Instructionals
Pepperoniplant Pizza
Brad English
This is my first follow up on my broccoli pepperoni experiment.  I think I'm onto something here. Pepperoni is so popular because it is a great topping for pizza.  It offers a spicy kick with concentrated salt accents. It has a deep flavor with spicy and salty exclamations! When I'm making pizzas at home I tend to use a good salami rather than a traditional pepperoni but, every once in a while the kids will order your basic pepperoni pizza and I'll nab a slice and remember why it's so popular.
I was making some pizzas recently and while shopping I saw a pile of little japanese eggplant sitting there.  The spot lights on the ceiling reflected back at me from their shiny purple skin.  I decided to pick one up and try using it as my next platform to play with my pepperoni-ing project.
Let's get right to the pizza since this is a follow up to the previous recipe post.

The Pepperoniplant Pizza

- Dough: I used Peter's Country dough that I made using a Firestone Double Barrel Ale instead of water.
- Peter's herb oil
- Grated Mozz and an English White Cheddar
- Brad's Pepperoniplant
- Sauteed chilis (Fresno and Serranos)
- Salt/Pepper to taste
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Making the Pepperoniplant:
*I know the name is lame. But, I am writing this blog and I get to use it!
- 1 Japanese Eggplant
- Olive Oil
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Paprika
- Garlic Powder
- Ground Fennel Seed
- Ground Red Pepper Flakes
- Ground Mustard Seed
- A little Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Black Pepper
- Salt
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Simple:
Slice eggplant into 1/8" - 1/4" strips.  Saute in Olive Oil and add the rest of the ingredients to your eye.  Drizzle a little soy for color and a depth of flavor.  I feel like the soy adds a nutty, or meaty quality to the taste. Add a little of the rice wine vinegar for a little tang and brightness.  Sprinkle the moistened eggplant with the dry ingredients until it's the right color and you feel you have the right balance of spices.  I flipped them over back and forth as they sautéed in order to make sure to distribute the spices and liquid evenly on each slice.
Saute until just done.  This could be done ahead of time and saved in the fridge.
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The bake:
Pre-heat your oven to 550 Degrees for an hour.  When ready to bake the pizza switch it to Convection bake.  I find the circulation of the air helps cook the pizza faster.
Spread the dough and build your pizza.  Haven't we gotten this down yet?
Sauce
Cheese
Pepperoniplant and chilis.
Into the oven it goes.
6-10 minutes later it will be bubbling hot and ready to come out.
Welcome to my vegetable pepperoni quest!
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*Note on the asterisk's:  Enjoy them.  Follow them down the page.  They lead you to the next sentence.  Ok, really, the web program just wasn't cooperating today.  I could not space anything out.  So, I "outsmarted" the programming and entered the asterisks.
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Enjoy!
 
Broccoli Pepperoni
Brad English

Broccoli Pepperoni?  Broccoli and pepperoni don't go together in a sentence very often. The pepperoni pizza is, by all accounts, the most popular pizza here in the USA. Picture your average 10 year old boy walking into his local pizza shop.  "Can I have a medium pepperoni pizza, uhmm…also with roasted broccoli?!!"  That just isn't going to happen.  Maybe I'm wrong though.

 

 

I love broccoli.  Even my daughter loves broccoli and that kid is like a cat - she's finicky!  If you've read my recipe musings you'll already know that Owen (my son) likes broccoli.  He's like Mikey; "He eats everything!"  I was making some broccoli a while back and, after cutting the branches off the stocks, I noticed the cross section of the stalk and it looked moist and interesting for some reason. So, I sliced a piece off and ate it.  It was good.  I thought, why do we cut off the top of the broccoli, the florets, and just throw all of this away?  Maybe the collective "we" doesn't, but I had never really been served broccoli trunk before.

