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Top Five Pizzas in the KI Kitchen

July 24, 2008

Potatoes on Pizza is Genius

I, like many others, am kind of obsessed with pizza. In fact, I’ve been debating since I was about twelve which is the more perfect food, pizza or burritos, and I’m honestly starting to lean toward pizza (please don’t let my brothers hear that). The thing is, while both offer all four food groups in one tasty and easy-to-eat package, pizza just leaves room for more creativity. Sure, you can get creative with “burritos” when you start to call them wraps, but that’s just not quite the same. And you know what? I can put all the things I love about burritos (mmm, carne asada) on a pizza, so…I think it really is the heavyweight champion of my personal square meal debate.

And I’ve made a lot of pizzas here, especially now that I’ve figured out the trick to dealing with sticky dough (I love you parchment paper). And especially since I’ve figured out that I can stop at Bertucci’s on my walk home from work and, for $2, buy uncooked pizza dough that is 50 times better than anything I’ve managed to turn out in my own kitchen so far. And, if you’ve been reading this here bloggity blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I rarely make a red-sauce-and-pepperoni style pizza. I’m all about experimentation, and putting all kinds of unexpected things on that lovely round of raw dough. And I’ve decided that it’s about time for a best-of-the-best list here at the Kitchen Illiterate. These are my favorite, top five things to do with pizza.

Zucchini Pepperoni and Caramelized Onions

If you’re not quite ready to drift too far from the shores of the red sauce-style pizza, start with this: Zucchini, Pepperoni, and Caramelized Onions. You have your staples: pepperoni, mozzarella, and tomato sauce, but zucchini brings it into a whole new realm. And caramelized onions, well, you could put those on anything and it’d be delicious. I’m even thinking about caramelized onion ice cream (Ok, not really, but…hmm…maybe…). The trick to using vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash (also delicious), broccoli, and eggplant is to cook them first, on the stove, with a little bit of olive oil. That way, they don’t release too much water on your pizza and create a weirdly textured mess. And you can really be inventive with the vegetables you use. Pizzerias generally don’t offer too much variety (mushrooms and green peppers, anyone?), but there’s no limit to kinds of vegetation that can go on a pizza. Even arugula.

Which brings me to pizza idea number two: potatoes.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, potatoes on pizza is genius. As with other plant foods, they need to be cooked a little bit first, in a skillet, with just a touch of olive oil and salt. Thinly sliced and slightly browned, or mashed and turned into a potato skin-style pizza (yay, bacon!), you really can’t go wrong putting potatoes on pizza. The first time I made potato pizza, I followed Giada’s lead and topped those potatoes with rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan. And I was really happy. This week, I made pizza with potatoes, whole grain mustard, rosemary, and fontina cheese. And I was even happier.

What’s that? Mustard? Oh yes, tip number three for awesome pizza experiments: Use whole-grain mustard, like Maille, as a sauce.

Mustard on Pizza is also Genius

I actually got this idea from a marketing department, so don’t let anyone tell you marketers aren’t good for anything. The Libby Olive people posted a recipe for Olive and Brie pizza, which I quickly made without any Libby olives. The mustard added such a unique, slightly sweet, and wonderful addition that I knew I would have to try it again. See, you can turn almost anything into pizza sauce: tapenade, marinade, barbecue sauce, mole sauce, salsa, bolognese. Don’t let yourself be limited to the Italian sauce aisle, baby. I think the best pizza I ever made used Stonewall Kitchen’s Rosemary Balsamic Dipping Sauce, which I since have not been able to find anywhere.

In fact, using non-pizza ingredients on pizza dough can yield some of the best pizza ever, and so we’re on to tip number four: Try to turn a completely different type of meal into a pizza.

Mexican Pizza

This Mexican Pizza is by far the best pizza I’ve made yet. Every time I think about it, I start to drool a little bit. I used enchilada sauce instead of pizza sauce, topped it with a thin layer of cooked refried beans, taco-seasoned cooked chicken, colby jack cheese, and, after it came out of the oven, fresh tomatoes and cilantro. It was mind boggling-ly good. It was, if I do say so myself, freaking inspired. So I say go with it! Take your favorite meal and turn it into pizza! Love bacon cheeseburgers? There’s no reason they can’t be a pizza. Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork? On a pizza! One of my favorites is mushroom ragu pizza. And I just started thinking about chicken florentine pizza, which, well, that could be dangerous.

