There was a spate of about 6 months when I went vegetarian. My reason? I was in hopes of gaining clarity and focus on how my body felt and how my mind clicked. Paying attention to what goes into my body and how it affects me on every level was great place for me to start.
I’m not sure that I remember what bumped me off the vegetarian train. Most likely I was lured by something from the grill that I’d simply been missing on my plate and far from the fresh flavors of this charred corn grilled pizza recipe I’m sharing today.
Since then, my habit of eating more greens and whole foods going strong and thus, I follow a lot of food bloggers who espouse the vegetarian lifestyle.
So how did Erin find her vegetarian roots? It came down to a life changing event when her father suffered a massive heart attack. Discovering this was a path that ran in her family,Erin began questioning her own eating habits and her road to vegetarianism—and her food blog—began.
Naturally Ella is centered around vegetarian and seasonal eating but it goes well beyond just eating boring salads and tomato sauced pastas with a few veggies tossed in. Erin challenges herself and her readers by broadening their kitchen repertoires by creating recipes that are unique in taste, texture and technique and are totally flavor filled.
From grinding her own flours (as she shares in her first cookbook The Homemade Flour Cookbook), to cooking with ancient grains and spices to compliment the freshest of whats currently in season, Erin serves her mission of expanding her readers minds when it comes to new ways to eat healthy.
Becoming the Easy Vegetarian Kitchen
Erin’s newest cookbook, The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen, shows just how simple it is to make vegetarian cooking adaptable depending on your cravings and what’s in season now. Featuring recipes for every time of day, The Easy Vegetarian Cookbook starts with core recipes that are everyone’s favorite staples (omelettes, bruschetta, enchiladas) and then swaps out the ingredients to create seasonal variations. This recipe style simplifies the cooking process without feeling limited by just one option.
I recently asked Erin to share more about her cookbook and the writing process and she happily obliged.
1. Your cookbook has a slightly different premise than others by providing core recipes and then expanding on them with variation ideas. What inspired you to go this direction?
It really started when one of my husband’s friends made an offhanded comment about being surprised any of my recipes actually worked (he clarified, don’t worry). He made this comment because he knows that I don’t actually cook by recipes- I’m very much a free spirit in the kitchen. The idea of having a core recipe that I could riff on with whatever I happened to have on hand is my way of trying to bridge the free spirit cooking mentality with actually writing recipes.
2. What was your favorite part about the book, and your favorite part about the process?
My favorite part of the process is actually getting started- I love the idea of a blank slate that I can craft into something that is my own and extremely special (in fact, I have two other book concepts I’m currently sketching out- they may never make it to light, but I have fun just planning!) As for the book, I would have to say my favorite part is seeing a collection of my photography, bound together. When I first started blogging, photography was the item I grabbed on to as being the primary thing I wanted to learn so to see how far I’ve come (and I’ve come extremely far- the sparse 2007 to 2010 archives of my blog prove that!)
3. What did you discover about yourself while writing it?
I discovered that I actually love telling stories, especially about food and I think my husband has made me a better storyteller (he can weave the simplest of narratives into a 3 hour story- for better or for worse).
Erin and Mike (photo: Sarah Kieffer)
Erin is not only a food blogger, author and photographer but is also half of the design team Wooden Spoons Kitchen. “I’ve been fortunate over the years that by having my blog, it’s led to meeting some awesome people and amazing experiences. One of the best things to come out of all of this is that I met Melissa (aka The Fauxmartha) who, over arepas after a Joy the Baker book signing event in Chicago, became the best business partner a girl could have asked ever asked for,” Erin shares. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Erin and Melissa personally as well as professionally, who designed the latest incarnation of my own blog. “We’ve been running Wooden Spoons Kitchen for 2 ½ years and we’re really excited about what the future holds for us.”
Things will be busy for Erin for a while. With her husband Mike (a happy meat eater) and their husky pup Radar, Erin et al will soon be welcoming their first child into their home. Couple that life event with Erin’s other multiple ventures, and things are looking rosy for her.
“It’s been a bit hard to focus on the future past this event,” Erin says. “However, I’m looking forward to steering my blog in a slightly updated direction and just seeing where the wind takes me.”
I’m looking forward to that wind to continue blowing with inspiring, healthy vegetarian options for all of us.
And now, my list of 10 Q’s with Erin of Naturally Ella
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Vegetarian, Seasonal, Whole Foods
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Can I choose my past-self? I’d like to talk some sense into her and steer her in the right direction, starting in about 2007.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
With Food and Love, The First Mess, and My Darling Lemon Thyme. These three ladies completely rock the whole foods scene and are constantly an inspiration in their creative recipes (plus their photography is gorgeous).
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
My favorite knife that makes me feel like I can chop anything like a pro.
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
My mother’s macaroni and cheese. It’s so stupid because her ‘recipe’ is literally pasta, milk, cheese cubes, salt and pepper- then she just lets it bake until everything is melted and magically comes together. I’ve never been able to put her special touch on it.