So, I started chopping more of the stalk and using it in salads, or even thicker chunks when steaming broccoli for dinner, and life was good.  One day when I was slicing some stalk I noticed the shape of the little discs.  For some reason I thought of pizza topping and then, aha, broccoli pepperoni!  I know this may not be something I should be sharing in public, it could get me locked up.  But, I trust you all to keep this part of the story to yourselves.

I am still working on the recipe, but thought I would share it now, even while still in development, because I think it's an interesting concept.  A big part of what we are searching for here on Pizza Quest is not just that perfect pizza, or perfect final product, but what is interesting; what is the process; who are the driven people and what drives them to create amazing food -- how did they get here?  I know this aha moment is just a small example of that quest, but it is a part of the process, at least for me, of making our lives interesting, enriched, and fun. In other words, broccoli pepperoni is me, in my driven state.

I was also thinking that I'd like to extend this concept into zucchini, or maybe even try a breaded eggplant "pepperoni."  The real quest here, as it often is, is my search for flavor.

By the way, my daughter gave this pizza two thumbs up!

 

Broccoli Pepperoni

- 3-4 Large Broccoli Stalks

- Olive Oil *Approx. 1 - 2 Tablespoons

- Soy Sauce *Approx. 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon

- Rice Wine Vinegar  *Approx. 1/2 Tablespoon

- Paprika *Approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons

- Garlic Powder *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon

- Ground Fennel Seed *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon

- Ground Red Pepper Flakes *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon

- Ground Mustard Seed *Approx 1/2 Tablespoon

- A little Cayenne Pepper

- Ground Black Pepper

- Salt

 

*Note:  I have been making this by "eye" and "feel."   These amounts are approximate.  Start with less and add more of each as needed, per your taste.  Mix it all together and taste one piece.  Adjust and taste again until you have it where you like it.  You can find all sorts of homemade pepperoni recipes online that can guide you if you want/need exact spice measurements.  As I play with this, I'll updated the recipe here. Please do the same if you have any suggested tweaks.

 

To do:

Cut the broccoli heads off the stalks.  Trim the stalks as needed.  Cut off the bottom edge.

Slice broccoli into 1/8" slices.

*You don't have to be precise because varying the slices gives a variety of textures after they are cooked.  The slightly thicker slices are more moist, while the thinner ones get a little crispier and curl up more.

Place slices in a bowl and add the ingredients.  I did so to taste.  I've added approximate amounts above, but think this can be done by adding what you think feels right and then tasting and adjusting.

I used the olive oil, soy and rice wine vinegar to form the spices into a marinade and add flavor.  In a previous version I used a brewed my own fish sauce, which is basically equal parts commercial fish sauce, vinegar, water and sugar, boiled.  I loved the flavor that brought, but my wife thought it was a little fishy.  Try that if you like the fish sauce flavor instead of the soy/vinegar combo which turned out quite nice as well.

 

Pre-Bake:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 Degrees.

Lay your marinaded broccoli "pepperoni" slices out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. This is a little work because they will all be stuck together in the bowl!

Place into the oven for about 8-10 minutes.  Check, and when they are softening and starting to curl, or some of the thinner slices are starting to brown on the edges, pull it out and turn the slices over with a  pair of tongs.  Place the pan back into the oven and check the pieces in about 5 minutes.  You don't need to cook them all the way.  If using on pizza they will cook another 6-10 minutes.  The pre-baking is just to get them started.

You can cook these ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for later use.  They can even be thrown on a sandwich as a topping to add a little spice and flavor.

Check back here, as I'll update this post with more details on my vegetables pepperoni quest!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 
DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza Sauce
Brad English

The hardest part of making a great pizza at home is making and baking a great pizza dough.  I found Peter Reinhart because this otherwise simple task eluded me in my home pizza making endeavors for so long.  I now make what I consider to be a decent dough, or doughs as I keep trying to chase that perfect pizza experience here at home with my family.

