Tag Archives: pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza

21 Oct


I know it’s been a long, long, LONG time since I posted.  Especially a recipe.  Last year I went through a bunch of digestive issues that ultimately resulted in my finding out that I’m extremely sensitive to xanthan and guar gum and lots of other nasty additives in so much of our food system (but not gluten, despite what I thought for a while).  Then my hubby and I went on vacation, which was awesome.  And then I had so much work (with my business) that I was doing nothing but work and sleep.  And then…

Well, then, my friends, I found out I was pregnant. 😉

It was just a week after my last big event for several months, a day or two before our unprecedented heat streak in Southern California…  And three days after I started feeling flu-like symptoms (in my defense, my coworkers at my day job had all had the flu the week before).  It was 5 am.  And of course I woke my husband up (sorry honey!). And then?  Well, then I pretty much slept for three months.

I couldn’t go in our kitchen – the mere whiff of the sink or the trash can (even if it were freshly changed) or the fridge made me gag.  And it was extremely hot (like, minimum high 90s) for weeks on end.  We have no air conditioner at home, so my only relief was going to work!

Anyway, it’s just been since I hit the second trimester that I’ve really started cooking again.  I can look at (some) raw meat without wanting to lose it.  And I can stand in the kitchen without being a mess.  It helps that it’s cooler (it was lovely and rainy today!).  Because, of course, it’s fall.

And I can’t let a perfectly good fall go by without making something with butternut squash.

Like pizza.

Why not?

I started planning this out in my head last weekend, but it was warm again for most of this week, and we were busy (my business is in full swing again for the next month). So it got put on hold.  But I was thrilled to try it tonight.

Oh BOY was it worth the wait!  This pizza has all the elements of a beautiful Fall meal in one easy package…  And it’s so, so incredible tasting…  I’d been dreaming about this pizza from the moment I conceptualized it, and it lived up to every single expectation!

Elisa’s Butternut Squash Pizza

  • 1 medium (approx. 10″) homemade pizza crust, par-baked
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • 4-8 leaves of fresh sage, chiffonade
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • flesh of 1/2 medium cooked butternut squash (approx. 1 1/4 cups, smashed)
  • 1 tsp corn starch (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 uncooked Italian sausage links (we love Trader Joes’ Sweet Chicken Italian)
  • approx. 1 cup greens (we used spinach because it’s what we had on-hand but kale or other winter greens would be lovely here)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5-6 oz grated mozzarella cheese
  • fresh ground black pepper and salt

This recipe takes a little prep (but nothing like my past dabbles into butternut squash!).  It’s easier if you can finish all the prep work first and then assemble. So here goes:

In a small pan over medium heat, cook butter and sage together until butter is almost browned and sage is fried crisp.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or so (but don’t let the butter get black).  Mash the browned butter together with the butternut squash, crushing the garlic and sage so that they incorporate well throughout.  Add a few grinds of black pepper (I used approx. 1/4 tsp but you might find that you like more). If your squash is very watery, you might need to add some starch as a thickener.

Caramelize your onions; try to get them soft and brown but not crisp or burnt.  The best way to do this is actually to throw them in a small baking dish with a bit of fat (butter or oil, just enough to keep them from sticking to the pan) and some salt and let them bake, covered, while the butternut squash roasts.  This can be done in a crock pot or stove top too, of course! 😉

Wilt your spinach or other greens with a tiny bit of oil in a pan.  We don’t want to add too much extra oil to this dish, since we already have the butter, but you will need to add the oil to keep it from sticking.

Now, assemble.

Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on the crust.  Add onions over the top.  Top with dollops of sausage and wilted greens.  Spread parmesan and mozzarella cheese over the top of the whole pizza and bake at 450 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Devour.

Fall has never tasted so good. 😉


Halloween Party!

4 Nov

A few weeks back, we were at my parents’ house.  It was a party they were having for the annual Air Show at our local Marine Corps Base – their backyard is right in the flight path and it’s always a spectacular show, with planes screaming over just a few hundred feet overhead – you can even read the pilots’ names at times, if you’re quick enough.  Anyway, the point is that my parents invited my best friend and his wife to come along to the party, and we were sitting at the table with them.  We happened to ask them what they were up to for Halloween.  Nothing, they said, so we suggested they come over to our place.