Business partners Erin and Melissa cook for the fun of it. (photo: Alex/A Couple Cooks)
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
These Brown Rice + Oat Veggie Burgers with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans (but don’t be fooled, I ate pizza the night before.)
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you:
I think some people know this but it’s not well known: I’m actually a trained classical bassoonist (and if you’re not sure what a basson is you should start here.)
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
Breakfast. It’s become a solid routine in my house that I make breakfast and we sit down for 30 minutes before Mike heads out to work. It’s such a great way to start the day.
9. Your passion for whole foods and experimenting with them has given light to new food trends in the mainstream. What whole foods would you like to see be more incorporated into the everyday diet?
Different grains in everyday meals. I think it’s easy to shuffle aside grains for a special occasions or even feel a bit intimidated by some (like Sorghum, Teff, or Einkorn) but each grain has such a unique personality that it can really make a meal. I’m also a big proponent of having a mini bulk-bin section in your house. I always keep 8 to 10 different grains/flours on hand, 4 to 5 legume varieties, and a well stocked spice cupboard. With those items- it’s really easy to throw in some vegetables and have an amazing meal. I have a whole section that highlights my love of bulk bins (and is a great jumping off point for pantry-inspired meals.)
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
For better or worse, I’m open to trying and learning anything. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take leaps and keep education as a daily part of my life. I’ve learned that with a bit of time and patience, I can teach myself pretty much anything (except guitar- I’m fairly certain my left hand and right hand can’t work separate from each other.)
Thank you Erin for being our foodie crush! And now, let’s get into that pizza.
Play With Your Pizza
Everyone loves pizza but too often, vegetarian options are the same old, same old, limited to a smattering of green bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives and onions. Whatever the mega meat-man combo had left over.
Erin’s take on pizza is entirely different. Her cookbook features a base homemade recipe with assorted vegetables and a crust that is very similar to the one I make at home with a touch of honey that makes the crust just a little bit sweet and softly supple.
As with all of the recipes in her book, Erin then delivers four more variations.
Spring: Scallion and Spinach Pizza with ricotta and oregano.
Summer: Charred Corn and Rosemary with mozzarella, garlic and crumbled gorgonzola.
Fall: Pear and Blue Cheese with pecan pieces and a drizzle of honey.
and Winter: Roasted Sweet Potato and Adobo with poblano peppers and a limey creme fraiche sauce.
Today’s post sits squarely at the tail end of spring and quickly approaching summer so I fell for the charred corn version however, don’t count me out of trying all four.
About the recipe
Erin’s sauceless pizza recipe is grilled and so I did the same. If you don’t have a grill handy, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F with a pizza stone (if using) inside to heat. Bake the pizza for 12 to 15 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling.
Erin uses white whole wheat flour as part of her pizza dough recipe. I found mine at Whole Foods. She suggests using 100 percent whole wheat flour if you’d like which would produce a more sturdy crust.
Once the crust had cooked and I flipped on one side, I sprinkled the garlic on the crust first. The direct contact with the heat from the crust will infuse the garlic flavor even more.
I added my gorgonzola cheese (this one is a favorite) after the pizza was pulled from the grill but still hot so it held its texture a little more. I also seasoned the top with flecks of red pepper flakes and this wild garlic flaked sea salt crystals that brought out the flavors even more.
- For the Pizza Crust
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour, divided
- Find-ground conrmeal, for rolling
- For the Pizza
- 1 recipe homemade pizza crust
- 2 ears sweet corn
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons rosemary
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or shredded
- 2 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
- To make the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a bowl and using a wooden spoon), combine the water, honey and yeast. Let sit until the yeast activates, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, sea salt, unbleached all-purpose flour, and ½ cup of the white whole wheat flour. Turn on the mixer and mix until the dough comes together, adding 1 tablespoon of the white whole wheat flour at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and is no longer sticky. Remove from the mixer, cover with a warm damp towel, and place the bowl in a draft-free spot to rise for 1 hour.
- After the initial rise, punch down the dough and preheat the grill to medium-low heat.
- Shuck the corn and remove and silks still left. Rub the corn with ½ tablespoon of the olive oil and place on the grill. Cook, turning occasionally until charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly, then remove the kernels from the cob.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal on a cutting board or pizza peel and turn the dough out onto the cornmeal and roll into a 14-inch circle. Brush the top with ½ of the olive oil. Place the crust olive oil side down on the grill and cook until puffed and browned.Flip and brush the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil onto the dough, then sprinkle on the garlic, rosemary, cheeses and charred corn kernels.
- Grill the pizza until the cheese has melted and the crust has a nice char. If the crust is cooking too fast, move the pizza to a cooler part of the grill.
Purchase The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen here.
Follow Erin here:
As always, thank you for reading and for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
Thanks for reading and subscribe to FoodieCrush to have each post delivered straight to your e-mail box.