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Pizza, three ways, from Jean-Philippe Cyr's new cookbook The Buddhist Chef.Courtesy of manufacturer

Five years ago, chef Jean-Philippe Cyr walked away from a promising career in Quebec’s restaurant industry when he realized he could no longer reconcile two sides of himself: the professional who created menus that incorporated meat and the private individual who ate only plant-based food.

A practising Buddhist for many years, he decided to quit and launch the Buddhist Chef website, beginning a new chapter in a life that continues to celebrate his passion for food but is focused on the pleasures of vegan eating.

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Courtesy of manufacturer

Cyr, who lives in rural Quebec, has travelled extensively in Cambodia and Thailand, and his recipes incorporate many of the flavours he discovered there. “I brought a lot of ideas from Southeast Asian cuisine, however I substituted many of their ingredients for ones I can find here.”

His new cookbook is filled with recipes such as Pad Kee Mao (literal translation is “drunken noodles”) and Pad Thai, but it also has North American mainstays such as Mushroom Poutine and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie.

“Sometimes people get frightened by the ingredients associated with vegan cooking because the "they’re often very expensive or hard to find,” Cyr says. “The secret of my cooking is that it is accessible and you can find it in your local grocery store.”

Pizza, Three Ways

  • Makes 3 pizzas
  • Prep Time 1 hour
  • Cook Time 12 to 15 minutes
  • Rest Time 45 minutes
For the Vegan Mozzarella
  • ¼ cup (36g) cashews
  • 1 ½ cups (375ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) deodorized coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp powdered agar-agar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt

Soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes.

Drain and transfer the cashews to a blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until creamy.

Pour the mixture into a pot, then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When bubbles start forming around the edges of the pot, cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (The mixture will be thick at this point).

Divide the mixture between 2 ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 5 days.

Remove the mozzarella by gently flipping the ramekins upside down over a plate. Grate and set aside.

For the Pizza Dough
  • 2 cups (500 ml) warm water
  • 1 (2 ¼ tsp/7 g) package active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tsp salt

In a bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let rest for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is frothy.

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups (375 g) of the flour and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir well to combine. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface or to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining 1 cup (125 g) of flour, until the dough is smooth.

For the Tofu Pepperoni
  • 6 ounces (170 g) extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).

Thinly slice the tofu. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of tofu to simulate the look of pepperoni.

In a bowl, combine the yeast, fennel seeds, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes.

Add the tofu slices and gently turn to coat with the seasonings. Let the tofu rest for 15 minutes to several hours.

Generously oil a baking sheet and spread the tofu slices on the sheet.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

To Assemble
  • 3 cups (750 ml) tomato sauce
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Sliced green bell peppers
  • Tofu pepperoni
  • Cherry tomatoes to garnish
  • Arugula, to garnish

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Divide the dough into three portions. On a floured surface, roll out each portion of dough into a 10-inch (25 cm) round with a thick outer edge.

Dust 3 round baking sheets with a generous amount of all-purpose flour. Transfer the rounds of dough to the baking sheets.

Thinly spread 1 cup (250 ml) tomato sauce on each round of dough.

Garnish the first pizza with mushrooms, green bell peppers, and mozzarella, the second pizza with tofu pepperoni and mozzarella, and the third with mozzarella only.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

Right before serving, garnish the mozzarella pizza with cherry tomatoes and arugula.

Excerpted from The Buddhist Chef by Jean-Philippe Cyr. Copyright © 2019 Jean-Philippe Cyr. Photography by Samuel Joubert. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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