Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pizza alla Norma (Eggplant Pizza)

When I was little, I used to make my own pizzas.  Slap me some tomato sauce on a slice of sandwich bread.  Sprinkle on some white-colored cheese.  Toast it.  BAM!  Pizza.  You're welcome.

Actually, things got pretty bad with my "pizza-making."  Think ketchup on Wonder Bread with a yellow square of American cheese on top.  I made this as breakfast on Mother's Day for my dear, sweet mother.  Even brought it in on a lego board breakfast tray accompanied with a Capri-Sun and package of Fruit Gushers.  I know we expats think we have it bad in Korea when we find corn sprinkled in our pizza, but my mom nearly vomited when she ate my rendition of "pizza."  This is when I first learned the prudence of Papa John's maxim: better ingredients, better pizza.

Like anything, master the basics before stretching the boundaries.  Have you seen Picasso's earlier works?  They actually look like something.  So he showed everyone he can paint, then he went crazy and showed them what painting is going to be from now on.  I am not a Picasso of paint or pizza, but I don't make pizza with squeeze bottles anymore.  To a degree, I think I've graduated to a level where I can be somewhat interpretive with pizza.

This, here, pizza mutation is pizza alla norma.  I first tried this at Al Matto in HBC, and was wowed by the simplicity of it.  A few clean ingredients that bloom into big flavor - namely eggplant on pizza crust with a wee bit of parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Pizza alla norma is a light pizza.  I like making this when I want pizza, but still want to keep it light.  Great for vegetarians and at parties where annoying friends with eating restrictions/disorders are attending.

Pizza Dough (about 1 hour 15 minutes)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 ounces active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

Stir together the water, yeast and sugar until it's all dissolved.  Stir in salt and one cup of flour.  Then work in two cups of flour with a wooden spoon.

The dough should come together after about 2 minutes of stirring.  Try to work in as much flour as possible to get a pretty stiff dough.  Then roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes until you have a firm, smooth dough.  Place in an oiled bowl for 45 minutes to rise until doubled in size.  While you're waiting for the dough to rise, make the pizza sauce.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces.

Knead each piece into a ball.  Cover and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Pizza Sauce (30-45 minutes - recommended to do while dough is rising)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
6 fluid ounces warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I probably used 5 times this amount, and it was gorgeous.  Scale to taste)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients.  Let it sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature so the flavors can develop.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Next, start rolling out the pizza dough.  Roll flat with a rolling pin and toss it around.  Here's how not to throw pizza dough.

Make the crust by pinching and folding over the dough.

Pizza Assembly (10 minutes)
prepared pizza dough
prepared pizza sauce
eggplants, sliced
parmesan cheese, grated

This step isn't necessary, but if you'd like, you can salt the eggplant to draw out bitterness.  I've tried salting and not salting, and can't tell the difference.  If you do salt, leave it on for 10-15 minutes then rinse off the salt.

Onto the rolled and crusted pizza dough, spread on a thin-ish layer of pizza sauce, and finally layer on the eggplant slices.

Bake until crust is golden brown; about 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle on grated parmesan cheese.

You can also experiment with different veggies like mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.

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