We always have tons of trick-or-treaters, so even though Halloween is my least-favorite holiday (something to do with scary masks the year I was three, I think), we thought it would be a fun way to spend the evening.  Later in the month, we happened to be hanging out with two other couples and mention the idea of coming over to them too.  Suddenly we had a party on our hands!

First, decorations.  We’ve only got 2 boxes for Halloween (as opposed to about a dozen big Rubbermaid tubs for our Christmas stuff), but we were able to do a little bit of decorating.

I love these guys... I bought them about 5 years ago at Big Lots, and haven't seen any scarecrows cuter since!

Above the television sat my two gorgeous pumpkins, a bunch of our photos (including this one from our first anniversary, courtesy of Melissa McClure Photography!) and these little cuties, picked up for us two years ago by my grandmother.

I spent a lot of the morning cooking, including spinach artichoke dip.  A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for this, but I tried to make this a little more standard:

Elisa’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 bag (16 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 bag (12 oz) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped (they have these at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic or 1 medium garlic clove, chopped fine
  • additional mozzarella for sprinkling over the top of the dip

Mix all the ingredients except the additional mozzarella in a bowl.  Smooth into a greased baking dish and cover with additional cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees until cheese is melty and browned.  Notice that I didn’t say what size a dish to use – that’s because you can really use anything it’ll fit into.  It depends on whether you want a lot of brown bubbly cheese on top (use a wide dish) or just a little (use a deep one).  This will feed 4-8 people, depending on whether you use it as an appetizer or a side dish.  Serve it with toasted baguette or tortilla chips.

Waiting to be uncovered and eaten... Spinach artichoke dip with chips!

I also made these babies, gorgeous fluffy cupcakes from one of my favorite blogs, Patent and the Pantry

Pretty and tasty!

I did make a couple of adjustments to the recipe, specifically the spices.  I used 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (mostly because I actually don’t have ground allspice, plus I actually like the mixture), and a pinch of ground cloves.  I’m not a big fan of ginger in pumpkin dishes – I’m not sure why, I just have never really liked it.  Anyway, these were originally a Martha Stewart recipe, and sometimes her stuff is a little too fussy for me but these were quite easy and really delivered on flavor.  With the cream cheese frosting (at the same link), they were perfect.  Honestly.  My sister commented that they tasted like pumpkin cheesecake.  Which gave me an idea…  I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’m pretty excited.  Let’s just say that if my idea ends up being good I’ll post it next week.  Anyway, I digress.

Our dinner was a pizza bar.  I didn’t get any good photos, unfortunately, but I made a TRIPLE batch of my basic bread dough recipe.  I mixed up the dough Saturday afternoon and let it proof in the fridge overnight in two huge bowls, and then Sunday morning I took it out and let it warm up to room temperature and get all beautiful and puffy.  I divided it into roughly the same size pieces and rolled them into 1 1/2″ balls and pulled them into odd-shaped thin crusts by hand and poked them with a fork so they wouldn’t rise too much in the oven.  I made five or six dozen of them, dusting the bottoms with corn meal and baking them in batches, 5 minutes at a time.

The beginning of our pizza bar, with plates and sauces. The pizza crusts are in the big basket at the back!

The rest of the pizza bar was made of various sauces, meats, vegetables, and cheeses, laid out and labeled (you can see the cute little labels I made in the photo below).  On the menu:

  • tomato sauce (bottled – the best one I’ve found is by Barilla)
  • BBQ sauce (our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray’s – it’s very sweet but full of great flavor)
  • Trader Joe’s curry sauce
  • garlic oil
  • homemade pesto (no real recipe for this one – I just blend up some basil leaves, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in my food processor)
  • roasted garlic
  • carmelized onions (cut and mixed with a little butter and salt, and placed in the crock pot on low overnight)
  • roasted eggplant from the garden
  • roasted zucchini
  • roasted sweet peppers
  • garlic mushrooms (sauteed with a little butter)
  • artichoke hearts
  • spinach
  • olives
  • cut basil leaves
  • figs
  • cooked chicken
  • Trader Joe’s sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • Trader Joe’s pepperoni
  • garlic shrimp
  • mozzarella cheese
  • parmesan cheese
  • cheddar cheese

I know it's a poor photo, and this was before I dished out the meats. But you can see our toppings and the labels I made!

