Eggplant leek pizza recipe

What a hard week this was, and as I finally sit down to
write these words, I do it with a deep sigh
of relief and contentment. Of
finally being back in this space, with you, and share what’s been on my mind (and at our table).

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a mom friend, and
somehow I mentioned that Pablo loved radishes. She was slightly surprised, and
told me that even though she loved radishes, it had never occurred to her to
give them to her toddler.

The other day, at a barbecue, another mom told me she felt
absolutely certain her daughter would never try eggplant.

Recently, there was an article in the New York Times’Motherlode column where a mom vowed for one whole week to forgo processed
foods and home cook. As journalist Maryn McKenna pointed out, is home cooking
really the Mount Everest of parenthood?
Some time ago, I found a blog who had kindly linked back to
my blog, and found a thread of comments where some moms, while marveling at
Pablo’s menus, seemed to find them simply unachievable. A week without
pasta? Six kinds of vegetables in one meal? Unthinkable, apparently.
You see the common theme here. Eating mostly real foods, home
cooking, eating as a family on a daily basis, exposing infants and young
children to a wide variety of foods… appears to be far from mainstream.
And I’m always slightly puzzled by the surprise reaction I often get (“Pablo
really eats all this stuff? You really cook every day?”), because I was
fortunate enough to grow up in an environment and a culture where there’s
nothing extraordinary about feeding young children radishes, Brussels sprouts,
eggplant, duck or aged goat cheese, about cooking meals with real food (is
there any other kind?) and eating in courses on a daily basis. In many places
and for millions of families around the world, this is completely normal and
feeding oneself any other way would be considered very strange.

Sure, there are financial factors and the lack of time, but
mostly, I noticed the barrier is in the mind. And that’s one of my goals with
this blog, to show it can be done. Not effortlessly (what is?), but reasonably
easily.

As I was watching Pablo happily macking asparagus (sans vinaigrette no less!) today at lunch, it struck me again how very normal this is to him. And scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, it is obvious there’s a whole community,

 a movement out there (Michael Pollan
being one of its most famous proponents), and more and more resources and
education, working to normalize real
food and home-cooking. 

And I’ve never been much of a “movement” gal, but I am happy, and proud, to be a tiny part of this one. It seems like a tall order to change mentalities of a whole generation. What we
can do though, is normalize flavorful, real food for our children (from the
very first foods they eat), have them grow up in an environment where good,
real food, variety and enjoyable family meals are just the norm. And they will
come to expect, and seek, these things as they grow up. These foods will become the comfort foods of their childhood.

I realize I might just be preaching to the choir here, as
most of you reading this blog are probably reading it because you’re already
sold on this idea. I guess my point is that by practicing this in your home
with your family, by giving thought to mindful eating, making it a parenting
priority to give your children a lifelong love of a good meal, by embracing the
process of cooking as something that ultimately, and in many different ways,
makes our lives and that of our families better, by not giving up in the face
of societal pressures, you are part of this movement as well. Your children might just
consider any other way to nourish oneself an abnormality. 

Speaking of abnormal, for this new installment of the Summer Goat Cheese series in collaboration with Vermont Creamery and the Kids &Kids Campaign, I am sharing this “pizza”, of sorts. See, I have a confession to
make: I actually do not like pizza. It does nothing for me. Call me a French
snob, but I would have to be pretty desperate to eat a Domino’s pizza or the
like. I don’t get the excitement around it, I don’t get why it is pitched to
kids as the best food ever, I don’t get why a kid’s birthday party without it
seems unthinkable to so many people. Perhaps a trip to Naples, Italy to the birth place of pizza would change my mind, and that’s definitely on my
bucket list, but for the time being, I remain a pizza skeptic.

I suppose I could have called this a flatbread rather than a
pizza (though it’s not very flat, as I prefer pizza dough to be thick and a bit
chewy), since it doesn’t really have any of the traditional pizza ingredients.
But no matter what you call it, it has turned out to be one delectable
experiment. 

It all started with the eggplant caviar I made for the
Fourth of July. Slightly sweet and tangy. A delicious dip, which my mom
couldn’t get enough of with some savory thyme crackers.

