Pizza Challenge Twofer: Pizza Margarita and Marinated Vegetables with Goat Cheese
We love pizza at my house but our pizza preferences make it complicated when we go to a restaurant. I like lots of vegetables, the spicier the better, but my husband insists on a plain vanilla pepperoni. My 4 year old will accept only cheese pizza while my older stepson is more adventurous and asks for a supreme.
The solution? Make it at home. This gives you the ability to customize the crust, the sauce, the toppings, the size to accommodate the most unreasonable preferences of your family. And, even better, it’s dead simple. Really, I promise. I can start from nothing and have three completely different pizzas on the table in less than an hour. If you have a more flexible family and only make one variety, you can do it in 30 minutes. Have I peaked your interest? Let’s walk through making three different pizzas from start to finish.
Step one: preheat your oven to 500, and if you have pizza stones, put them in to heat.
Step two: get the crust going. If you prefer a thicker crust, I’d recommend this one from Cooking Light. It’s chewy and delicious. We like a thinner crust, which also has the major advantage of being quicker because it doesn’t need to rise. This recipe can be thin and crispy or you can roll it out a little thicker for more of a cracker texture. The honey adds a great flavor but you can substitute sugar. The whole wheat flour adds nuttiness and is not overwhelming in this ratio but you can play with the flour proportions to suit your preferences.
Whole Wheat and Honey Thin Pizza Crust
- .25 oz packet or 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
- 2 tsp. honey (or 1/2 tsp. sugar)
- 3/4 c. warm–not hot!!–water
- 1 1/3 c. white flour
- 2/3 c. whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
Begin by proofing the yeast–mix the yeast, honey and water in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes while you start the sauce recipe. Then add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate into a dough. In a mixer, process on 2 with a dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. By hand, knead for 2-3 minutes. Divide into two equal portions to make two 12 in. thin crust pizzas. Roll or press or stretch into a 12 in. circle on a floured surface. Use a fork to prick the dough all over so that it won’t bubble up. If you’re making a topping-heavy pizza, you’ll get better results if you parbake it first for 5-6 minutes, until it’s lightly brown. Or simply proceed to the next step.
Step two and a half: make the sauce while the yeast is proofing. This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light and it is fantastic. So quick and simple but it’s full of flavor. I don’t see any reason to make a more complicated sauce, personally. This recipe will make enough for 3-4 pizzas and it freezes well.
Simple Pizza Sauce
- 3 T. water
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
- 2 T. good extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T. fresh or 2 t. dried oregano
- 2 t. honey
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (or less, if you’re not a garlic devotee)
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
Dump all ingredients in the blender, whirl briefly to combine, salt and pepper to taste. If you like a chunkier sauce, just stir it together in a bowl.
Step three: prepare your toppings. On this occasion I made three different kinds.
First, the Cheese/Pepperoni Pizza
I usually make one pizza that is half cheese and half pepperoni for the less adventurous palates at my house. This is so simple it doesn’t need a recipe–just cover the crust with approximately 1/3 c. of the sauce, add shredded mozzarella, top with pepperoni. Throw it in the oven–If you are using a pizza stone, a corn meal dusted wooden peel will make this much easier but a conventional pan is fine too–for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is browned.
Next, we have the always yummy but easy Pizza Margarita
- good olive oil
- 1/4 c. pizza sauce
- 1 large or two medium very ripe and flavorful tomatoes
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (in the deli or “fancy cheese” section, usually)
- 1/4 c. basil, chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them like a cigar and slice thinly, very much like we did with the collard greens in the Southern Food Makeover Challenge.)
- more good olive oil
Brush the prepared crust with olive oil to lightly cover, then spread crust with pizza sauce. If you’re a purist, you may want to leave the sauce off but I think a little adds a nice boost of flavor. Slice the tomatoes thinly and distribute over the crust in a single layer. Slice the mozzarella as thinly as you can and place on top of the tomatoes. Bake until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Sprinkle finished pizza with basil chiffonade and drizzle with a little bit more olive oil. Perfect!
And finally, my favorite pizza. It’s very flexible and it always tastes delicious. The vegetables I’ve got listed below are one of my favorite combinations, but feel free to substitute or add any vegetables that you have on hand, as long as you maintain the proportions. You’ll need about 2 cups of the vegetable mixture for a 12 in. pizza.
Marinated Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pizza
- 1/2 c. eggplant, halved or quartered and sliced into small half moons
- 1/2 c. yellow squash and/or zucchini, sliced
- 1/2 c. asparagus or broccoli or spinach, chopped
- 1/4 c. red bell pepper
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/4 c. sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 c. sliced red onion
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- crushed red pepper, optional
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 1/4 c. basil, chiffonade
Combine all vegetables with the garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste. Allow mixture to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Spread 1/3 c. sauce on parbaked crust, distribute vegetables evenly over crust in a single layer. Slice or divide goat cheese and place on top of vegetables, evenly spaced, like this:
You may notice that this picture shows toppings on an unbaked, not parbaked, crust. With this topping load, parbaked is better, trust me. 🙂 Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is softened and crust is browned. Sprinkle with basil. Enjoy!