I had planned on using goat cheese too, my Mexican hot sauce, and fresh tomatoes.  But I didn’t realize the goat cheese had been opened the week before (and it was no good, sadly) and forgot the tomatoes and hot sauce completely.  Even so, one of our guests said there were just too many choices!  I say there are never too many…  Especially during a party like this, it’s totally worth giving people lots of options.  Each person grabbed one (or two, or three!) pizza crust and decorated it with exactly the toppings he or she wanted.  My favorite was roasted vegetable; my husband loved the BBQ sauce with chicken sausage and figs (no one ever said he was conventional!)

Of course I got to wear my Wonder Woman costume again, this time with a modification to the belt.  It still sort of flopped down, but at least it wasn’t unsticking all the time.  You can also see the “golden lasso” I got at WalMart for $1.75 (that Iaccidentally left at home on Friday).

I love this costume!

I also made my hubby’s costume – he was Clark Kent, wearing a blue shirt underneath his button-up that I applied an iron-on Superman logo to.  Since he used mostly clothes he already had, this was an $8 costume, thanks to Old Navy.

We had an awesome time with our friends, even though L&J couldn’t make it.  We had over 200 kids come to the door, gave out lots of pencils and plastic spider rings (what can I say?  we learned how expensive candy can be at our house on Halloween, plus it’s kind of fun to be different), and watched Halloween cartoons (including my very favorite “Disney’s Trick or Treat”, with Donald and his three nephews and Witch Hazel!  Thank you ABC Family for showing it this year!).  By the end of the night we were totally exhausted, but it was such a fun time that hubby suggested this might be an annual event.  We’ll see…  More than 6 people in our teeny living room would be a bit of a stretch, but maybe by next year we’ll have a new place?

Anyway, since we had costumes, we suggested our friends dress up too, and we took this on my camera’s timed setting:

Happy Halloween!

Homemade Margherita Pizza

17 May

I love making pizza – it’s a beautiful meal, and can be quick and easy.  Oh sure, many pizza recipes call for parking the dough in the fridge for a day or two, but my (admittedly unorthodox) version uses a dozen ingredients (including salt, pepper, and all the pizza dough ingredients) and was on the table in less than an hour.

And is so, so good.

The first thing you have to remember is that even though bread dough typically does best when it’s allowed to rest and rise for an hour or more, there are no food police who will come cuff you for ignoring that part.  The second thing is that using a few simple ingredients that are really, really good often yields better results than using a ton of fancy ingredients.  So when you’re looking for tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil, go for the best specimens you can find.

And, without any further ado…

Elisa’s Margherita Pizza

  • Bread dough to make one pizza crust (aka 1/2 of my basic bread dough recipe, or 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and enough flour to make a wet dough)
  • 12 small garlic cloves, skin on (you can use larger ones, and adjust the numbers accordingly, but I had a ton of the teeny tiny ones that I hate to peel and I wanted something that cooked quickly)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (obviously you can use larger or smaller ones; I ended up with about a cup of tomatoes)
  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil (about 2 tbsp chopped – and please don’t use dry basil here)
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley (about 1 tbsp chopped… this is optional but I do like it)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, or several ounces of sliced mozzarella cheese (the sliced stuff won’t melt as well, though)
  • small uncooked shrimp, sausage, or chicken pieces (optional and not traditional, but we often add them if we’re looking to have this as our main meal with salad instead of a side dish)

Please read the basic bread dough recipe first, as I’m just going to gloss over the technique here.  While the yeast, sugar, and water for the pizza dough proof in a bowl, wrap the garlic cloves in tin foil and pop them in the toaster oven at 300 (use a toaster oven for this step so you can bake the crust in the oven at the same time).  Check on them often; you want them to roast enough to mash well but the idea isn’t to burn them, and small cloves burn faster than large ones.  Yes, I know that this is also not a traditional technique for roasting garlic, but it works well for this purpose!

