Eggplant Parma What???

Down in the south (where the Wife is from), they do things a little differently.  While here in the foodie-laden northeast, eggplant is about as common as fatback is in the south, to some in the south, eggplant is as exotic as lychees were last year to your average northeastern foodie .  Last summer, my mother-in-law had some extra eggplant, so she made eggplant parmesan for her neighbor, who is about as southern as sweet tea and fried anything.  When my MIL brought over the dish, her neighbor, in her kindly, slow southern drawl said “thanks for the eggplant parma, parma, parma…..thanks for the casserole!”  Gotta’ love them southern women!

According to the good folks at Wikipedia, eggplants are actually fruits.  Not only that, but they’re classified as berries.  As we all know, Wikipedia is never wrong.  I mean, what are the chances of having incorrect encyclopedia entries when you let anyone with a computer provide content??  Ask my friend Bob.  At one point, according to Wikipedia and thanks to one of our other friends, he was solely responsible for introducing Nantucket Reds to the D.C. fashion scene (I’ll let you find the link to that on your own!).

All kidding aside, a recent CSA share included, along with more summer squash and zucchini, Japanese eggplant, which are a lot smaller than your average supermarket aubergine and are purple and white striped.  I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but the Wife is, so I made this pizza for her (I know, I’m so sweet).  Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Basic pizza crust
  • Basic red sauce
  • One head roasted garlic
  • About 4-5 medium Japanese eggplants, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins (alternatively, you could use about 3/4 C slices of regular eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces and then cut into the size of a quarter or those weird gold dollars that look like Hanukkah gelt)
  • About 1/2 to 3/4 C fresh mozzarella chopped or torn into inch cubes/pieces
  • About 1/2 C shredded fontina
  • Approx. 1/4 C fresh oregano (or other herb of your choice)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

  • You first need to roast the garlic and eggplant
  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • While the oven is preheating, chop the eggplant and toss the pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Spread on a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for approx. 25-35 minutes (until the eggplant has started to brown)
  • Chop off the top of the head of the garlic.
  • Put the garlic head in some foil, sprinkle on salt and pour on about 1 T olive oil.

    Foil packet of deliciousness

  • Roast (along with the eggplant) for about 35-40 minutes
  • Once the garlic has cooled, squeeze out the roasted cloves and kind of mush together to form a chunky paste
  • When all of the roasting shenanigans is done, raise the oven temperature to 550 (or the highest temperature available) and preheat for at least an hour
  • At the same time, allow your dough to come to room temperature while the oven is heating
  • After about an hour, spread out the dough and put on a lightly floured peel or baking sheet
  • Top with red sauce
  • Sprinkle on the roasted garlic
  • Top evenly with cheeses
  • Top with roasted eggplant
  • Put into the oven on a preheated pizza stone and bake until cheese is nice and bubbly and the crust has browned
  • Top with fresh oregano
  • Dig in (while wearing your Nantucket reds)

Posted in Roasted Eggplant and Roasted Garlic Pizza | Tagged , | Leave a comment

You’re my boy bleu! (Summer Squash Pizza with Garlic Spinach)

CSA week three brought us a little variety (along with some more greens, of course….I’m getting a little sick of salads for lunch).  This week’s take included parsley, broccoli, green leaf lettuce, shallots, scallions, orange beets, zucchini and kohlrabi.

I don’t like broccoli and the kohlrabi looks like an unfortunate looking apple/space ship and tastes like a radish (not the best pizza topping, if you ask me).  We had some leftover small yellow summer squash from a previous week’s CSA, so I decided to make a summer squash pizza with the yellow squash and the zucchini (plus a little sautéed spinach with garlic).  That, combined with some nice gorgonzola, pine nuts and creamy ricotta proved to be a winning combination.

While the squash and zucchini will cook while the pizza is in the oven, it really just steams and has little flavor at the end.  The key here is to roast the zucchini and squash beforehand to bring out some of the natural sugars in the vegetables.

