feel better. I get a little twitchy in a pizza joint, and I was reassured by their gestures. I didn’t order the pizza any special way and it was nice and crispy, so perhaps they’ve made it standard to pre-bake the pizza a little before adding toppings.

What did we order? Well, we started with a MARGHERITA, and were glad that we did. The nice, thin crust had a lovely amount of tomato sauce (or very well baked tomatoes?) and cheese, and then was sprinkled with julienned basil. Now, it isn’t quite like how I do a margherita, which is without tomato sauce, whole slice tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and tons of basil, but isn’t the reason you go out to have things a little differently than you would make them at home?

An unexpected bonus was that Baby Yum was delighted by the thin crust and ate almost a whole piece single-handedly, with a little help from her mama. Prior to this, she’s always been a little unsure about layers of flavor on her food. I think getting her used to quesadillas and the recent ravioli fest have gone a long way to warming her up to pizza. Whatever, the reason, she liked it!

After we all devoured our margherita pizza, we decided to order a vegetarian. The vegetarian has Mushroom, Zucchini, Tomato, Black Olive, Artichoke, Garlic, Bells, and Onion. All the toppings seem to be put on raw, and there are a lot of them. There is especially a lot of garlic. I won’t be having trouble keeping vampires at bay after a slice of that pizza, that is for sure! I am fairly picky about my pizza toppings and like a lesser volume. I also like to grill veggies before putting them on pizzas, so I was a little overwhelmed. The DH also grumbled about the veggies he didn’t like (zucchini etc) and Baby Yum wouldn’t eat it, but I think her petite toddler tummy was full. Next time I’d design my own pizza with fewer toppings, and/or try the Bianca (No Sauce, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Provolone, Feta, Sun-dried Tomato, and without the usual garlic). I hear that it is possible to order gluten-free pasta and polenta at Tony and Alba’s too, so that might be fun another time.

I think meat lovers and fans of cozy, family-style restaurants will be very happy with the gluten-free pizza and other offerings at Tony and Alba’s. There are many options for vegetarians, but their house special is very non-veg, and gets rave reviews. The price is also fantastic, with a typical pizza costing around $12 for a medium-size pizza. For our family of two and a nibble-prone toddler, one pizza would be a light meal, and more than (two) is a nice meal with maybe some leftover slices to take home. If you’ve been missing feeling “normal”- this place is for you. We were surrounded by families and pizza fans at this cozy neighborhood pizza joint, with a television playing lightly in the background as we watched the rain outside. It felt pretty good. The owners seem really sensitive to gluten-free issues. They began preparing gluten-free pizza because a very good family friend’s daughter had Celiac and the owner’s wife wanted her to be able to come to their restaurant. Also, their daughter was dating a guy with a wheat allergy. When they researched it, they saw the need for a down-home family style option for gluten-free folks, and so a menu was born! Both the gluten-free pizza and pasta is made in a dedicated area, with a separate cutter and pan, spoons, etc.), and the pasta is made in a dedicated gluten-free pasta. They purposefully bought rotelli-spiral gluten-free pasta so it would never get confused for the gluten pasta. Gluten-free polenta and beer are also available. To my knowledge, they don’t have a dairy-free or soy-free cheese, so if you have sensitivities you might call ahead and see about the pizza crust ingredients as well as topping options.

They do prepare a lot of gluten-containing foods, and the kitchen is open to the seating area so you might want to eat outside if it is a nice day. Overall, I was pleased with my experience at Tony and Alba’s. I am delighted that there are so many gluten-free pizza options for us in the Bay Area and I can’t wait to try them all!

Coming soon: a very positive review of BJ’s Brewhouse, their gluten-free menu and amazingly crisp pizza.

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