Marrying different cuisines can be one of the most fun aspects of cooking. I do it a lot, not just with the various Indian cuisines that I grew up eating in the melting pot of Bombay, but also with international dishes. A little of this, a little of that, and you’ve got a whole new dish to love.
This weekend, I wanted to have a pizza. Now here’s another food that begs for experimentation. You can top a pizza with just about anything. And by that I mean anything other than cheese.
I’ve been making cheeseless pizzas for a while now, and truth be told, I’ve never missed the cheese. Of course, you can always buy soy cheese, which is completely vegan, and it is just wonderful and melts like a dream. But sometimes I just want some really good, nutritious food minus the pretend stuff. That’s when I turn to tofu.
Tofu’s a great topping for pizza. I usually use marinated, baked tofu and crumble it on top of the pizza, just like cheese. It doesn’t melt, but it tastes gorgeous.
But this time, given that it’s Italian month on Holy Cow!, I set my sights a little higher. I decided I would make a pizza with tandoori tofu.
Now what’s tandoori tofu, you might ask? Well, I marinated tofu in the same bright orange-red spice mix one uses to marinade a popular Indian dish, tandoori chicken. The word tandoori, incidentally, is derived from a tandoor, a clay oven that is used in India — and in Indian restaurants– to bake the chicken. I just use my oven.
The marinade, spicy-sour with an immense kick, adds a great layer of flavor to the otherwise bland tofu. Instead of crumbling it, I placed the tofu in slices on top of my pizza, alternating with roasted red peppers. My sauce was a flavorful pesto of spinach, garlic and capers, but feel free to experiment here.
I made the crust at home, and it was part whole-wheat. I have posted the recipe before, but I have repeated it here.
So here’s the recipe for the perfectly delightful Pizza Topped With Tandoori Tofu. It’s fun, it’s healthy, and it’s delicious. Hooray for fusion!
Pizza Topped With Tandoori Tofu
Pizza dough (recipe follows)
Spinach Pesto Sauce with Capers (recipe follows)
2 bell peppers (I used red), roasted on a gas cooktop or in an oven at 350 degrees. Turn frequently so the skin gets charred and wrinkly all over. When cool to touch, peel and cut into strips.
1 12-oz package extra-firm tofu, swaddled in a paper towel. Place the tofu in a sieve, put a heavy weight on top (like a cast-iron skillet) and leave alone for about an hour until most of the water in the tofu has drained out. Then cut the tofu into slices, about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch deep and wide. Pour the tandoori marinade over the tofu and coat each slice thoroughly. Set aside for half an hour.
Arrange the tofu slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Oil the parchment paper well because the tofu can and does stick.
Place in a preheated 350-degree oven about 25-30 minutes until a crust forms on the outside. Flip once halfway through the baking. The tofu should be firm but still soft inside: that’s how I like it best on the pizza.
Remove the tofu slices from the baking sheet and set aside.
1 cup soy yogurt
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste (don’t skimp too much on the salt because the salty flavor tones down when baked)
A few drops of red and yellow food color (optional. This gives the marinade its characteristic color)
In a blender, add and blend:
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 tbsp capers, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pizza crust (this recipe makes 2 crusts. You can freeze one for later.)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water. Let stand for five minutes to make sure the yeast is alive and starts frothing.
Add all of the whole wheat flour, about 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose, dried basil, olive oil, and salt and knead by hand or in a stand mixer. If the dough is too sticky, keep adding the remaining all-purpose flour until you get a smooth dough.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over once to coat it on all sides with oil. Cover with a kitchen napkin and place in a warm spot for about 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
After it has doubled, punch down the dough, and divide it into two. If you’re making just one pizza, this would be a great time to wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze it for future use. When you need it, just bring it out several hours before and let it sit at room temperature to thaw.
Shape the other half into a ball and let it sit around 10 minutes. Then, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a round of about 14 inches (this isn’t a thin crust but I still roll it fairly thin. Make sure your baking sheet is large enough to accommodate the rolled crust).
Push down around the center with your fingers so you get a slightly raised edge around the pizza.
Dust the baking sheet with cornmeal and place the crust on it. Brush the crust with olive oil and place in a 475-degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. The crust might bubble up in places, but don’t worry. It adds to the great, rustic look.
Now take the pizza out of the oven and spread the pesto sauce over it.
Layer the roasted bell pepper strips on the pizza.
Put the pizza back into the oven and bake another 5 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven and place the baked tofu strips on top.
Cut and serve hot.