Following up my posts on growing eggplants and an amazing pizza crust recipe, I thought I would share the pizza topping recipe we used to cook up our first garden-fresh eggplant. As I was beginning to write it out, I discovered that I really want to share some variations I have used over the last few years of making homemade pizzas. While, I am definitely not an expert, I have found that there are many ways to make a good pizza and the best part is you can make it however you want! So I will post the recipe for the pizza we made and will offer some alternatives.
Ingredients (and how to prepare them):
1 Pizza crust (check out my crust fav. recipe)
In the past I have also made crusts using the “Jiffy” mix pizza crust mix in the blue box, but I like making it from scratch. Plus, the recipe from scratch makes 2 large crusts, which is really nice!
2/3 cup roasted tomatoes
Instead of using a sauce for this recipe I use sliced roasted tomatoes that I get in the olive bar at the local super market. They are in oil, so they stay nice and juicy and are flavored with lots of herbs and garlic. While studying abroad in Italy, I absolutely loved and adored eating sun-dried tomatoes all of the time. However, I have found the selection in the states for “sun-dried tomatoes” to be pretty bad and have switched over to fresher, roasted tomatoes. Since the tomatoes in our garden are just starting to come around, I hope to explore roasting my own and sharing the recipes soon. For this recipe, depending on how your roasted tomatoes are prepared, you may want to add more garlic to your pizza (in any form really: chopped, fresh garlic, garlic powder, or garlic salt). Otherwise, you could use a pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought), but I haven’t tried that with this recipe. Some alternatives to using a tomato-based sauce are to use an Alfredo sauce or even just adding some olive oil or butter. We have tried it many ways, and usually it depends on the toppings we have on-hand and the sort of mood we are in around meal-time.
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
This was the only thing I would change with this recipe, the olives were too flavorful and took away from the flavor of the eggplant. Next time I would try it without, even though I love olives!
1 sliced and broiled eggplant
1 sliced and broiled zucchini
(As we were baking our crust in the oven, we decided to “broil” our zucchini and eggplant in the toaster oven, but if you don’t have one available, using the oven works or you could grill them).
Directions on broiling vegetables:
Slice both the eggplant and zucchini into 1/3-inch think rounds and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil so they are touching, but not overlapping. Brush olive oil on both sides of vegetables and add a sprinkle of salt on the top. If broiling, place them 2 to 3 inches from the heat and broil them for 4 to 8 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and tender. If using a toaster oven try 5 -9 minutes on each side. Once they are heated they are ready to go on the pizza!
I have used a lot of other kinds of vegetables on my pizzas in the past, and most of the time they can be put on the pizza sliced, without any sort of heat-treatment. Some of our favorites are sweet peppers (red and green), onions, and spicy green olives. Andrew likes mushrooms, and while I am not a huge fan of them, I am starting to come around to putting fresh ones on our pizzas.
10-12 fresh basil leaves
Since our garden is bursting with basil, I can’t help but pile it on whenever we are making something Italian. In the past when I didn’t have fresh herbs around, I would sprinkle a bit of Italian seasoning on the cheese to give it some extra flavor.
1 sliced (8oz.) ball fresh mozzarella (1/3-inch to 1/2-inch slices)
Again, Italy has forever changed me so that I crave fresh mozzarella constantly. Using a fresh ball of mozzarella gives the pizza a lighter feel, rather than using a shredded packaged variety. Although, before I discovered the joy of fresh mozz, I did use the packaged kind. Depending on where you live, the costs can vary. Being in NJ, I find that I can typically get 8 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese for $2 or an 16 oz fresh ball for $5. This isn’t the top of the line fresh stuff, but I have found it is better than the shredded kind and worth the slight price difference (plus with 2 pizza crusts it is good to have enough cheese for 2 pizzas!).
The directions for topping a pizza are really up to how you like it.
I prefer to put the tomatoes on first, then the basil and vegetable toppings, and finally the cheese last. However, I think this time I put the basil on between the vegetables and the cheese. I have definitely played around with the order of the toppings in the past, and I still like to try it all kinds of different ways. At my pizza party some people argued all about putting the vegetables on top of the cheese (not sure if I agree with that). For baking times and temperatures, it really depends on the kind of crust you are using. I know the toppings are typically done when the cheese bubbles and starts to take on that nice golden color. But it really depends on your own preference!
This was so good, I think it is time for pizza again tonight. Nothing better than date night with fresh pizza and a good movie – oh – and a good bottle of wine :).