I used to have such a limited idea of what constituted a pizza. Normal was a pepperoni 'za with traditional red sauce and mozzarella cheese. Extra special was a stuffed crust pizza, with more cheese stuck in the (gasp!) crust edges. Over the top was a combo pizza, with all the meat and veggie options.
I have seen the light. I still remember the day I tried my first Neapolitan-style pie, from Punch Pizza in the Twin Cities. A group of people from seminary was trying out new culinary experiences and a professor led us there to try out the pizza. I had never before experienced pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and olive oil instead of sauce. The quality of ingredients! The wood fired pizza! The strong and distinctive flavors! Pizza as I knew it was never going to be the same again.
I still enjoy a good, old-fashioned pepperoni pizza, but the ingredients had better be good and fresh. We've got great pizza locally here in the Flathead Valley, in particular at When in Rome (Bigfork, MT) where chef, Engjell Vrapi, knows what he's doing. Actually, he knows what he's doing when it comes to every morsel I have ever eaten of anything at When in Rome. But in particular, he knows what he's doing with pizza. The pepperoni pizza here uses the best quality of pepperoni, with a zesty red sauce and wonderful cheese. The crust is thin and rustic. The Italian Garden pizza, "Best Pizza Ever" (an award-winning combo), and Pesto pizza are also favorites.
Now that I've found real pizza, with high quality ingredients, I do my best to come up with winning combinations for pizza at home too. You might recall the recently posted BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza, which incorporates my all-time favorite homemade pizza crust, a whole wheat crust found in Step-By-Step to Natural Food; Cancer Prevention through the Wholistic way of Eating.
I've also found that pizza is one of my favorite ways to use up good morsels in my fridge. With a little creativity, leftovers can be presented artfully.
Last night, I put together my latest "Use Up What's In My Fridge" Pizza. Of course, you have to start by having some good stuff in your fridge to use up! Here's a recipe for last night's pizza. Use it as inspiration to create your own "Use Up" Pizza!
For the crust:
See recipe book above or use a favorite pre-made pizza crust such as Boboli
For the toppings:
3/4 c. sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
2 colorful bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 c. Kalamata olives (sliced in half)
3/4 c. goat cheese, crumbled
Heat oven to broiling. Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Flatten the peppers with your fist, on the broiler pan. Broil for 20 minutes, until blackened. After peppers have broiled, sweat them in a Ziploc bag for 10-15 minutes. Then peel their skin and slice into strips.
Blend or process the sun dried tomatoes with the 1/4 c. olive oil until smooth. Meanwhile, heat a couple TBS of olive oil or butter until sizzling in a large skillet. Cook the onion at a high heat for a few minutes, then reduce the heat and cook low and slow for 20-30 minutes until caramelized.
Bake your pizza crust (if you are making it from scratch). Once crust is baked, spread your sun-dried tomato puree over the crust. Then layer peppers, onion, and olives. Finally, crumble cheese all over your pizza. Bake at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Yum!