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Cheese-free pizza

I read somewhere that cheese wasn’t added to real Italian pizza until the late 1800s, with the advent of the “Margherita” pizza that matches the colors of the Italian flag.

So I guess you could say my temporary stint on a dairy-free diet has led me to make a more authentic version of one of my go-to weeknight dinners.

Dinner last night was pizza topped with tomato sauce, a bit of sausage and a heavy layer of roasted vegetables (red onion, red pepper and zucchini).

Surprisingly, I didn’t miss the cheese. I am someone who piles on at least two varieties every time I make pizza, so that is saying something.

I think the secret is that good roasted vegetables have a richness of texture and flavor that makes then a worthy stand-in for fattier ingredients.

While I was pregnant, I was told to avoid sliced deli meats because of the potential for bacteria. I started grilling vegetables in large batches on Sundays to have around to fill sandwiches for weekday lunches. I didn’t miss the slimy turkey.

The how-to on these is as basic as it gets: Turn your oven up to 450 degrees. Thickly slice or otherwise cut up your vegetables of choice. Marinate and/or season as you see fit (for me, it’s olive oil, a little lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper). Stick them in the oven and keep an eye on them. Depending on how thickly you’ve cut your vegetables, they’ll be ready in anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

And as far as pizza dough goes, I’m always looking for new recipes to try. But here’s the one I’ve been making pretty consistently for the past year or so:

Pizza dough (with a stand mixer)

(makes enough for two pizzas big enough to serve two people comfortably)

2 packets active dry yeast

2 cups water at 110 degrees

1 teaspoon sugar

5 cups flour (It’s wonderful with all white flour, but I feel a tiny bit better about a pizza brimming with things like cheese and sausage if I use a cup and a half whole-wheat, a quarter cup ground flax seed and three and a quarter cups all-purpose flour)

1 tablespoon salt

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the water, and set that mixture aside so it gets good and foamy.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix them up a little.

Pour in the foamy yeast mixture and mix that in on low speed. With the mixer still running, add the olive oil. Let everything get incorporated, then let the mixer run on low speed for 15 minutes to knead the dough. You might need to add a little flour here if your dough is too loose; it should eventually form a ball around the dough hook and clean the sides of the bowl as it spins.

Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in a large bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover with a clean dish cloth and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.

After an hour, gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut into as many pieces as you’d like, form each piece into a ball and let those rest for at least 15 minutes before you try to work with them. You can freeze extra dough in an oil-coated freezer bag. I actually think the dough bakes up with a crisper texture after it has been frozen.

Once you have formed and topped your pizzas, bake them at 500 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. I have baked these both straight on a pizza stone and on a metal pizza pan.

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