EGGPLANT, MOZZARELLA, AND BASIL PIZZA
How could you lose with the ingredients in this pizza? You can't, particularly when the mozzarella is
freshly made, the eggplants small, gorgeous, and firm, and the basil right out of the garden.
The inspiration here comes from the southern states. In Texas I visited the basil-scented
greenhouses of Golden Circle Farms outside Dallas and when in the city, sampled fresh mozzarella
from the Mozzarella Cheese Company there. I saw eggplant growing throughout the South, their large
star-shaped flowers giving the fields a purplish hue.
This pizza is quick to make — the dough rises in less than an hour, and it cooks in less than
30 minutes. You can even make the dough in the morning, refrigerate it, and roll it out when you get home from work.
Though fresh mozzarella is best here because of its rich milk flavor, packaged mozzarella is a reasonable substitute.
Try the pizza with a California Merlot.
Serves 6 to 8
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For the Pizza Dough
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
For the Pizza
1 pound small eggplants (about 4 inches long) or thin Japanese eggplants, rinsed and patted dry
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
For the Pesto
2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
||To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a
heavy-duty electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Then add the salt and 2 more cups of flour,
1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you are using an electric mixer, set the speed
at medium and gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Increase the speed to high, and mix the dough until it is smooth and glossy, about 4 minutes.
If you are making the dough by hand, turn it out onto a heavily floured work surface and gradually
knead in the remaining 1/2 cup flour until the dough is smooth and glossy, which will take about 8 minutes.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it rise in a warm spot (68° to 70°F)
until doubled n bulk, about 1 hour. (To refrigerate the dough after it has risen, place it in a bowl, cover
tightly, and leave for up to 10 hours.)
||Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil.|
||Slice the eggplants lengthwise not thin (1/4-inch) slices leaving the stem end intact.
Place the eggplants on the prepared baking sheet, fanning them out gently.
Brush them light and thoroughly with oil, and bake them in the center of the oven until they
begin to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and gently press them
so they fan out slightly more. When the eggplants have cooled enough to handle, remove them from
the baking sheet and set aside.|
||Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F.|
||Punch down the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to fit the same baking sheet.
Sprinkle the dough with the garlic slices, and then cover it with the mozzarella. Arrange the eggplants
attractively on top of the cheese, drizzle with any remaining olive oil, and bake in the center of the
oven until the dough is golden, the cheese is melted and bubbling, and the eggplants are cooked through,
about 25 minutes.|
||While the pizza is baking, make the pesto: Place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts,
and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a fine puree. Remove the blade from
the processor, and stir in the cheese by hand. Season with salt and set aside.|
||Remove the pizza from the oven. Drizzle the pesto evenly over the pizza, and let
it sit for about 5 minutes, to warm the pesto and to let the pizza cool slightly so it isn't molten
when you serve it. Cut into pieces, and serve.|
To toast pine nuts, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the nuts in a baking pan large
enough to hold them in a single layer, and toast, stirring once, until they are golden and give
off a toasted aroma, 10 to 12 minutes.|