Ingredients

  • Basic pizza crust
  • About 2 C fresh spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • About 10 slices each of zucchini and summer squash
  • About 3/4 C strong gorgonzola or bleu cheese, crumbled
  • About 3/4 C ricotta
  • About 1/4 C pine nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
  • While the oven is preheating, chop the zucchini and squash into 1/8 inch thick coins
  • Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer
  • Roast in the preheated oven for about 25-35 minutes (check them after 25 minutes….they’re ready when the veggies are just starting to brown)
  • While the veggies are roasting, prepare the garlic spinach
  • Heat a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high heat
  • Add olive oil
  • Once oil is shimmering, add garlic
  • Cook about 1 minute until garlic just starts to turn brown
  • Add spinach
  • Cook until spinach has wilted to about 1/4 its original size
  • Once the squash and zucchini are done, prepare the oven for the pizza
  • After the oven has heated for an hour or two, spread out your dough and place it on a lightly floured pizza peel or baking sheet
  • Drizzle olive oil over dough and spread out with a basting brush

  • Top evenly with garlic spinach
  • Spoon small portions of ricotta over the pie
  • Spread gorgonzola/bleu cheese crumbles over pie
  • Sprinkle on pine nuts
  • Place zucchini and squash on pizza (if you’re going for looks, alternate the zucchini and squash to vary the colors)
  • Bake on preheated pizza stone until crust is brown (the cheeses used in this pizza don’t really melt or bubble, so you’ll have to judge doneness by the crust)
  • Cut and eat up!

Posted in Garlic Spinach and Roasted Summer Squash Pizza | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

CSA Week 2 (Parma Parma)

What am I a rabbit or something??!?  Week two of the CSA included a bunch of greens and lettuces again.  The Wife and I have been enjoying salads for lunch every day (and some days for dinner too) since we picked up our first CSA share and, based on the items for week two, that trend is going to continue. Week two’s CSA included cabbage, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, (more) kale, onions and beets.

As far as pizza goes, lettuce can be a challenging pizza topping, unless you’re California Pizza Kitchen, in which case everything from lettuce to avocado to gummy bears is fair game.  Thankfully week two’s CSA share included one of my favorite greens, ARUGULA!!  I’m a huge fan of the peppery, earthy flavor of arugula and love it as a pizza topping.  My pizza for week two was:

PARMA PARMA

While I didn’t use prosciutto di parma (opting instead for prosciutto di san daniele with its slightly less fatty, yet creamier texture (and cheaper price tag)), I like the name of this pizza given that I used parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto.  Of note, I admit that this pizza is very similar to the pizza that I made last week (the Sopressata and Mizuna Pie), but such is the nature of pizza making with CSA ingredients!!

Finished pie (minus parmesan shavings, which I forgot to put on before I took the picture)

Ingredients

  • Basic pizza crust
  • Basic tomato sauce
  • Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele (about 5-10 slices) torn into bite sized pieces
  • Fresh mozzarella torn or chopped into roughly two inch pieces/cubes
  • About two cups of arugula torn into bite sized pieces
  • About 3/4 cup caramelized onions (approx. 1.5 cups fresh onions prior to caramelization, 1 t sugar, 1 T butter)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 10 or so shavings of parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions

  • Prepare the oven
  • For the caramelized onions, chop the onions into even width pieces
  • Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat
  • Add olive oil (and about 1 T butter if you want some extra flavor)
  • When the oil and butter are shimmering, add the onions
  • Cook the onions, stirring constantly, for about five minutes
  • Stir in sugar
  • Continue to stir occasionally until (about every two minutes) for about 20 minutes until the onions are nice and brown.  You can add some water or more oil if you think the onions are sticking too much or burning
  • Once you’ve got the onions where you want ‘em, prepare the remainder of the ingredients
  • When the oven is ready, spread out the dough and put it on a lightly floured pizza peel or baking sheet
  • Top with tomato sauce, caramelized onions and mozzarella
  • Slide onto the preheated pizza stone
  • While pizza is baking, toss, arugula with olive oil and lemon juice
  • When crust is browned and cheese is bubbly, remove from oven to a cooling rack
  • Top with prosciutto, oiled arugula and parmesan shavings
  • Cut and eat!!