We had a lot leftover, so after spotting the fresh pizza
dough sold at Trader Joe’s, it gave me an idea. And when I imagined VermontCreamery’s beautiful goat cheese crottins
melting over the top, I was sold. I hope you will be too. 

The tangy sweetness of the eggplant caviar is so nicely complemented by the burst of salty in the goat cheese and the subtle savory flavor of the leeks.

Think of it. As you and your family might enjoy a bite of this eggplant, leek, artisan goat cheese pizza, in a small way, you will help create a new normal for generations to come. Talk about two birds with one stone 😉

Eggplant caviar, leeks & goat cheese pizza

For the eggplant caviar (yields about 2 cups)


Age for babies: 6-8 months, this is a great baby puree which you can freeze too.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


3 tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 medium eggplant
1 green apple
Juice of one lemon
3 medium tomatoes
4-5 sprigs of thyme (stems removed)
Just under 1/2 cup of apple juice
Sprinkle of piment d’Espelette (optional)
Salt 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, start peeling and dicing the eggplant. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with half the lemon juice. Then core, peel and dice the apple, add to the same bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the lemon juice.

When the water boils, place the 3 tomatoes in it for 2 minutes.

Run the tomatoes under cold water to stop the cooking, and peel them. Cut them in half, and gently squeeze the seeds out. Then dice them and set aside.

In a nonstick pan or Dutch oven, melt the coconut oil and add the eggplant and apple. Sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Then add the thyme, tomatoes and apple juice, sprinkle with salt and piment d’Espelette and cook until all soft and mushy, about 25 minutes.

Process in a food processor or blender until very smooth.

Can be kept in the fridge with a layer of olive oil on top for up to a week.

For the pizza: 


Age for babies: 10-12 months, cut up small as finger food.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 22 minutes


1 pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s plain pizza dough, but will make this one, or this one next time)
1 cup of the eggplant caviar
3 goat crottins, either the aged Bijou, or fresh crottin (or mix and match!)
A few sprigs of thyme (stems removed)
3 leeks
2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Preheat the oven at 450°F.

Prepare the pizza dough depending on the one you’re using, roll it flat and as thin or thick as you like it.

Wash the leeks by making a lengthwise incision and running water through. Then slice in 1/2 inch pieces.

Melt the oil in a frying pan, and gently cook the leeks over medium low, stirring every so often, until they are soft, about 10 minutes.

Half the crottins transversely.

Spread the eggplant caviar all over the pizza dough. Add the leeks on top, the crottin halves and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until dough is cooked and cheese is beginning to melt and color.

Pizza, what else?

So as an Italian learning to fend off for herself in a country where carbs are a national enemy, where there is no bakeries to speak of, where pizza has the same name as the Italian version but no other common trait, and where artisan bread is a luxury I have to learn to bake bread, pizza and focaccia. And I have to do it reasonably well, if it’s not better than the stuff you can buy, why bothering? Luckily the stuff you buy around here is usually not that good (at least for the price you pay), so my life is a bit easier.
However, just so that things don’t get too easy, I don’t have a stand mixer and I refuse to buy books, measure or buy special flours, part of the reason is that I want the whole process to be simple enough that it is no hassle to bake whatever I want to bake, and part is that I am impatient and have a limited amount of space and money for supplies and mixers….

Ad of course one of the things I really need to bake is pizza. I have been experimenting for quite some time now, but only recently I had the occasion of seeing someone making really good pizza at home and to see how he made the dough. So I set out to imitate his dough and to try to achieve the same dough consistency. And sure enough my pizza rapidly improved and now turns out super thin, but rises a bit during baking especially on the corners. Goood pizza! So here is how I did my pizza today: the best one I baked so far.

