Written Recipes
A Wandering Desert Road Pizza
Brad English

I was walking through one of my local markets and, in the produce section, a large oval green shape caught my eye.  As I turned to look closer and my eyes focused on what I was seeing, my smile grew at the same time.  My market had fresh cactus!  I had literally made my pickled cactus sauce, ode to the Nevada desert pizza, "The Hwy 15 Pizza," a couple days ago.  I was going to order some cactus online until this fortunate meeting of me and the spiked Napolea Grande leaf.  If you can't find it in your local store, I found this informative site that grows and sells Organic Cactus called RivenRock.com.  They have videos and recipes on using their products, which I relied on when I brought my "leaf" home from the store.

I continued to shop, but now I was on another mission -- to do another version of my Hwy 15 Pizza that featured a sauce made from pickled cactus.  Lets see, what other desert ingredients can I bring to this pizza party?  I figured I would keep this in the same vein as the original Hwy 15, but add something to it here and there to see where this experiment might lead.  I found some Queso Fresco, which is a light, fresh Mexican cheese that can substitute for goat or feta cheese as a lighter fresher cheese option.  I thought this might work well, allowing the other ingredients to shine.  I figured I would once again use the pickled cactus sauce as the base, but add some fresh jalapeños into the mix.

After wandering around, I figured I had enough new items to create something that started on Hwy 15, but maybe ended up out on a deserted dirt road that wandered across the Nevada desert.

 

A Wandering Desert Road Pizza

Mesquite Pizza Dough

Pickled Cactus and Jalapeño Sauce

Queso Fresco

Fresh Cactus Leaf

Thin sliced Pancetta

Whole Sage Leaves - chopped, or torn

Fresh Jalapeños - sliced

 

PREP

Mesquite Pizza Dough

I had come up with the idea of creating a new dough for my original desert-themed pizza.  While researching ideas for this pizza, I inevitably came across mesquite, which many know as a "flavor" associated with grilling.  This could be an interesting thing to add to the wood mixture in a WFO. Though it's not necessarily associated with Nevada, I felt that it did embody desert life and was heavily used by Native Americans as a staple food source.  They create a mesquite flour by grinding down the dried mesquite pods in a mill.  It lacks any gluten and has a very intense flavoring - which changes when cooked/baked.  It can become bitter.  The website where I purchased my mesquite generally recommends blending the mesquite flour at 1/3 of the volume of what you are making.

I chose a Fire-Roasted Western Honey Mesquite Flour.  Peter suggested I start with my first batch at 10% mesquite to total flour.  I used the basic Neo-Neopolitan Pizza dough and added in my mesquite.  (Note: If you've read my blogging much, you'll have heard a few comments by my son Owen, or other family members.  Owen may have a knack or a finely tuned palate.  I once was making a few pizzas with some Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes, used straight, as the sauce to see how good they were.  Owen said, "Dad, this is the best sauce you've ever made!"  Well, all I did was open the can.  Thanks Owen!  He did it again with this Mesquite Dough.  He said, "Dad, this is the best crust you've ever made!"  He had no idea I made this with the mesquite flour.  He just showed up for some testing of the finished product.  Anyway, as Owen can vouch, it's good!)

Here's a link to The Mesquitery where I got the Fire-Roasted Western Honey Mesquite Flour:  www.mesquiteflour.com

 

Neo-Neopolitan Dough Recipe: *Link

 

Pickled Cactus and Jalapeños Sauce:

The idea for this "sauce" comes right from Jersey's own Mossuto's Pizzeria.  Here's the link to my version of their Fat Lip Pizza - *Link.  I wanted to incorporate cactus into the pizza for obvious reasons.  When you think of the desert cactus is likely one of the first iconic images that you think of.  I picked up a jar of Pickled Nopalitos (Cactus) and had a jar of my Mom's Soy Pickled Jalapeños around and went from there.