The next thing you have to master after you have a good dough is your tomato sauce.  Once again, I credit Peter with my favorite sauce.  His Crushed Tomato Sauce recipe is simple and delicious.  It's perfectly balanced.  You make it cold and let it cook up right on the pizza.   Check out the recipe *HERE if you haven't tried it.  I make it so often, I don't look at the recipe anymore.  I simply add the ingredients by feel - a pinch of this and a couple pinches of that.

 

I met Rob Dinapoli for the first time at the Pizza Expo last year before he became one of our sponsors. I was talking to a friend of his and noticed a can of their Fire-Roasted Tomatoes.  The artwork on the can caught my eye.  I said to him that those would make an interesting pizza sauce.  His friend went on about how he uses it all the time for pastas and I wish I had taken some notes.  When the show was over, Rob gave me his last #10 can to take home and try.

 

I finally got around to trying these out and my hunch was right!  Here's what I came up with for my version of a Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce.  I give credit to Peter's original Crushed Tomato Sauce that inspired where I wanted to go with this.  I think you will love the results.

 

 

DiNapoli Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce:

 
Garden Cherry Tomato Pizza
Brad English

I was working in New York City this summer and went on some great little pizza quests.  When I got home, I found that a group of volunteer cherry tomato plants were about ready to burst in my back yard. I decided that things had gotten out of control, as the plants were crawling across my patio and it was time to clean things up. First, I had to pluck all of this juicy fruit from the vines --  it was quite a gift!  The seeds for these these plants must have drifted over from the neighbors and didn't get much help from me but, apparently, where they landed, in a little planter cut out of my patio, was a near perfect environment for them.  I can't wait to replant, or watch these volunteers show up again.

But what to do with all of these tomatoes?  Well, I would certainly make a salad.  What else could I possibly do?  Ah, pizza time!

When I decide to make pizza, I generally think of what I want to do and then often go wander around the grocery store to see if anything inspires me.  Just looking at these tomatoes, I realized that my inspiration for making pizza this day was right here in my backyard.  As you can see from the photos, my guest tomato plants gave up quite a bit of gorgeous fruit.

I decided that my first pizza of the day would be totally about the tomatoes.  In fact, it was going to be a tomato pizza -- with no meat products! This was going to be a simple celebration of what the garden offered to me.

 

Garden Tomato Pizza

- Peter's Classic Neo-Neopolitan Dough *Link

- Peter's Herbed Oil *Link

- Cherry tomatoes -- cut in half

- Ball of Burrata, or Fresh Mozzarella

- Green Onions - Grilled

- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

- Balsamic Vinegar

 

 

The Prep:

Make the Herb Oil ahead of time - link to recipe above

Drizzle a little of the Herb Oil onto your green onions and throw them on the grill.  Once they are softened and a little charred pull them off.  Let them cool a little and chop them up and set aside.

 

 

 

The Pizza:

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature, about 550 degrees if possible, for at least an hour prior to cooking to make sure to get your pizza stone up to temperature.

Stretch out your dough and drizzle a little of the Herb Oil over the top.

Place the cherry tomatoes around the dough - mostly cut side down.  I feel like they steam and hold more of their moisture this way.  Some will roll over when you slide it in the oven, and as you can see, I also threw a few on that sit cut side up as well.  This is not science!

Tear up pieces of the cheese and place them around the pizza.  Try to imagine how the cheese will melt and blend together with the other ingredients to gauge how much and where you want to place the pieces.

 

Time for some heat, so, into the oven….

My oven was as hot as it could get.  You can see the charred tomatoes.  This pizza looked good going in but, hey, it looks good right out of the oven too.

Add the shredded Parmesan, to taste.

Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.

 

This pizza looks good enough to eat cold.  It was a great way to celebrate the gift of my fresh tomatoes, this inadvertent gift from my neighbors.  The sweet bursts of flavor from the tomatoes, along with the more earthy onions and amazingly creamy burrata cheese really hit the spot.  This pizza was balanced, fresh, and delicious!  And, then, as a topper, you also get that sweet twang from the balsamic vinegar, which perfectly ties all the flavors together -- Delish!!

Enjoy...