And being pizza one of the quintessential Italian dishes I chose to post this recipe on Manu’s Menu 150 of the Unification of Italy event.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 3/4 cups water
  • yeast
  • salt
  • sugar
  • EVOO

Directions

  1. First I took 2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour, added 1 table spoon of dry yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a couple of spoons of oil and a cup of warm water. I mixed everything and added more water, about another cup. You get a very soft and very sticky dough, basically a mess.
  2. Now here is how I proceeded to transform the mess into a soft elastic dough that was subsequently transformed in awesome pizza. I dusted my counter and my hands with some flour and transfered the mess onto the flour and then I started kneading the dough. Only what I did was more form a ball and roll it out in a sort of “karate kid wax on wax off” movement, over and over again, occasionally dusting the counter and my hands with flour to prevent the dough from sticking too much and occasionally beating the dough on the counter. After about half an hour it is going to be an elastic, soft and airy ball that doesn’t stick anymore.
  3. At this point I placed the dough in a bowl greased with oil, covered with plastic wrap and let it rest for a couple of hours until the dough has risen. At this point turn on your oven at 550F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone in the oven. While the oven is warming up, form the dough into a pizza and season it however you prefer. When the oven is warm, place your pizza on the pizza stone and bake for 10-15 min until the crust is golden brown and crusty.
  4. Enjoy, It is going to be awesome!

Grilled pizza recipe

It’s summer and we are all barely cooking or cooking outside and so even on of our favorites has moved outside: pizza. I discovered pizza grilling about 2 weeks ago and I don’t think anything can make me move it back inside (well maybe Minnesota winter will do the trick…).

Anyway look at the pic! I know not a great pic, plus I only made like 3 before scarfing down the whole thing, but focus on the crust and the bubbles and the dark blisters… I was so thrilled when I first saw the pizza bubbling up! I never managed to get blisters on my pizza in the oven and now perfect blisters. And crunchy crust. And perfectly cooked dough. I was jumping around with joy! Anyway the whole process is simple enough. All you need is pizza dough, a grill and a pizza stone. And you are set for pizza perfection!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour +1/4 cup
  • 1 and 1/4 cup water + 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • your favorite toppings
  • tools:
  • pizza stone
  • pizza peel or parchment paper
  • a grill

Directions

    1. Make your pizza dough about 2-3 hours before you want to eat it. Start by dissolving the yeast and the sugar in the water. Then in a bowl combine the flour an the salt and add in the water with the dissolved yest. mix the ingredients and start kneading. Use the extra flour and water to adjust the consistency: you should get a smooth no sticky ball that is very soft to the touch. Pour a bit of oil on the smooth dough ball and grease the whole surface, then put the dough in a bowl to rest and raise.
    2. In about two hours the dough should have doubled in volume. At that point start your grill.
    3. Put your pizza stone in the center of the grill and crank up the heat to the max. Let the pizza stone warm up, it takes about 30 min on a gas grill, it might take more on a charcoal one.
    4. When the stone is hot prepare your pizza. Divide the dough in equally sized balls and flatten them and stretch them to form your pizza base. If the dough was soft when you kneaded it, should be very easy to stretch your dough into a more or less round shape.

    1. Put your favorite ingredients on top of your pizza. Here I used tomato sauce, olive, anchovies and caramelized onions, but a favorite for grilled pizza are grilled vegetables, I roast the veggies while I warm up my pizza stone and use them as toppings.
    2. With the help of a pizza peel or of some parchment paper transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the lid of your grill and turn down the heat right below the pizza stone, so that most heat comes from the sides of the grill rather than from under the pizza. In about 3-5 minutes your pizza will be ready: all nice and bubbly like in the best restaurants that serve oven fired pizza.

A couple of suggestions:

  1. – make the pizza small and light on toppings: that makes transferring and cooking much easier
  2. – do reduce the heat under the pizza stone while you bake the pizza but don’t turn it off completely, you don’t want to burn the pizza but you also want to cook it!
  3. – be prepared with oven mittens, thongs, peels, cutting boards and so on, the stone and the pizza become super hot and you want to be well organized to move fast, while avoiding burns

Pizza with broccoli rabe

These days I am super busy and quite stressed out with work and is getting to the point where blogging is hard to keep up. In the next few weeks I will be scrambling to get ready to look for a job this summer, which means finishing my dissertation. As you imagine the process is quite stressful and crazy.