I actually am finding myself making more use of my stand mixer with it’s dough hook for wetter doughs; I like to mix pizza dough with less flour than I would use making standard “smooth and elastic” dough, especially when I’m not going to let it rise for a long time.  For this pizza, I’d say to add about a cup and a half of flour to the mixer and let it incorporate fully before adding any more; if the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, you don’t need to add any more.  Obviously you can mix this by hand – I’d actually say to use a big spoon rather than your fingers, since I really do prefer to keep this sticky.  Let your stand mixer mix this dough for 3-5 minutes on medium (but don’t let the dough creep out the top – if it starts to, push it down and turn down the mixer).  Add a little olive oil to the bowl to coat the outside of the dough and set it aside, covered by a towel, in a warm place, to rest for 10 minutes.

Lay out your tomatoes on top of a paper towel on a plate and salt and pepper them.  You don’t want to use too much – I use about a teaspoon of each – but this will be all the seasoning for the pizza, so don’t skip this step.  Also, don’t skip the paper towel – it ensures that you don’t have too much liquid on the pizza.  Set the tomatoes aside while you chop the herbs.

After the dough has rested for 10 minutes, stretch it out on a large cookie sheet to your desired thickness (I like a nice thick outer crust with a thin inside).  Immediately bake it in a preheated oven at 450 for 7 minutes. 

While the crust is cooking, remove the garlic from the toaster oven and unwrap the tin foil.  Enjoy the gorgeous aroma before de-skinning the garlic (it peels very easily when it’s cooked this much, and sometimes you just need to poke it a little and the whole clove comes out).  Mash it up a little bit in a bowl or on a plate before the crust comes out of the oven.

Remove the crust from the oven (it will only be slightly baked, but it will ensure that the middle gets completely cooked) and top it with the mashed garlic.  You really want to make sure that every piece has some nice garlicky flavor, so spread it thinly throughout.

I usually lay out my tomatoes and then add basil and parsley and any meat I’m using before drizzling olive oil on the top and scattering mozzarella cheese on the top.  I find that this way I don’t have puddles of olive oil or burned herbs, but your mileage may vary.

Pop the pizza back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese gets bubbly and starts to get golden brown on the edges.  Enjoy with a large salad or as an appetizer.

I included some small shrimp on top of this piece, but this pizza is awesome as a side with just the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Perfection.

Curry Chicken Pizza

25 Mar

By now you know that I make pizza quite a lot.  It’s easy to get a ton of nutritious ingredients into an easy-to-eat serving, and there’s a lot of flavor.  And we love the basic “kitchen sink”-type pie (every veggie we can think of, plus a meat and a little cheese, baked together with a red sauce), but lately I’ve tried to get creative.

I made a beautiful goat cheese pizza in January (more on that in my next post – I recently used the leftover ingredients, frozen since January, to make an awesome tart) and was stunned by how much I enjoyed the departure from the norm.  I’ve also been experimenting with flavors (in a sort of fusion way), coming up with a curried turkey meatball that I served over pasta (weird, yes, but oh so good).  I had half of the jar of curry simmer sauce left over (in a baggie in my freezer – I typically make my own but I happened to buy Patak’s at the store and really really liked it), and some chicken thighs, and…  This pizza was born.

If you think about it, curry pizza is really not all that strange.  After all, we eat curry with nan bread all the time (and nan is a very basic bread dough with some clarified butter added to it).  But this was a fun twist on the expected, and incredibly flavorful.  We served it with spinach sauteed in garlic (I added some to the pizza and then made extra).

Curry Chicken Pizza

Curry Chicken Pizza

  • 1 extra-large pizza crust (use half of my basic bread dough recipe), par-baked (you could probably use Boboli for this as well, but it will be too much filling for one Boboli; if you want tips about par-baking, check my goat cheese pizza recipe)
  • 5-8 oz curry sauce (I used about 6 oz to cover my crust, a little under a cup; obviously you can make your own if you want but I went the lazy way – you can also make this as hot as you want but I like my curries mild)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced and carmelized (see my goat cheese pizza recipe for tips on how to carmelize onions)
  • 1 large sweet pepper (I used yellow for a pretty color contrast), cut into chunks and roasted (in the oven on 350 for an hour is best)
  • 6-12 cloves garlic, minced and divided in half
  • 8-10 brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups raw baby spinach, washed
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (you could use breasts for this too but I like the meaty flavor of the thighs)
  • 1 cup soft mild cheese (I was thinking of paneer when I did this, and using up some Mexican cotija cheese my husband had brought home; if you don’t have it or don’t want it, you can do without it, although you might want a little more mozzarella in that case)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

In turn, sautee the mushrooms and the spinach each with a touch of olive oil or butter and half of the garlic.  Season the chicken as you prefer (I rolled mine in a little granulated garlic, lemon pepper, and paprika) and sautee until the chicken has some golden color but is not cooked through completely.

Build your pizza.  First, spread the curry sauce on the crust.  Then add your chicken and veggies.  Last, your cheese.  Yup, easy!

Unbaked curry pizza (forgive the crappy lighting please!)

Bake your pizza in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until it’s golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven (but try not to break your pizza stone like I did!) and serve.


Goat Cheese Pizza

15 Jan

Note: I know this isn’t, like, the most incredible culinary breakthrough ever and that I’ve had this combination of flavors before.  I just haven’t DONE this before and I wasn’t sure it would work out the way I had in my head.  But it did, so I sharing!

This was quite possibly my favorite experiment in the kitchen to date.  I happened upon a log of really inexpensively-priced goat cheese on my Costco run earlier this week (the last one before my membership runs out!) and grabbed it!  It wasn’t part of my meal plan for the week (I tried!  I really did!  So far, I made 2 out of 4 planned meals) but I didn’t care.  It had to come home with me!

Two days ago I made an entree salad for dinner and served a loaf of fresh bread on the side.  I made some extra bread dough and shaped a pizza crust out of it.  If you’re making your own pizza crust but you don’t want to use it that night, you can par-bake it (5 minutes in a 450 degree oven) and pop it in the fridge overnight; that’s exactly what I did, and in addition to making the whole process easier I was also able to get a super-crispy crust by transferring the pizza to my pizza stone (far easier when it holds together!).  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I knew I wanted carmelized onions – their sweetness compliments goat cheese extremely well, and they were really easy to find.  But then I went to FOUR grocery stores (including an Asian market, since I was in the area) to try to find duck and figs.  Now, figs are out of season.  That made sense.  And I’m told most places don’t carry them even when they ARE in season.  But duck?  I didn’t realize it was so hard to find!  In the end, I found a package of dried figs in the nuts section of my Vons’ produce section and a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs at Trader Joe’s (they were inexpensive, with rich dark meat, and overall a decent stand in for duck).

My goat cheese pizza was born.

For anyone who doesn’t really eat goat cheese, or who never has before, this has to be a slightly strange combo.  But goat cheese is a little tangy (not like blue cheese, but it’s certainly not sweet like cream cheese) and plays so well with the sweet onions and figs…  It’s incredible.  I served it with a very basic salad and vinaigrette and a brut rose, which is not typically my favorite wine, but the fruity acidity ended up pairing extremely well with the rich earthiness of the dish.  Anyway, enjoy!

Goat Cheese Pizza.... Mmmm.....

Goat Cheese Pizza

I know it looks like a LOT of steps, but it’s really extremely easy!  This serves 4 easily, or 6-8 if you’re making it as an appetizer.

