A Wandering Desert Road Pizza

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!

 

 

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