Which, of course, leads me right to tip number five: Use your leftovers.

Chicken Cacciatore Pizza

This is an especially good tip for those of you who, like me, are often cooking for one. It gets crazy boring eating the same thing for dinner and lunch all those days in a row, so instead of being bored, turn leftovers into pizza. I first did this using leftover chicken cacciatore, which I had pounds of, and it really made an excellent pizza. I’ve made pizza with leftover meatballs, leftover al pastor, leftover pot roast. Your options are really limitless.

I suppose I could sum all five of these top favorite best of all time pizza ideas into one lesson: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Pizza is nothing but a base of tasty dough that can go anywhere you want. Some of the best pizzas I’ve had have been those I had my doubts about at first. As long as you’re careful about not over-topping anything (only sogginess will ensue, my friends, and I speak from experience), you can do anything you want. And that is my kind of dinner.

What are your favorite pizzas? Have you made anything totally outlandish? What do you want to see me experiment with next? I would love to hear all of your great ideas!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2008 11:28 am

    Ooh, I *love* all these ideas, particularly the one about spreading whole grain mustard on a pizza. That sounds positively genius (and delicious!!) –Amy

  2. Emily permalink
    July 24, 2008 1:16 pm

    The Mexican pizza sounds sinful. I may have to have my personal chef whip one of those up for me:-)

  3. July 24, 2008 2:32 pm

    The leftovers idea is genius!

  4. Mom permalink
    July 27, 2008 10:27 pm

    Please move closer to home!

  5. kim e. permalink
    July 28, 2008 1:00 pm

    oh i heart you and your ideas on pizza.

  6. July 31, 2008 10:10 am

    I have made your Mexican pizza multiple times and it is FANTASTIC! Everyone always wants to know the recipe!

  7. July 31, 2008 6:36 pm

    Great, great post. So true, especially the use your leftovers bit. You come up with the craziest, most delicious combinations that way. I still remember when you first posted that Mexican pizza, I was literally fantasizing about it for days.

  8. kim e. permalink
    August 4, 2008 4:38 pm

    Ever since this post, I’ve been curious about how adding a sweet element would be. Like dessert pizza? Could that even be an appetizing venture?

  9. August 6, 2008 4:39 am

    Unlike you, i´m more of a simple and basic pizza girl. But the fact is, i just can´t resist the sight of a beautiful pizza, like this one.

  10. Joy permalink
    August 6, 2008 8:27 am

    for those who do not have Bertucci’s (or anything like it) for dough, do you have any recipe recommendations? I have NEVER been able to turn out a decent homemade pizza dough, though I have tried, and I would love to be able to make better homemade pizza.

  11. August 6, 2008 1:07 pm

    I’ve been struggling with homemade pizza dough for the better part of a year, and I think I finally found a recipe, and some techniques, that make it much easier.
    Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite food blogs) provided me with a great dough recipe here:

    Here are some tips:
    You’ll need to add more or less water depending on how hot and humid it is. Start with about 1/4 of a cup less than the recipe asks for, and add a tablespoon at a time until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
    Dough tastes best and browns up better when its had a nice, long, slow rise in the refrigerator, and possibly even some time in the freezer. I like to mix up a batch the night before and let it sit in the fridge all night and all the next day, rather than letting it rise out on a counter for two plus hours.
    If you do let it sit in the refrigerator at all, let it thaw for about an hour before you toss it in the oven. That will make it much easier to work with.

    And finally, if you really don’t want to make dough, you don’t need Bertucci’s. Any local pizza shop should be more than willing to sell you dough for a few bucks. Trader Joe’s makes pretty decent pizza dough for less than $2, although I have had some sticky problems with it in the past.

    Hope that’s helpful!

    • AsIf permalink
      October 10, 2010 7:50 pm

      Except that just any dough won’t do – Bertuccis is by leaps and bounds the best pizza dough in existence, though they’ve bumped up the prices since years ago when it was really cheap

  12. August 9, 2008 6:24 pm

    What a fun post :). I’ve never made a pizza without the sauce, but it sounds like a cool idea. I agree, making pizza dough is tough, which is why I so heavily rely on my trusty breadmaker to do it for me :).

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