"imperfect" zucchini flatbread
Celebrating Ugly Produce
This week I am celebrating “ugly produce!” Why? Because the ugly produce that I bought was at 30-50% discount simply because the produce was too big or too small, was surplus, had mild to moderate scarring, or simply looked too weird for grocery store standards. I am celebrating that this “ugly” product tastes exactly like pretty produce, it’s more affordable, and I am helping sustain our planet!
Food Waste is a huge problem globally, but especially in the United States. In the US, we spend $218 BILLION dollars annually that never makes it to the dinner tables and into bellies. 52.4 million tons of food go into landfill annually! And if food waste were it’s own country, it would have the third highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions after China and the US. What’s remarkable about all of this is that this food is already produced and so many resources have gone into each piece of produce that is not making it to market. Further, one in seven Americans is food insecure. Companies like Imperfect Produce (West Coast) and Hungry Harvest (East Coast) are looking to close this loop by redirecting ugly produce to customers! See below the recipe for links to resources. This is NOT a sponsored post.
From my first Imperfect produce box, I received enormous zucchinis! Like county fair sized and way too big for my zoodler. I decided to cut them thin and have them be the base of the flatbread! The beets, peppers, and onion were from my box, while the other items were already in my refrigerator. The recipe below is an example of a balanced, savory flatbread but the options are really endless! Enjoy & buy ugly when you can.
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Imperfect Zucchini Flatbread
Pre-made crust (Trader Joe’s garlic & herb)
1 large zucchini, cut into thin ⅛ slices
4 oz of mushrooms
1 medium roasted or cooked beet, sliced thin
1 cup of small sweet peppers, sliced
4oz goat cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs
½ medium sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (for onions)
Salt, pepper, chili flakes to taste
Large baking sheet or pizza stone
Medium skillet or saute pan
Cooling rack (optional)
Silicone brush (optional)
Inactive: ~15 minutes while baking
Active: 35 minutes
Prepare the dough by following the instructions, preheat the oven, and prepare pan. *I use the Trader Joe’s dough, so I preheat my oven to 450F and set the dough on a floured surface for 25 minutes to allow the dough to rise. I line my pan with foil and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.*
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onions and stir every minute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are starting to caramelize quickly. Reduce the heat to medium and add ~1 tablespoon of butter. Cook until the onions are a uniform golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Slice zucchini and beets into thin slices (⅛ inch). Slice mushrooms. Seed peppers and slice into ribbons.
When the dough is ready, throw it or roll it out to the size of the baking sheet and place on baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the entire dough and spread with back of spoon or silicone brush. Add chili flakes and black pepper to taste. Place zucchini and beets down in rows, alternating every 3-4 zucchini, 1 sliced beet (or whatever!). Top with drops of caramelized onions, mushrooms, peppers, pepper, salt, and chili flakes! Add crumbled goat cheese and parmesan.
Bake the flatbread following the directions on the prepared pizza dough package. Remove from the oven when the crust is cooked and the cheese is golden brown. *Trader Joe’s suggest ~10 minutes at 450. I have found it’s more like ~15 minutes in my oven.* Sprinkle fresh herbs over the flatbread. Place on a cooling rack if you have one to keep the bottom of the crust crunchy. Move to cutting board, and slice flatbread. Serve and enjoy!
Tips & Notes
-Hide the caramelized onions under the zucchini and beets for a treat!
-If you want to make it a pizza, add ~2 cups of mozzarella before adding the veggies.
-The ingredients I listed are a guide. Use your favorite veggies!
Resources for getting your hands on to some ugly produce!
For the SF homies: Ugly Juice is on a mission to reduce food waste through juicing! Great mission, team, and product! Fingers crossed they expand to the East Bay and beyond soon. http://www.drinkuglyjuice.com/
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Bay Area & LA: Imperfect Produce is reducing food waste through buying directly from farms, boxing and re-selling “ugly” produce for a 30-50% less than conventional produce at the grocery store. They provide some produce to Ugly Juice and also to Sprouts Cooking Club, a nonprofit started by Alice Waters to teach kids how to cook. Imperfect is set to grow so keep an eye out West Coast! http://www.imperfectproduce.com/
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East Coast (mostly Maryland & NJ but expanding): Hungry Harvest is focused on both environmental impacts by reducing food waste and social impacts accessible and affordable produce. For each customer box, 1-3 pounds of produce is donated to public schools or one of their donation partners. Fantastic work!