Last night was the final straw, or the day I finally threw my hands in the air and declared that a proper introduction to grilled pizza will probably have to wait until next summer. (Fortunately, Jen and Dietsch at Last Night’s Dinner won’t make you wait that long.) I have had this grilled eggplant and olive pizza on the agenda even since I spied it in this month’s Gourmet and knew that it immediately needed to get in my belly. Four days later (a typical time lag these days from “idea” to “execution”, sadly) I had the ingredients amassed, the energy to give it a try and even a friend’s yard to grill in, thus of course, the weather went downhill. But I persevered, climbing into the far reaches of our linen closet where we stash kitchen stuff that doesn’t get much use (whispering hello to my 12-inch wedding cake pans and canneler molds), unearthing my cast iron panini pan (hey, close enough, right?) and setting to grill to my heart’s content, weather be damned.
And despite the fact that I generally feel indoor grilling is a sham — once you remove the smoldering charcoal flavor, the sun on your shoulders and the beer bottle condensating on a weathered picnic table, what’s left that’s worthwhile? — it was going along swimmingly, that is, until Alex came home and declared it “partly cloudy” in our apartment; whoops! Anyway, smoky plumes emanating from the kitchen aside, if this pizza can be this good cooked on a shoddy indoor grill pan, I can only imagine how dreamy it will be seared over fire in your backyard or on your rooftop this weekend. Smoky eggplant, briny olives and blistered bubbles of provolone… my friends, what are you waiting for?
Pizza, previously: We are a little bit obsessed with pizza here at the Smitten Kitchen, so no pizza recipe on this site would be complete without a tour of the pizza madness that has come before it. First, there are two dough recipes on the site, a Really Simple Homemade Pizza Dough and a slightly stepped-up one that includes a splash of wine and honey. There’s also a post that includes lots of pizza-making tips in one place: 10 Paths to Painless Pizza Making. Beyond that, there are a ton of untraditional pizza recipes in the archives, from a Broccoli Rabe version with Caramelized Onions to an Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza, not to mention a Potato Pizza, which is exactly as transcendent as you would expect from carbs topped wtih carbs topped with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt. Check out the full list here, and don’t be surprised if you never order pizza delivery again.
Grilled Eggplant and Olive Pizza
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009
This recipe defies many of the things that I usually preach about pizza, namely that I generally go for pizzas that are thinner and less overloaded with toppings. You’re also more likely to get the results you want from them on a grill or in an oven. But this one — with its pre-grilled eggplant slices piled thick and melty and blistering-prone provolone — has got me rethinking my thin pizza biases because it’s hearty, smoky and delicious.
Makes 4 hearty dinner servings, or 9 appetizer-size portions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pound eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch-thick rounds
1 pound store-bought pizza or homemade pizza dough at room temperature (1 1/2 of this recipe will yield a 1-pound dough)
5 ounces sliced provolone, cut into short thin matchsticks (1 1/4 cups)
Handful pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (1/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
To make this pizza on a grill, or in a grill pan: Stir together garlic and oil. Brush some of garlic oil on both sides of eggplant and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill over direct medium heat, covered, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes total. Cut into roughly one-inch pieces and set aside.
Stretch dough into about a 12- by 10-inch rectangle (or into the shape of your grill pan, which in my case, was square) on a large baking sheet or your counter and lightly brush with garlic oil. Oil grill rack, then put dough, oiled side down, on grill. Brush top with more garlic oil. Grill, covered, until underside is golden-brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Using tongs, return crust, grilled side up, to baking sheet. Scatter eggplant, cheese, olives, and parsley (whoops, forgot mine) over crust. Slide pizza from sheet onto grill and grill, covered, until underside is golden-brown and cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. (If you’re using an oven-safe grill pan, you can slide the pan into a preheated 500 degree oven at this point, as we did, which gets the toppings that much more blistered.) Season to taste with salt, pepper and a red pepper flakes.
To make this pizza in the oven: You can either fry or roast the eggplant slices, brushed with garlic oil, until tender. Prepare the pizza as you would any other, rolling or stretching out the dough, mounding on the toppings and sliding it onto a baking sheet or pizza stone in an oven that has been preheated to its top temperature. It will be ready in about 10 minutes.