- Pickled Nopalitos (Cactus)

- Pickled Jalapeños

- Garlic

- Olive Oil

- Fresh Ground Pepper

Chop the cactus and jalapeños and some garlic to taste and place in a bowl.

Add olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

Measure and add ingredients to taste.  The cactus is somewhat sweet with a nice tang from the pickling.  The jalapeños add some heat and a little salt - because I am using my soy pickled jalapeños.  Pull the solids from the sauce onto your pizza, being careful to manage how much oil you get on the pizza. You don't want it to be too runny.  Mix the ingredients and let sit to marinade for as long as you can for the flavors to come together.

 

Fresh Cactus Leaf

To prepare your cactus leaf check out this simple video demonstration at RivenRock.com.  *Link

It's really simple.  You use the scrubber side of a sponge to lightly remove the spines.  Then you simply trim the edges and slice your cactus into the shape you want to use.

 

A Wandering Desert Road Pizza

Spread the dough

Add a scoop of the sauce and spread across the dough.  Add more as desired, or place on top of the pizza before, or after cooking.

Break off chunks of the Queso Fresco to cover the pizza.

*Prior to assembling the pizza:

Lightly fry up the chopped sage leaves and sliced jalapeños until just tender.  They will cook more in the oven.  I used a little of the Pickled Cactus Sauce as the oil.

Add pancetta over the cheese.

Add your sliced fresh cactus

Top with some of the sautéed jalapeños and sage.

Into the oven it goes.

 

When the pizza comes out of the oven, you might drizzle a little of the Pickled Cactus/Jalapeno sauce, or just dig in.

Layers!  What struck me here was the layers of flavors/textures created using fresh cactus and pickled cactus. I am now a born again cactus fan!  I have since made some of my favorite homemade salsa using chopped fresh cactus.  It has a really fresh flavor.  I sliced the cactus thick enough so that it retained it's moisture.  It was like the oasis of moisture on my pizza, just like the cactus is in the desert.  The pickled cactus added a vinegary accent, while the fresh cactus gave a soft fresh juicy note as you bit into it.

I will definitely keep playing with this new ingredient while exploring my desert pizza experiment as well as on other foods I enjoy like: tacos, burgers, salsas, salads and maybe more?!

Enjoy!

 

 
The Hwy 15 Pizza
Brad English

A few months ago I went to Las Vegas for the Pizza Expo.  I wrote about visiting with John Arena of Metro Pizza.  While driving to Vegas I had been a little lost in thought.  No, I wasn't on my phone, but I was drifting along somewhere out in there in the desert.  I was thinking about the email exchange I had with John and the fact that he mentioned he'd love to make some pizzas with me.  As this worked it's way around my brain, I started noticing that the desert valley I was in was reminiscent of something familiar.  I was driving along in an air conditioned car, with a cool venti iced latte from a Starbucks stop a while back.  I said to my father, who was riding with me, "Look at the mountains that are encircling us.  Don't they look like the crust of a giant pizza?"

He looked around and said, "No."  I told him he was crazy and unimaginative!  All he could see was the white sand and scrubby sage and rocks.  "Can't you see how the sage brush is like little bits of herbs poking out from the desert sand (which would be the cheese)?

We then came upon a hill that appeared to be formed from a lava eruption, or burst from under the ground.  To me, that was it, it sealed the deal, I was literally in the middle of a giant 10-mile wide pizza and that burnt rock hill was a bubble in the crust.

I think I brought it up to my father again in the next valley. (There are two distinct "Pizza Valleys" on Hwy 15 from LA to Las Vegas -- you heard it here first.)  He just couldn't see my vision. Topics turned to the more mundane banter bouncing between laughter and arguments that we always have - especially while trapped in a small car for 4-5 hours together.

I've written before about my experience meeting up with John Arena at the Pizza Expo, which was great.  During the show, John took me by a booth that he had made dough for and I noticed that there was a huge air bubble with a burnt top.  I mentioned my desert pizza "vision" to John and, being far more visionary than my father, he loved the idea.  We kicked around some ideas for desert ingredients.  On my way home I was all ready for the pizza valleys and admittedly, I did ask

 
Pesto Seafood Pizza
Brad English

When you do a pizza night, half the fun is coming up with the menu.  With the prep work that goes into making pizza, it just doesn't make sense making one type of pizza for the night.  You usually have the idea pizza for the night and then you borrow ingredients, add others and come up with supporting pizzas for that particular event.

Our friends had us over and as you have hopefully read, they brought down some fresh seafood and some fresh ideas.  We made a Vietnamese inspired Banh Mi Pork Pizza and then moved on to use the freshly caught (or dug up) Coos Bay Empire Clams on a White Clam Pizza.  Both of these were delicious and I'd say the Bahn Mi Pizza was more like inspiring.  We weren't done yet.  Knowing we had a good supply of clams, we planned on doing a couple of pizzas with the clams as well as a pasta dish for the evening.

For this second seafood pizza, we wanted to do something different than with the first which was a clean white sauce -- herbed olive oil pizza.  What else would go well with the the clams and some other seafood?  Loan (pronounced Lan, who is our friend's sister from Oregon who I would say has become our friend as well) suggested doing a fresh pesto.  Bam!  That pulled the idea together. The pesto sauce would be a nice adjustment while using some of the same ingredients.  As this pizza came together it continued to evolve as a work of performance art.  Our creative juices were flowing and I think we came up with a winner!

 

Pesto Seafood Pizza

- Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough *Made with Sriracha Salt as a substitute *Link here

- Fresh made Pesto *Link to Peter's Pesto Recipe

- Sun Dried Tomatoes

- A small pile of Coos Bay Empire Clams -- if you can get them *See Note below

- Fresh Jumbo Shrimp

- Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

- Thick grated Parmigiano-Regianno

- Thick sliced tomatoes

- Chopped Garlic

 

*Note from "American Pie" about selecting clams for this pizza:

"When making this pizza, look for freshly shucked medium-sized whole clams, such as manila, cherrystone, or littlenecks.  You can also shuck them yourself or steam them open.  An easier

 
Sriracha Dough
Brad English

I have only experimented with this dough one time.  It's nothing earth shattering, though it sounds like it should be, but it's certainly interesting, so I think it's worthy of a post.

I was making up some pizzas recently and we were doing a Vietnamese inspired pizza. Since I make the doughs the day before, I noticed my Sriracha Salt just sitting there staring at me on the counter.  As I went to grab the Kosher Salt, the jar of Sriracha Salt shuddered a little, maybe beckoned.  It was just a little, but enough for me to notice.

 

Ok, just kidding of course, but I did notice it while grabbing the regular salt and a little light bulb went off.  "Why not?"  I was making Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough and thought I'd substitute the Sriracha Salt for the regular salt.  I didn't know if the dough would work because of the spices -- perhaps causing it to not rise, or explode or something.  But it did work.  The result was a subtle hint of spiciness throughout the dough.  As I took my first bite of the finished pizza, I didn't notice it right away.  There was so much going on with the Banh Mi Pizza (see that post from a few weeks ago), that the subtle flavor it added to the dough didn't show up immediately.

 

As I got to the crust, though, I could definitely sense the Sriracha flavor.  It was subtle and interesting.  Like I always say about making and eating pizza, it's always interesting.  There's a unique opportunity to experiment when making pizzas.  You can try little things while making the meal because you'll be making 3 or more pizzas at a time and each one can be an experiment with slight changes, or major changes help you figure out what you like most.  And, I believe that the excitement of trying to find that "Ah-Ha!" moment is almost as much fun as eating that perfect slice.  The quest is about the questing and also the time spent with friends and family eating the results of your madness!

So, the recipe for the Sriracha salt is already posted -- just use it instead of regular salt when making any dough and let us know the results. Sometimes it's just the little things that the difference....

For Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough recipe - click: *HERE

*Note:  This would work with any dough recipe.

 

Enjoy!

 
Coos Bay Clam Pizza
Brad English

Kim's sister Loan (pronounced Lahn) came down from Coos Bay, Oregon where she lives, with a mission to get us together and make pizzas, cook some good food, and hang out with friends.  Knowing we all love seafood, she and Randy did a little digging (maybe a lot of digging) and personally dug up what seemed like a ton of Coos Bay Empire Clams!  I knew what we were going to do with those; I love Peter's take on White Clam Pizza from his book American Pie.  His recipe is a tribute to the one served at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT.  I've made it numerous times and it always comes out great.

Having all of these fresh clams, we not only made a pizza, but Loan also whipped up a terrific pasta dish as well.  It was clam-tastic (I know that's cheesy, but this is a blog and it's true).

As with all recipes, once you make them enough you start to leave the reservation a little.  Peter's herb oil is a perfect example.  I use it so often, I just add herbs that I have until it looks right and tastes right.  For this pizza I spiced up the oil with some chili flakes.

 

Coos Bay Clam Pizza

- Peter's Signature Bruery Beer Dough *Made with Sriracha Salt as a substitute *Link here

- Peter's Herb Oil with a little extra red pepper flakes *Link here

- A big pile of Coos Bay Empire Clams -- if you can get them *See Note below for options

- Teaspoon of Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice

- Grated Mozzarella Cheese

- Grated Parmigiano-Regianno

- Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

 

*Note: From "American Pie" about selecting clams for this pizza...

"When making this pizza, look for freshly shucked medium-sized whole clams, such as manila, cherrystone, or littlenecks.  You can shuck them yourself or steam them open.  An easier method, however, is to use either canned whole baby clams or another canned product called cocktail clams… (With these canned products, just drain the clams well…)  I do not suggest using chopped clams, even fresh ones, unless that is all you can find, as they tend to toughen during the bake."

We ended up using these larger clams for this recipe, which had to be chopped.  They were hand picked, shucked, and frozen by Loan and her family and brought down to us for this feast.  I did notice that some of the meat was tough, as Peter mentioned, but how do you not use the hand dug clams that came packed with passion and love?  I continue to reap the benefits of Loan's generosity as she brings, and even ships down, fresh seafood that they caught up there.  One day, we'll make the trip to visit them and join in on a crabbing trip, or clam dig on the beautiful beaches there and I'll post the photos.

I have also used the canned baby clams for this pizza and it always comes out perfect.

 

Prep:

Make up the herb oil *See Link above for recipe.  Add the fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I also added a little extra chili flakes to spice this one up.

Add the clams to the herb oil and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

 

The Coos Bay Clam Pizza

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature (about 550 degrees) for at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to baking your pizzas to make sure your pizza stone comes up to temperature.

Spread your dough out on the pizza peel and add a little grated Mozzarella and Parmessan Cheeses.  Don't add too much cheese on this pizza.  You want it to be a background element.  This pizza is about the clams and the herbs.  The cheese holds it together.

Add the Clams.  As you do, it will bring enough of the herb oil along with them.  There is no need for more oil on this.

That's it.  Now it goes into the oven.

Right when it comes out of the oven hit it with some more fresh squeezed lemon and top with the chopped parsley.  Because we were using these large clams that were caught, shucked and frozen, they put off a lot of liquid after the bake.  I simply tipped the pizza and drained off that excess liquid.  *When you used the canned baby clams, you don't have this problem.

 

Cut and Serve...

 

This turned out great.  It's terrific when you get the opportunity to cook with food that you know comes fresh from the source.  The only other ingredient needed for an amazing food experience is, of course, the good friends who we were lucky enough to be with.

*Peter suggests in "American Pie" that you can also make variations of this with other fresh/raw seafood such as squid, shrimp, or scallops.  Sounds like a plan!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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