Top Five Pizzas in the KI Kitchen
I, like many others, am kind of obsessed with pizza. In fact, I’ve been debating since I was about twelve which is the more perfect food, pizza or burritos, and I’m honestly starting to lean toward pizza (please don’t let my brothers hear that). The thing is, while both offer all four food groups in one tasty and easy-to-eat package, pizza just leaves room for more creativity. Sure, you can get creative with “burritos” when you start to call them wraps, but that’s just not quite the same. And you know what? I can put all the things I love about burritos (mmm, carne asada) on a pizza, so…I think it really is the heavyweight champion of my personal square meal debate.
And I’ve made a lot of pizzas here, especially now that I’ve figured out the trick to dealing with sticky dough (I love you parchment paper). And especially since I’ve figured out that I can stop at Bertucci’s on my walk home from work and, for $2, buy uncooked pizza dough that is 50 times better than anything I’ve managed to turn out in my own kitchen so far. And, if you’ve been reading this here bloggity blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I rarely make a red-sauce-and-pepperoni style pizza. I’m all about experimentation, and putting all kinds of unexpected things on that lovely round of raw dough. And I’ve decided that it’s about time for a best-of-the-best list here at the Kitchen Illiterate. These are my favorite, top five things to do with pizza.
If you’re not quite ready to drift too far from the shores of the red sauce-style pizza, start with this: Zucchini, Pepperoni, and Caramelized Onions. You have your staples: pepperoni, mozzarella, and tomato sauce, but zucchini brings it into a whole new realm. And caramelized onions, well, you could put those on anything and it’d be delicious. I’m even thinking about caramelized onion ice cream (Ok, not really, but…hmm…maybe…). The trick to using vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash (also delicious), broccoli, and eggplant is to cook them first, on the stove, with a little bit of olive oil. That way, they don’t release too much water on your pizza and create a weirdly textured mess. And you can really be inventive with the vegetables you use. Pizzerias generally don’t offer too much variety (mushrooms and green peppers, anyone?), but there’s no limit to kinds of vegetation that can go on a pizza. Even arugula.
Which brings me to pizza idea number two: potatoes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, potatoes on pizza is genius. As with other plant foods, they need to be cooked a little bit first, in a skillet, with just a touch of olive oil and salt. Thinly sliced and slightly browned, or mashed and turned into a potato skin-style pizza (yay, bacon!), you really can’t go wrong putting potatoes on pizza. The first time I made potato pizza, I followed Giada’s lead and topped those potatoes with rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan. And I was really happy. This week, I made pizza with potatoes, whole grain mustard, rosemary, and fontina cheese. And I was even happier.
What’s that? Mustard? Oh yes, tip number three for awesome pizza experiments: Use whole-grain mustard, like Maille, as a sauce.
I actually got this idea from a marketing department, so don’t let anyone tell you marketers aren’t good for anything. The Libby Olive people posted a recipe for Olive and Brie pizza, which I quickly made without any Libby olives. The mustard added such a unique, slightly sweet, and wonderful addition that I knew I would have to try it again. See, you can turn almost anything into pizza sauce: tapenade, marinade, barbecue sauce, mole sauce, salsa, bolognese. Don’t let yourself be limited to the Italian sauce aisle, baby. I think the best pizza I ever made used Stonewall Kitchen’s Rosemary Balsamic Dipping Sauce, which I since have not been able to find anywhere.
In fact, using non-pizza ingredients on pizza dough can yield some of the best pizza ever, and so we’re on to tip number four: Try to turn a completely different type of meal into a pizza.
This Mexican Pizza is by far the best pizza I’ve made yet. Every time I think about it, I start to drool a little bit. I used enchilada sauce instead of pizza sauce, topped it with a thin layer of cooked refried beans, taco-seasoned cooked chicken, colby jack cheese, and, after it came out of the oven, fresh tomatoes and cilantro. It was mind boggling-ly good. It was, if I do say so myself, freaking inspired. So I say go with it! Take your favorite meal and turn it into pizza! Love bacon cheeseburgers? There’s no reason they can’t be a pizza. Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork? On a pizza! One of my favorites is mushroom ragu pizza. And I just started thinking about chicken florentine pizza, which, well, that could be dangerous.
Which, of course, leads me right to tip number five: Use your leftovers.
This is an especially good tip for those of you who, like me, are often cooking for one. It gets crazy boring eating the same thing for dinner and lunch all those days in a row, so instead of being bored, turn leftovers into pizza. I first did this using leftover chicken cacciatore, which I had pounds of, and it really made an excellent pizza. I’ve made pizza with leftover meatballs, leftover al pastor, leftover pot roast. Your options are really limitless.
I suppose I could sum all five of these top favorite best of all time pizza ideas into one lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Pizza is nothing but a base of tasty dough that can go anywhere you want. Some of the best pizzas I’ve had have been those I had my doubts about at first. As long as you’re careful about not over-topping anything (only sogginess will ensue, my friends, and I speak from experience), you can do anything you want. And that is my kind of dinner.
What are your favorite pizzas? Have you made anything totally outlandish? What do you want to see me experiment with next? I would love to hear all of your great ideas!