Posted in Pizza, Prosciutto Arugula & Paremesan Pie | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Sopressata & Mizuna Pie

Since week one of our CSA included so many lettuces, I decided to make a second pie in an effort to use up as much of that week’s share as possible.  Little did I know at the time that week two would include a bunch of lettuces and greens too (more on that to come).

Ingredients

  • Basic pizza crust
  • Roughly 1 cup basic tomato sauce
  • Fresh mozzarella chopped or torn into roughly 2 centimeter cubes or pieces
  • Roughly 10 pieces of spicy sopressata or other spicy salami cut into thin pieces
  • Roughly 2 cups mizuna (arugula would work too) torn into bit sized pieces
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Approx. 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Shaved parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
  • Kosher salt

Directions

  • Prepare the oven
  • While the oven is preheating (for at least an hour at 550), prepare the rest of the ingredients
  • Right before you’re ready to bake the pizza, toss the mizuna with the olive oil and lemon juice
  • Top the pie with the sauce, mozzarella and sopressata
  • Bake until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly
  • Remove pizza and place on a cooling rack for five minutes
  • Right before cutting the pizza, spread the mizuna and parmesan/grana padano shavings evenly over the pie
  • Move to a cutting board, slice into six (or eight if you’re really hungry ;)) slices
  • Enjoy!!

Posted in Sopressata & Mizuna | Tagged , | 2 Comments

A note on ovens

Most people don’t have a wood-burning pizza oven in their backyard.  Unfortunately, I’m no different from most people here.  The best that I can do in my 12 foot wide Baltimore row house is a standard gas-fired GE oven.

One of the keys to creating great pizza (although no substitute for solid technique) is HEAT!!  Most wood-fired ovens cook pizzas at temperatures ranging from 800 degrees to 1,000 degrees.  Due to the intense heat, the pies usually bake in under two minutes and come out with beautiful charred spots that add a nice smokey flavor to the pizza.

Char on the bottom of the crust

Like most home ovens, my oven maxes out at 550 degrees, so I have to use other methods to eek out as much heat as possible.  Some people who are crazier about pizza than I am bake pizza while the cleaning cycle is running, during which the oven’s temperature cranks up to 800 or so degrees.  The rub here is that you generally have to snap off the latch that locks the oven when the cleaning cycle turns on.  Also, if even a drop of sauce or other liquid hits the oven glass while the oven is super hot, you run the risk of this glass shattering.  I like my oven and don’t want to have to buy a new one, so I’m not willing to engage in oven hacking shenanigans.

Here is a picture of my current oven set up:

I use a really thick pizza stone on the bottom (it’s a Fibrament stone), which I place on the lowest rack and put another pizza stone on the upper rack about three inches above the lower stone.  This (I think) helps trap some of the heat closer to the baking pie and radiates some of the heat back onto the pie rather than getting lost in the otherwise empty oven.

The key is to preheat the oven at its hottest temperature for at least one hour.  I usually preheat it for at least 1.5 hours.  This will get the stone and the mini oven that you’ve created hotter than the (likely) 550 max oven temperature.

Other Methods

Broiler Method – Some other pizza people have had a lot of success achieving wood oven-esque results by placing a stone on a rack approximately 2-3 inches from the broiler element and then preheating the stone as described above.  Then, after the oven has preheated, they’ll switch it to broil and then bake the pie under the broiler.  I haven’t had a lot of success with this method but am going to give it another try sometime soon and will report back.

Alternative Devices – There are other devices that people can buy or make with which they can bake pizza (and other food) at temperatures in excess of those that can be achieved in a standard home oven.  Examples are the Big Green Egg and 2 Stone.  Again, given the constraints of city living, I don’t have the space for these gadgets, so I haven’t given them a shot.

Grilling – I had a bad experience grilling pizza.  I think that there are still some dough remnants stuck to my grill grate.  Nonetheless, some people love this method.  Here’s a good article on how to do it right.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

Basic Red Sauce

My basic red sauce is a sauce of crushed up San Marzano* variety tomatoes with just a little bit of kosher salt mixed in.  (NOTE – you don’t need San Marzano variety tomatoes to make a great sauce, but I would get the highest quality canned tomatoes possible).