So far I managed to keep up blogging and visiting  blog and commenting and so on, but I’m getting to the point where I need to cut back on the time I spend on blogging. So in the next few weeks I will be less active in the blogging world. I will try my best to post twice a week, but I will be forced to reduce my blog hopping and commenting. Please don’t hate me if I won’t be sharing the love, it is truly only a reflection of how busy work is.

Today I’m presenting you with a savory tart that is a play on escarole pizza. Escarole pizza is a classic in the area around Napoli and is made using pizza dough and escarole sauteed with raisins, olives, and pine nuts. The pizza is sometimes open and some times covered.

In my version I made a tasty broccoli rabe filling using rabe, olives, pine nuts and anchovies and I enclosed it in a whole wheat pie. It turned out pretty delicious and if you remove the anchovies is even vegan!

Pizza with broccoli rabe

Ingredients

for the filling

    • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
    • 1/2 cup tofu
    • 10 black olives
    • 4 anchovies
    • 1 tbs pine nuts
    • olive oil
    • chili pepper flakes

for the dough

  • 1 cup regular flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 8 tbsp oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

for the dough

    1. Combine all ingredients adding water a bit at a time until the dough is pliable. Wrap in plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes.

for the filling

  1. clean the broccoli rabe and roughly chop the stems and the leaves. Blanche the stems in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes and then add the leaves and let boil for another 3 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a large pan, melt the anchovies fillets in a bit of olive oil. When they are melted add the olives, the chili flakes and the pine nuts. Let them cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add the drained broccoli rabe and sautee. Let it all cook for about 5 minutes so that the gets flavored by the oil.
  4. Divide the prepared rolls in two parts and roll them out in thin circles.
  5. Assemble the pizza by placing a sheet of dough in a pie pan. Add the broccoli rabe filling and crumble tofu on top. Cover the filling with the second sheet of dough.
  6. Cook in a 400F oven for 30 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

Auntie’s Corner: veal roast in pizza dough

So I missed another post. And I barely have any excuse apart from the usual work stuff. So, once again please forgive me! I swear I am trying to do my best!

Anyway, today I’m back and I am launching another series. I know you are probably tired of all this new things, but I assure you this is going to be the last one for a while. This is going to be a guest posting series, but is a special guest posting series. I have decided that I will host a monthly series of guest posting in which one of my Italian readers will propose a recipe from his/her repertoire. Hopefully, you will enjoy hearing about Italian cooking from  different perspective.

To kick off the series, I am hosting a recipe by Gabriella. Gabriella lives in Milan and is the mom of my BF. She has always enjoyed cooking and finds spending time in the kitchen very relaxing. Which means she always cooked a lot. She would be the go to cook for scout’s parties for which she would prepare 150 meatballs for the famished kids. None of these delicious meatballs has ever been known to survive the party.

Today she has prepared us a wonderful veal roast stuffed with artichokes and encased in delicious pizza dough. She prepared this roast for Easter adapting the recipe from a recipe from her favorite cooking magazine Sale & Pepe. Looks good, doesn’t it?

Auntie’s Corner: veal roast in pizza dough

Auntie’s Corner: veal roast in pizza dough

Ingredients

  • 1lb butterflied veal loin
  • 5 artichokes
  • 3 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • marjoram
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 cup milk
  • white wine
  • 1lb pizza dough
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. Sautee the sliced artichokes with the oil and the garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook until soft adding water if necessary. Let the artichokes cool down.
  2. Soak the bread in milk, strain it and mix the bread with the cooked artichokes, the cheese, one egg, marjoran and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Lay the butterflied veal on a board and smear with the filling. Roll up the meat and tie it so that it doesn’t unroll during cooking.
  4. Sear the roll in hot oil. When the meat is well browned, deglaze with white wine. Continue to cook the roll in the oven at 375F until it is almost, but not completely cooked. Take out of the oven and let cool down until you can handle it.
  5. Roll out the dough and use it to encase the roast. Brush the dough with the lightly beaten egg.
  6. Cook in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden.