We made pizza for dinner Sunday tonight. We had fresh sweet peppers and eggplant from our farm friends to put on it.
Mabel and I debated how best to handle the eggplant. We didn’t want to add too much oil to the enterprise—olive oil already infused the sauce. So I proposed slicing the plant thinly and baking it in a pan coated with cooking spray.
This worked fine, with soft and juicy results. Until it was revealed that Mabel was hoping for “crispy” eggplant. We could have cooked the eggplant endlessly until it got all dried out, but we arrived at a better plan: breading. We simply poured bread crumbs into the pan. The soft eggplant sopped up the crumbs neatly, and before long had achieved the requisite crispiness.
We prepared four pizzas, a variety of ways. One of the eggplant ones was on a cast iron pan with a thin crust and conventional pizza sauce and mozz. The more artisanal one was on a pizza stone, with crushed fresh juicy tomatoes, the eggplant, and a thicker coating of mozzarella.
This is the pizza dough recipe I swear by, slightly revised from Linda McCartney’s World of Vegetarian Cooking, which was given to me as a gift over a decade ago by former New Haven Advocate colleague Hank Hoffman:
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
and a little salt.
You stir everything but the flour together, then add the flour. Knead it until transforms from doughy to sticky. Cover and let rise for an hour. Divide into parts —three parts if you have large round pizza pans, four or more parts if you’re using smaller pans or cookie sheets. At this point, preheat the oven to as high as your oven will go—500 degrees is great. Cover a table with flour, roll out the dough, cover it with sauce then cheese then toppings, bake for 15-20 minutes and succumb.
Living in New Haven, I naturally aspire to thin crust pizza. I don’t get bent out of shape about it—I simply roll the dough as thin as I possibly can, get the rest of the stuff on top of it before it can rise again, and hope for the thinnest.