* True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano area of Italy around the base of Mt. Vesuvias.  Much of what is labeled “San Marzano” in the U.S. actually comes from San Marzano variety seeds, but is grown domestically or somewhere other than Italy.

Makes about 1.5 cups of sauce or enough for one pie.

Ingredients

  • One 28 oz. can of high quality whole peeled tomatoes (I like Fontanella if I can find them or Cento San Marzano Organic)
  • Sea salt or coarse kosher salt to taste
  • A few shakes of dried oregano if you want

Directions

I make the sauce by first squeezing the excess water out of the canned tomatoes and getting out as many of the seeds as possible.  I then mix the tomatoes with a little of the puree that comes in the can and blend it all together with an immersion blender until it reaches the desired consistency.  I then put the sauce in a very fine mesh strainer for about 10 minutes to get out some more of the tomato water .*  I then mix in the salt (if you mix it in before straining the tomatoes, it may be too salty, as the tomatoes become more concentrated after straining).  That’s all it takes!

* A tip here – put the strainer over the (now empty) tomato can to capture the tomato water.  If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can cook this tomato water in a small sauce pan over low/med. low heat until it reduces to the consistency of tomato puree.  This really concentrates the tomato flavor and, if you add it to the finished sauce, it’ll really punch things up.

Posted in Basic Red Sauce | Tagged | 2 Comments

CSA Week 1 (Holy Lettuce Leaf Batman!)

CSA Week 1

When, in the description of this blog, I joked about having to figure out how to use 12 lettuces in one week I thought, at most, we’d get two, maybe three lettuces or greens in one week.  The first week of our CSA proved me wrong as seven of the nine items consisted of lettuces or greens.  The first week included: mizuna, kale, collard greens, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, garlic scapes and strawberries.  I knew I would have to dig deep to come up with a pizza idea that would use more than one of these ingredients.  The first pizza from CSA week one was:

THE GREEN GODDESS PIZZA

A note about the crust on this pizza.  While I used my basic pizza crust recipe, which usually produces a crust with decent oven spring (i.e., puffiness), this crust only fermented in the fridge for two days, so I don’t think that it fermented long enough to allow the gases in the dough to develop.

Ingredients

  • Basic pizza crust
  • Garlic scape pesto
  • Fresh mozzarella, chopped or torn into roughly two centimeter cubes/pieces
  • Grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano (I prefer the slightly sweeter flavor and kick of grana padano)
  • Goat cheese
  • Kale, chopped into potato chip-sized pieces and tossed with liberal amounts of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  • Place a pizza stone (I use a fibrament stone) on the lowest rack of your oven (you may have to experiment a bit to find the best setup for your oven, as different ovens have different hot spots).
  • Preheat the oven to 550 degrees, or to the hottest possible temperature for at least one hour.
  • Take the pizza dough out of the fridge one-two hours before you want to bake the pie.
  • While the oven is preheating and the dough is coming to room temperature, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  • Carefully remove the room temperature dough to a floured work surface.
  • Put some flour on the dough and rub it around so that the dough is covered with a light dusting of flour.
  • Kind of pinch the outside of the dough to create a rim.

  • Time to spread out the dough.
  • Don’t use a rolling pin, as that will just push all of the gases out of the dough. There are a lot of methods, but I basically just pick the dough up and hold the rim that I created in my hands like I’m holding a steering wheel very lightly.  Then, using gravity, I turn the dough in my hands until it gets to be about eight inches in diameter.

  • Once the dough gets a little bigger, I flip it onto the backs of my hands and continue to spread it out by spreading my fingers underneath the dough, which causes my fingers to push the dough out.

  • Once the dough gets to about 14 inches in diameter, I place it on a lightly floured pizza peel.
  • Add the garlic scape pesto.

  • Spread the mozzarella evenly over the pie.
  • Place the goat cheese on the pie.
  • Add the oiled kale to the pie.
  • Sprinkle with grana padano.
  • Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
  • Place onto pizza stone in preheated oven.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes or until crust starts to brown (this one wasn’t as brown as I like it).
  • Remove pie from oven and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes (this ensures a crispy crust – if you just place the baked pizza on a cutting board or cutter pan, the retained heat will come out as steam and get trapped in the crust, causing it to go soggy)

Cut and enjoy!!

