My Italian grandmother cooked a mixture of American fare and Italian specialties. Things like macaroni & cheese, lasagna, pot roast, and fried flounder were weekly meals. On the weekend, my grandfather often took over the cooking. He had a flair for the exotic. I remember when he got his first Le Creuset flame-colored dutch oven. He took it out of the box and held it up like Mr. Parker held up the leg lamp in A Christmas Story! My grandfather cooked in clay pots, tangines, cast iron--anything Julia Child, Jeff Smith, or Martin Yan suggested. (We were a big PBS house.)
My mother brought to the table southern specialties that she learned to cook while going to college in South Carolina. Fried chicken, grits, and cornbread. Saturday mornings I would awake to the perfume of fried eggs and bacon with a side of buttery grits. It is a miracle I don't have high cholesterol!
When I started cooking on my own, it was no surprise that I started to experiment with various cuisines. I love learning about different cultures and their food traditions.
Middle Eastern food is one of my favorites. A few years ago a friend introduced me to a little Armenian shop in New Jersey that specialized in one thing. Lahmajoun or Lahm Ajun--it is like a pizza. You can read a little more about them HERE
My first bite I was hooked. A much thinner crust than standard pizza; there is no cheese on a lahmajoun. They are usually made with ground lamb and are spiced with the traditional Middle Eastern flavors of cumin, cinnamon, and parsley. To veganize my lahmajoun, I used TVP and they came out wonderful. These make a nice light lunch, or snack.
** Going to need about 2 hours for the dough to rise
For the crust
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup Warm Water
1 cup Cornmeal
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Olive Oil
For the filling:
2 cups TVP granules
1 3/4 cups Boiling Water
2 Tbs Olive Oil
3/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
1 cup Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 cup Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 cup Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped finely
2 tsp Ground Cumin
11/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
11/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1. In a small bowl add the 1/2 cup of warm water and sprinkle yeast over and leave aside. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal and boiling water, mix well and leave aside.
2. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, and salt and mix. Make a well and pour in the yeast mixture and olive oil and mix together. Add the cornmeal mixture, mixing with your hands if it gets too hard with a spoon. (This is a get dirty type of recipe)
3. On a lightly floured board, turn dough out and start kneeding. Kneed for about 10-15 minutes. Dough will become smooth and pretty. Shape into a ball, and put in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Leave aside for about 2 hours to rise.
(AFTER TWO HOURS)
4. In a large bowl, re-hydrate the TVP with the boiling water and mix and leave aside. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
5. Heat olive oil and cook onions until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and oil to the bowl with the TVP.
6. Add the pine nuts, tomato, pepper, parsley, cilantro, and spices to the bowl with the TVP and fold everything together and leave aside.
7. Turn the dough out on to a floured board and cut into 16 equal pieces. Roll the 16 pieces into round balls and then roll each ball into a little pizza crust, no more than 1/8" thick. Place the crusts on a greased cookie sheet. Spoon filling onto each crust, getting all the way to the edges. I usually use my fingers to lightly press the filling into the dough, and move all the goodness to the edges.
8. Cook for about 10 minutes. Serve right out of the oven! These keep well in the fridge. Great party treat!