 

 

 

 
DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza
Brad English

Living in Southern California, I use my grill more than I use my oven.  I love cooking with fire.  Fire roasting adds to the flavor complexity of almost anything you cook. There is something primal about it.  We're spoiled with gas grills -- mine is even connected to the house and is ever ready to be fired up with a simple turn of the dial, which is great and convenient, but there's still something missing there.  So, when I cook certain things, like a fresh piece of fish, I often choose to go the extra step and light up some lump charcoal and a little smoke wood on my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and use it like a charcoal grill.  The smoke and fire together bring even more flavor in a way that the gas grill just can't (of course, you can always add a little smoke and wood to the gas grill with a smoker box; I've had pretty good results doing my "Gas Grill, Wood Fired" pizzas this way).

And now, there is an explosion in the use of wood fired pizza ovens.  Sure you can make a great pizza in a gas-fired brick oven too - I do it all the time even in my brick-lined home oven, or on my grill.  There is a difference, though, when you get one out of a wood fired oven.  The heat can be the same, but the fire and the smoke, together, coax unique flavors out of a pizza that won't necessarily be there in a traditional oven.  The cooking speed is another aspect.  I love watching a pizzaiolo work the pie in a wood-fired oven.  Each oven has to be played like a musical instrument to bring out the pie properly charred on all sides - cooked evenly and, often, just in the nick of time!

Okay, I know this is a recipe post --  I got lost in rumination there for a minute -- but at least we were on subject talking about fire. This post is about Fire Roasted Tomatoes, so let's just say fire is good and move forward to the pizza.

I had been wanting to make a pizza sauce with the DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomatoes for some time. I picked up a small can of the stuff at the Vegas Expo when I met Rob DiNapoli for the first time.  I had previously been lucky enough to receive a few cans of their Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomato product  as well as some of their other amazing tomato products.  That's one nice perk having a pizza blog!

We had been fans of Rob a long time before he became an actual sponsor of our website.  He exemplifies the type of artisan we chronicle here on Pizza Quest. He is a third generation farmer and is dedicated to bringing the best product he can to his customers.  He, and others like him, are that first step in the process of bringing great food to our tables.  Serious chefs know their producers, or have an intimate working relationship with them. They rely on people like Rob to start the food chain with a top quality product in order to bring the best food to their tables.

So I made a couple of pizzas to see how I liked these fire roasted tomatoes.  I did!  I do.  Here's the first...

 

Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza:

Peter's Classic Dough

Can of DiNapoli Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (14.5 Oz)

Fresh Mozzarella

Thinly sliced Pancetta

Fresh Wild Arugula

 

To do:

Shape your dough.

Build the pizza by placing fire roasted tomato solids on the dough.  I left the juice in the can.

Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Tear the mozzarella into pieces and place them around the pizza.

Cover with slices of the pancetta

 

Into the oven…

 

 

Special touch: When it came out of the oven, I took some more tomatoes and the juice from the can and crushed them in my hands and sort of drizzled them over the pizza.  I wanted to really taste the flavors of these tomatoes and loved the idea that the first layer is baked and the second is cool. The cool tomatoes will begin to warm right away, but the varying temperature of the first and second layers of tomatoes present slight nuances in flavor.

Top with chopped fresh arugula

Cut and dig in!

 

That looks pretty good - and it tasted amazing.

The fire roasted tomatoes were sweet and delicious, but had another element participating in the flavor dance.  The charred bits can be seen right when you open the can and the charred flavor is just a little bit of a deeper note on top of the otherwise sweet and juicy tomato.  There is an earthy burnt flavor that almost comes off as "meaty".  It's interesting.

Oh, and the salty pancetta with it's own crispy bits from baking, and the somewhat peppery arugula, goes so well with the sauce!

 

Stay tuned for my next Fire Roasted Tomato pizza - I did a few variations!

Enjoy!

*To purchase DiNapoli Fire Roasted Tomatoes online, you can go to Gourmet Sleuth - *Link

 

 

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