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Garlic Scape Pesto

The first week of our CSA included garlic scapes (along with the multitude of greens and lettuces).  I’d heard of this vegetable but had never actually seen it or tasted it.  They look like some kind of odd twisty green bean and taste like a mix between raw garlic and scallions.  When I think of raw garlic, I think of pesto.  Plus, I’m a huge fan of pesto on pizza, so I thought that making garlic scape pesto and using it on a pizza this week would help me stay on theme with this blog.  The ultimate product tastes really garlicky (in a good way) and, served raw, has the somewhat biting flavor of raw garlic.  Served warm, such as mixed with a little pasta water and served over warm pasta, the raw garlic flavor really mellows out.  It’s definitely worth a try if you come across this kind of odd vegetable.  Here’s the recipe:

Makes roughly 2 cups of pesto

Ingredients

  • 10 garlic scapes, flower part removed, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan or grana padano.  Use a good quality cheese here because you’ll taste it in the pesto
  • 1/3 cup mixture of pine nuts and walnuts
  • 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (again, the higher the quality, the better)
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Process scapes and nuts in a food processor until combined and they become a paste.  Add cheese.  Drizzle olive oil into mixture while you continue to process ingredients (you may have to stop periodically to push the ingredients down).  Add olive oil and continue to process until the mixture reaches the desired consistency (I like it a little thick, almost like oatmeal – or grits if you’re from the south like The Wife).

That’s it!!

It’s a pretty easy recipe, but really flavorful.

Posted in Garlic Scape Pesto, Pizza Toppings | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

My Basic Dough Recipe

Here’s a recipe for my go-to pizza dough.  It’s based on a recipe/procedure created by Glutenboy, a user on Pizza Making, one of the best websites for learning all about making great pizza at home.  The key to this dough is that it uses very little yeast, allowing you to leave it to ferment in the fridge for a few days so that it can really develop some good flavor.  I’ve let it go as long as six days in the fridge and it was awesome.  Another key is that the recipe calls for high gluten flour (I use All Trumps, but King Arthur Sir Lancelot is another good option).  Using high gluten flour, among other things, allows the crust to brown better in the relatively low temperatures of home ovens.  I normally measure my ingredients using baker’s percentages (which I’ve provided in parentheses), but I’ve tried to convert them to volume measurements to make them easier to use assuming you’re not as nutty about pizza making as I am with a food scale devoted solely to weighing out dough ingredients.  Anyway, here you go:

Makes two 14 inch crusts

Recipe:

  • Flour: 2+ cups (100%)
  • Water: 1 1/4 cups (62%) (I use filtered water that I take out of the fridge about 10 minutes prior to mixing the ingredients)
  • Salt: 2 1/2 tsp. (2.5%)
  • Instant Dry Yeast: 2 1/2 dashes (1 dash = 1/8 tsp.) (0.2%)

Procedure:

  • Sift the flour (optional)
  • Put about half of the flour, all of the yeast and all of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer
  • Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until all of the flour is hydrated (it’ll look kind of like pancake batter)

Dough ready for first rest

  • Cover and let sit for about 5-10 minutes
  • Add about half of the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook at the lowest or second lowest speed until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough starts to look kind of stringy

Dough ready for salt

  • Add the salt and mix for a minute or two more
  • Cover again and let rest for another 5 minutes
  • Add the remaining flour and mix until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough looks pretty smooth
  • Take the dough out and hand knead for a few minutes

Finished dough ready for bulk rise

  • Place in a bowl, cover and let it rise for 45 minutes – 2 hours; the colder/less humid the weather, the longer the rise
  • Divide the dough into two even dough balls – Here’s a good video showing how to shape dough balls:
  • Pour a little olive oil in a 2 cup tupperware container and wipe it down with a paper towel
  • Place one dough ball in each container, cover and place in the back of the fridge for at least 2 days but up to 6 days


Posted in Basic crust | Tagged | 4 Comments