  • 1 large thin-crust whole wheat Pizza Crust (or, as my husband pointed out, lots of little ones…  This would be an excellent appetizer for a party!), either a prepared one, or purchased dough (Trader Joe’s looks like they have a really good one!), or a basic bread recipe:
    • 1 package active dry yeast
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 cup lukewarm-to-warm water
    • 1 tsp salt
    • about 3 cups flour (I usually use 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat)
    • (mix together the first three ingredients and let them sit in a warm place for 10 minutes until they foam, then add the other three, mixing the flour in slowly until the dough isn’t very sticky but it’s not crumbly, and let it rise at least an hour, covered, in a warm place, before using…  I think I need to do a blog post about making bread!)
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • herbs (I used about 1 tbsp fresh basil and about 1/2 tsp dried parsley; these aren’t absolutely necessary but I liked the fresh note they brought to the party)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tsp butter
  • dash salt
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs (the thighs I used were about 1 1/2 oz each; you could also skin and bone your own, but this just made it really easy!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper (I used lemon pepper)
  • splash white wine or champagne (you can certainly use something nonalcoholic but it’s cooked so you really won’t be consuming the alcohol and this does give the best flavor)
  • 4 oz dried figs (ok, I’ve never used fresh but I assume they’d work; I used about 6 large dried figs), sliced very thin and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

This pizza has several steps.  First, cooking the onion:

  • Slice the onion in long, thin slices.  Try to be as consistent as possible but they’ll cook down so it’s ok either way.
  • If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can do what I did: pile all the slices in a covered Pyrex dish and toss them with the butter and a little salt and bake them at 250 degrees for four hours, stirring every hour and draining off the excess moisture.  Yes, I know it’s a lot of time to spend on it…  but they’re definitely worth it, since they just melt in your mouth. 
  • Otherwise, you can do what I usually do: add the onions, butter, and salt to a big pan on the stove and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, or until they’re golden brown.  This method usually yields slightly more burnt onion, and it doesn’t melt the way the long-cooked stuff does.  But it’s still yummy.  I haven’t tried it before, but I’d guess you could probably start a batch of onions on the stove to get them all nice and translucent and finish them in the oven?  You could probably also drop everything into your slow cooker and park it someplace on low for several hours…  Just try to drain out the excess water when you get a chance!

Next, the chicken:

  • Add the minced garlic to a small frying pan with a little olive oil, and turn the pan to medium-low. 
  • Let it heat up before adding the chicken thighs, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. 
  • Spread them as thinly as possible (unroll them completely) and let them cook for about 3 minutes on each side before adding the mustard and the wine. 
  • Let the chicken cook another 3-4 minutes in the wine before removing it.  It’s ok if the chicken is not 100% cooked at this point, since it’ll be going in an oven in a little bit!
  • Cook the sauce by itself until it reduces by half (another 5 minutes or so).
  • Cut the chicken in thin, bite-sized pieces and toss it in the sauce to coat it well.

Now, the goat cheese:

  • Let the goat cheese stand at room temperature in a bowl for 10 minutes or until it softens.
  • Add the herbs and the olive oil (and pepper, if you like – I don’t think it needs any salt) to the bowl and mash them around, mixing them into the cheese, until the cheese is smooth and studded with herbs.  You might be able to do this without olive oil, but my cheese was a little thicker than I wanted it to be, without it.

Now, the pizza!

  • Preheat your oven (and a pizza stone, if you’ve got one!) to 450 degrees.
  • If you haven’t already done so (or if you don’t have a prepared crust like Boboli), par-bake your crust for 5 minutes.  This will help the whole thing hold up better in the oven, the bottom of the crust will be crispier, and you’ll have an easier time putting on the toppings.  Not to mention the toppings won’t burn!  Let your crust cool so you can handle it without burning yourself.  If you’ve got a refrigerated pre-baked crust, let it come to room temperature.
  • Spread a thin layer of your goat cheese on your pizza.  My pizza was rectangular, around 12″x14″, so you may have some leftover goat cheese when you’re done.  Snack time! 🙂
  • Add the onion – and yes, I used ALL of the onion in a layer that pretty much covered the whole pizza.
  • Add the chicken (but not the sauce) and the figs.  My husband and I like a bite of each topping every time we take a bite of pizza, so we added a lot of toppings.
  • Finally, add the mozzarella.  We just wanted a little brown meltiness and you can probably do without this (although your chicken and figs will be more prone to burning).  We barely dusted the pizza, using less than half of what we would normally use for a pizza this size (and we’re not heavy cheesers, even normally).  This is the one part of the pizza where I don’t insist on using the most incredible ingredients, because to me it all tastes the same when melted.  Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

