The Gravy: In the Kitchen with Greg Schatz

Greg Schatz in the Kitchen for The Gravy

Photo by Elsa Hahne

“I worked at restaurants coming up, several of them. I worked at a few vegetarian restaurants in Ithaca, New York, my hometown, and I worked at a deli run by Hungarian Jews that had a really good chicken soup with matzo balls. I was mainly the carrot cutter.

I’ve been working towards getting more into the garden, and it makes choices a little easier. What am I going to put on that pizza? I think pesto! We have so much basil and eggplant, so it’s going to be pesto and eggplant.

I moved to New Orleans originally in January of 1995 to play music with what was known at the time as the Big Mess Blues Band. I was playing accordion, usually in front of the A&P. It was a fulltime gig. Six days a week, or however much weather permitted.

Around the time I moved to New Orleans, I started doing cabbage rolls, stuffed cabbage rolls. I make them Eastern European style, a rice filling with beef, sautéed onions and peppers, or whatever you want in there. I do it once or twice a year. The last time I did it, my neighbor brought kielbasa and we chopped that up.

Last year, we got into using the pizza stone a lot. I found this Indian recipe for a tomato sauce that had coconut milk in it, and all the spices are bloomed beforehand. I put a lot of cumin and then you finish it off with fresh cilantro. That’s a good sauce. Bloomed means you put the spices in the hot oil in the beginning when you start cooking, let it develop its bouquet, before you put your other ingredients in there. That’s one extreme. The whole other end of it, which I do a little bit of too, is putting in things at the end, like in Vietnamese cooking where you have your herb basket there to put in your soup, or just toss some fresh basil on top of your pizza.

I think I should stop messing with this dough right now. I’m being too overactive. I’m being a bit cautious, and I’m leaving the grill on low. I’m afraid of it burning. Time actually goes by a lot quicker than you think.

Pizza is one of these things where we’ve had parties. But what is much more of a staple for me is black beans. I like to make a big pot of beans. It’s just something I do very regularly, with a lot of cumin. I make beans a couple of times a month, a big pot that will last several days.

Lime, or local oranges, satsumas, I love to use citrus with beans. Make a reduction with the juice and put a little bit of pulp in there too. It’s great. I’m into flexible things where you can adjust, depending on what the variables are, sort of controlling the thing. Starting a lot of things by sweating the onions and putting garlic in it, and that, for me, can go in so many different directions.

In the summer, I like cooking salad a lot. I know that doesn’t make sense, cooking salad, but we eat a lot of salads. Sauteing tofu and putting in on top of a salad, making a marinade for the tofu, a ginger-tamari-rice wine vinegar sauce or salad dressing and sometimes having it in a rice bowl, depending on what you’re in the mood for, with sautéed greens and other vegetables, maybe with a thin peanut sauce, cooking it down with spices and hot chili peppers. Use that on top of the bowl and maybe some pumpkin seeds. Basically a rice and vegetable bowl, like a cooked salad. Or use similar ingredients and put them on a fresh bed of greens. Salad is hard to come by in the summer, really hard to grow. If I could grow salad in the summertime, I would.

Pizza on the grill is a different animal, not what you’d get in a store. I’ve tried to come up with a crust that has structural integrity. When you hold it, it doesn’t droop all the way down. I am not sure I accomplished it this time, but you should be able to hold your little slice of pizza. These ones will be fine, actually. If you cut them into quarters they are so small they won’t droop. Right angles right there. Once I did them in halves and it worked pretty good, but I want structural integrity.

Sometimes, where I trip up with cooking, is sometimes I get in too big of a hurry. You can get into trouble hurrying in the kitchen.”

Grilled Mini-Pizza St. Claude

Here is Greg’s recipe for rustic pizza dough.

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 envelope yeast (about 2 teaspoons)

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all dry ingredients and rosemary in a bowl. Add 1 cup warm water and olive oil, then add more water slowly until you have a firm but workable dough. Make four balls. Place balls in a container with a cloth on top and let rise for one hour. Roll out dough (in cornmeal) into circles about 6 inches in diameter and a quarter inch thick.

Fresh Tomato Sauce:

2 onions, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

5 or 6 ripe tomatoes, diced



Sweat onions in olive oil until caramelized; add garlic, then tomatoes. Cook sauce down until pasty rather than soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simple Pesto:

1 cup fresh basil

olive oil

1/2 cup walnuts

3 cloves garlic


In food processor, mix basil and enough olive oil to help it chop up nice & smooth. Add walnuts, mix until fine, and add salt to taste.

Other ingredients:

2 small eggplants, sliced thin

olive oil

feta cheese

garlic chèvre cheese

(both from Royals Goat Dairy at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market)

fresh basil

fresh tomato

hot red pepper flakes

The Cooking:

Set your grill on high. Place dough disks directly on grate. Bake until disks can be flipped easily with a spatula (about 4 or 5 minutes). At the same time, grill eggplant drizzled with olive oil in a pan. In about 5 minutes, flip and grill for a few more minutes until tender.

Lower heat. Flip dough disks and add a thin layer of tomato sauce to two and pesto to the others.

Sprinkle feta on the disks with pesto. Sprinkle chèvre on the disks with tomato sauce.

Remove when bottoms are lightly browned and toppings are hot (about 5 minutes). Add eggplant plus a few leaves of chopped basil to the tomato pizzas.

Slice some fresh tomato and add to pesto pizzas. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Cut into quarters and eat with hands (wash first).