Exploring Ojai’s Epicurean East End

AAA - OVVG Summer 2016 Page 132

Ojai’s epicurean East End is defined as the stretch of East Ojai Avenue from Park Road to McNell Road. Here you will find a variety of full service restaurants featuring Asian and Italian cuisines as well as a farm fresh steakhouse. Most offer indoor or outdoor seating. All offer a unique dining experience.

The East End has traditionally been known for sprawling orchards and ranches, with very little retail or commercial activity. The food scene on this end of town is slowly developing into a unique and desirable place to be for locals, for tourists and for business owners alike . . . [for the rest of the article see the the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide Summer 2016 edition]

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Mexican Style Pizza

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

This is my Mexican food riff on traditional pizza. The homemade crust has a thin layer of black bean spread topped with Oaxaca cheese and is baked to perfection. When it comes out of the oven a layer of fresh grilled salsa completes this culinary treat.

This festive and tasty pizza has a combination of colors and flavors that I think you will like. The crust is a cross between deep dish and a warm, chewy flour tortilla – You’ll like that too. No cornmeal here! Although the prep for this recipe is extensive, your time will be well spent. The dough ingredients make one 12-inch pizza. Double if you want two!

Dough ingredients:
¾ cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups flour (plus more for rolling out)
½ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Salsa ingredients:
4 ears yellow corn
4 tomatillos
¾ cup white onion (chopped fine)
¾ cup red bell pepper (chopped fine)
1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves (minced)

Spread ingredients:
1 14-ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Mexican Crema (sour cream)
1 garlic clove (peeled and chopped)
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt

Additional ingredients:
1 cup Queso Oaxaca (grated)

Dough directions:
Pour warm water into a small bowl and stir in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add olive oil and mix to combine. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Mix by hand until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth. Form into round ball and cover with towel. Let rise until doubled in volume – about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and place on large piece of parchment paper that has been sprinkled with plenty of flour (so dough will slide off paper onto baking stone or sheet). Roll out to a 12-inch circle.

Salsa directions:
Preheat grill to medium heat.

Husk corn and tomatillos. Grill corn and tomatillos until they get charred and black on all sides. Remove from the grill and let cool. Cut the kernels away from the cob. Cut tomatillos into ¼ inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomatillos, onion and bell pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce (including peppers if you like it hot). Stir in coriander, salt, and mint. Set aside.

Spread directions:
Place all ingredients into blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Cover and set aside.

Assembly directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a pizza stone, place the pizza stone on the bottom rack of a cold oven preheat.

Spread bean mixture on pizza dough leaving a 1-inch portion of the rim bare. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the bean mixture being careful not to get any cheese on the bare portion of the dough. Carefully slide the pizza onto the HOT pizza stone (if using…otherwise slide it onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet) and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.

Mexican Pizza #2Let the pizza cool for 3 to 4 minutes before topping with 1 cup or more of the salsa. Cut pizza into wedges and serve as an appetizer or leave it whole and serve as a main dish. Serve with additional grilled salsa on the side.

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Grilled Peach, Avocado and Jalapeño Salsa

Photo: Randy Graham

This is a fresh salsa with a taste of summer barbecue. What could be better?  I think I’ll serve it once with roasted jalapenos and then again with firm, fresh jalapenos sliced super thin. Continue reading

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Cooking with Dukkah

Cooking with Dukkah (800pix)

Dukkah (pronounced DOO-kah) is a vegan blend of seeds and nuts. This Egyptian condiment gets its name from the Arabic word for “to crush” or “to pound,” which is how it is traditionally made. Continue reading

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Tikka Masala Sauce

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

Vegan and gluten-free. Umm-umm good!

Tikka is the Punjabi word for an Indian dish of small pieces of meat or vegetables marinated in a spice mixture. Masala is an Urdu word for any of a number of spice mixtures ground into a paste or powder for use in Indian cooking. When you put them together you get a rich, creamy, and very flavorful curry with small pieces of meat or vegetables. My version, of course, does not have meat. Continue reading

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Tempeh and Mushroom Salad

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

Steamed tempeh and sautéed mushroom salad plated with a slice of head lettuce.

This hearty vegan salad is a great alternative to traditional lunchtime salads. It is also packed with nutrition. Tempeh, for example, is low in calories, high in protein and high in manganese, iron and Omega-3 fatty acids. Mushrooms are high in potassium, copper and selenium. Continue reading

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Grilled Tofu Kabobs

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

My meat-eating friends do not believe me when I say you can barbecue “tofu”. The question always arises, “Doesn’t it slip through the grill”?  The answer is no. The secret is not to use hard or firm tofu from the produce department, but to look in the natural foods section and buy “organic” tofu. The texture is very solid. Here’s a simple marinade for the tofu and ideas for adding fresh vegetables to the skewer. Continue reading

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