Woo Hoo!  Your pizza is ready for the oven!  I really should have taken photos of the assembly, if for no other reason than to break up this crazy long text…  But you’re almost to pizza deliciousness… 

  • Carefully slide your pizza onto the EXTREMELY hot pizza stone (or pop your pizza pan or cookie sheet in the oven, if you don’t have a pizza stone…  but seriously they’re worth looking into since they’re inexpensive and the texture of a pizza prepared on a stone is INCREDIBLE).  Listen as it sizzles.  Then close the door to let it cook!~
  • Bake your pizza at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes; different sizes of pizza, different ovens, etc., may have an effect – so turn on your oven light and keep an eye on it through the window in the oven door.  Ours was done right at about 10 minutes, with the cheese on top nice and melty, the crust turning a golden brown, and the edges of the figs just starting to carmelize.

Just try and resist this!


Pantry-Clearing Pizza

23 Jun

Or should I say fridge-clearing?  Either way, last night I realized on the (longer than usual, stupid traffic) drive home that we had been so caught up in the weekend’s festivities that we had a) not come up with a menu for the week and b) not gone shopping over the weekend.  We had also c) not used up most of what we bought for last week, since we had so many places we had to be (and I got sick).  I racked my brains, trying to come up with a suitable dinner plan.

I got home with two ideas in my head – burgers or spaghetti – both utilizing things we’d bought a few weeks ago.  I was all set to use a (gasp) jarred spaghetti sauce Hubby had picked up when I hit on another idea that would be more flexible and healthier.  And use nothing but what we already had.  Pizza.

Now, I know pizza isn’t exactly considered a “health food”, but I think it’s gotten a bad rap for years.  After all, not all pizza is covered in extra cheese.  And nutritionist Paul Saltman gave a lecture in one of my classes years ago, swearing that pizza is one of the healthiest meals one can have, since if it’s got lots of veggies, it’s got all your food groups in one convenient package.  And when Hubby and I make pizza, we love to pile on the veggies!

I wasn’t quite ready to think about eating yet, so we started slow.  I mixed up a quick dough with whole wheat flour only (I used my standard bread recipe – 1 tbsp yeast, 2 tsp sugar, 2 1/2 cups warm but not hot water, add 2 tsp salt and enough flour to make it the texture you want – but halved it and made it sort of sticky…  only because I felt like it) and popped three artichokes that we’d harvested about two weeks ago (they’d been living in the fridge) into boiling water with a couple of cloves of garlic and some dried parsley and basil.  I also started to “melt” the onions.

Now I say “melting” the onions instead of “carmelizing” them because the latter process takes a good 45 minutes to an hour and truly should be done in a dutch oven so that the last good bit of cooking can happen in the oven…  And I lack the patience to truly carmelize my onions.  So I “melt” them on the stove with a little butter and a good bit of salt (to help draw water out of the onions). 

This is how the onions started

This is how the onions started

My stove seems to have a gap between “Medium-Low” heat and “Extremely Low” – so a few of the bits of onion burned.  But considering that I was in the living room playing a board game when much of the cooking was going on, I think it was a pretty decent trade off! 🙂

This is how the onions ended up...  Pretty, soft, and carmel-colored

This is how the onions ended up... Pretty, soft, and carmel-colored

When the onions were mostly-done, and the dough had been rising and the artichokes cooking for about 45 minutes, I drained the artichokes, punched down the dough, and turned on the oven.  Now, of course, I couldn’t find my stupid pizza stone (we found it later in the perfectly logical place next to the washing machine… don’t ask), so I had to cook my pizza on a cookie sheet (it’s not nearly as crisp).  If I’d been able to find it, I’d have popped it in the oven at least 45 minutes prior to needing to bake my pizza.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, GET one.  They’re awesome (thanks Hannes for the wedding gift!). 

While the artichokes were cooling and the dough was rising a second time, I took the onions out of the pan (and yes, if you were being smart, you’d drain them on a paper towel, but I just left them in the butter…  oh well) and put in some eggplant.  We don’t usually eat eggplant, but we had some in the fridge because I’ve been experimenting with it.  It was a little soft, but seemed to be mostly good.  I cut it into thin slices, using mostly the non-seedy pieces, and completely peeled the thing (the skin is really bitter) and tossed it with a little lemon juice.  Then in the pan I added olive oil and garlic.  I remembered after a few minutes what a sponge eggplant is (it was sucking up the olive oil like crazy instead of sauteeing in it) and decided to add a little more flavor to the party.  I drizzled it with my trusty balsamic vinegar and cooked it until it was soft.  Truthfully, I think that this was my favorite part of the finished pizza.  The flavor was incredible!

I julienned some small sweet peppers that were on their last legs, tossing them with a little olive oil in the same sautee pan.  Then I cut up the artichoke and some very thin asparagus and some basil and parsley (side note: if you want to store basil in the fridge, wrap it in a damp paper towel…  I had two packages in there, one with the damp paper towel and one without, and without a doubt that’s the way to go).  I had Hubby grate the leftover bits of cheese (sharp gouda and sharp cheddar) that were left in the fridge and mix them with the grated mozzarella that was left over from my homemade lasagna (all together there were about 1 1/2 cups of cheese, which sounds like a lot but really isn’t for a large pizza like this).  Lastly, I made “sausage” out of ground turkey (from our freezer) mixed with dry parsley and basil, lemon pepper, and granulated garlic.  I added panko breadcrumbs to try to keep as much moisture in as possible and rolled them into balls (next time, I’d flatten out a big piece and put it over the sauce, under the veggies, to try to have the veggies’ moisture seep into the meat… or I’d just use a ground meat that actually contains some fat).  Oh, and the jarred pasta sauce?  Fantastic as a pizza sauce (Barilla with sweet peppers, in case you’re wondering).

All my ingredients, laid out and ready to use (yes, those are paper plates...  hey, it works!)

All my ingredients, laid out and ready to use (yes, those are paper plates... hey, it works!)

Soooo…  I had all the ingredients laid out and ready to go.  Now to start the pizza crust.  I stretched it out as best I could and sort of smushed it out, trying not to stick it to the pan (I failed).  I should have gone with a less sticky crust, but it still worked out okay.  I par-baked it (at 450 for about 10 minutes) before putting on the toppings (and scraped it off the cookie sheet before it went in again).

Par-baked pizza crust

Par-baked pizza crust

 I started with the sauce and then the herbs.  Now, as I said above, I’d probably spread the “sausage” thinly over the sauce next time, but I’d never used ground turkey as a pizza topping before and I didn’t know how quickly it would dry out…  Anyway, I added the onions next.

Mmmm...  Sauce, herbs, and onions...

Mmmm... Sauce, herbs, and onions...

Gah, I’m getting hungry just looking at it!  Next came the rest of the veggies, all spread out to try to get everything in each bite…

Tasty, healthy, and beautiful!

Tasty, healthy, and beautiful!

Lastly, I added the turkey “sausage.”  I had a moment of panic that the pieces weren’t cooked (since I usually cook my meat before putting it on my pizza), but they turned out just fine (if a little dry).  I know it looks like a LOT of sausage (I used about half a package) but it cooks down quite a bit.

Raw turkey "sausage" on the pizza

Raw turkey "sausage" on the pizza

Next came the cheese (about a cup and a half, which is NOT a lot of cheese for a large pizza like this), and despite my reservations about using sharp cheddar and gouda together with all the veggies, etc., they actually played really nicely together.  I might add sharp cheese to all my pizzas now!  And then it was time for a 450-degree oven for 15-20 minutes…

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

 When it was bubbly and the sausage turned white, I took it out (even though I like my cheese a little more “done”, I was afraid the sausage would turn into little hockey pucks).



I put it on my pizza stone to cool and be cut (since I wouldn’t want to cut on my cookie sheet).  At least I got some use out of the stone last night!

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

All that there was left to do was to serve it.  We ate it with a salad made from leftover tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet corn (we left out the beautiful green beans that the neighbor brought over – boo!!) and a nice sweet fizzy Italian wine.  It was a totally incredible meal out of just what we had lying around the house!!!

Okay, now I'm hungry...

Okay, now I'm hungry...

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