Thursday, July 30, 2015

Moroccan-Spiced Grilled Eggplant & Red Onion Pizza

Store-bought pizza dough is given a Moroccan flair topped with grilled eggplant, red onions and an easy homemade sauce that is all spiced up with heaping spoonfuls of Mina Harissa, giving this pie tons of flavor!


You guys! This pizza! Oh, man is it heaven. These days, I don't eat pizza very often because, you know, carbs + keeping diabetes at bay do not a good marriage make but ooooohhhhh, every once in a while, you just gotta because life is too short to not have the occasional food indulgence. And here, well, it isn't too over the top because, hey!, meatless. Plus we didn't get too crazy with the cheese and  – bonus! – no white flour. In fact, we're keeping it easy with store-bought ready made whole wheat pizza dough (although, if you're feeling ambitious, you could always make your own dough).



Of course, I had to test this recipe out a few times to make sure I had the combinations right. Sometimes what I have in my head doesn't always translate to the real world. For example, the first rendition of this pizza had me frying the eggplant in olive oil and I also had figs and goat cheese. Grandma liked it but me, after a slice I was kinda over it. There was too much going on. So the next time I pared it down to just the eggplant – you know I love me some eggplant! (Check it out here, here, here, and here.) Anyway, that was much better but I didn't get enough heat in the sauce and I didn't have red onions or basil to finish. The third time I got it right, opting to just lightly brush the eggplant with olive oil and grilled it before adding it to the pizza which made it loads lighter.


First things first, this is my favorite pre-made pizza dough from, you know, that guy named Joe. Now this is pretty important, you need to give the dough enough time to come up to room temperature. So, before you do anything else, lightly oil a bowl, remove the dough from it's bag and create a tight ball, dump it in the bowl and cover it with a warm, slightly damp kitchen towel. Place this in a warm spot and let it hang out while you prep everything else.


I know people who don't like eggplant. I don't trust people who don't like eggplant. Just kidding. Seriously, I really love it. It can be a great stand-in for meat when cooked properly. It can also be super creamy when roasted long and slow.


Eggplant is made up of quite a bit of water so it's good practice to salt it after slicing (¼-inch thick slices) and let it stand in a colander for 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some of that excess water.


Eggplant can sometimes be a little bitter (especially noticeable in quick cooking methods). Salting will cancel out any bitterness (being an eggplant lover, if I'm in a hurry, I skip the salting because I don't taste the bitterness but if you waffle in your love like of it, I suggest you try salting it first and see if you like it better).


I love red onions. Here, it contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the twice cooked eggplant. Besides – pretty!


So after the eggplant has hung out and has sweated nicely from the salt, you'll need to give each slice a good rinse, blot well with paper towels to dry then brush olive oil on both sides. Your grill should be heating up (or use a grill pan on the stove). Once the grill is nice and hot (450 degrees, at least), toss these babies on and watch 'em! They'll only take about five minutes per side to cook and get gorgeous grill marks on them.


That pizza sauce we made earlier this week? Yay, so I didn't want to make the whole pint spicy because I wanted it to stay kid-friendly. But the beauty of the sauce is that it's the perfect base. I took some of the sauce I made and added my favorite Moroccan condiment to it: Mina Harissa Spicy Red Pepper Sauce (available online, at Whole Foods, or Bristol Foods). You can make the pizza sauce as hot as you want. Easy peasy. Just add a couple of teaspoons to taste. Yum! It really adds a nice twist to this pizza and again, paired with the sweet eggplant, one bite and you'll understand why eggplant shows up so much in Moroccan cuisine!


The added basil just brought a nice crisp, fresh green flavor to the finished pizza. So good! I also have to make a little side note here, this pizza was supposed to be entirely grilled. It's how I made the first attempts. However, after grilling the eggplant. I went back into the house, quickly rolled out the dough and slathered one side with olive oil, went back out to the grill and whatta ya know? The temp had dropped down to below 400 degrees. What? I thought I had accidentally turned a knob down. Nope. No more propane! Oh well. So here's where you gotta feel comfortable changing plans midway through. I just placed my trusty pizza stone into the oven, cranked it up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pulled out the pizza peel, tossed some corn meal on it and placed the dough olive oil side up and built my pizza.

The recipe below is for the grilled version, especially good these days when the weather in San Diego is a bit too warm for warming up the house even more with oven use. I like to cook one side of the dough on oiled grates just until there are grill marks (lid closed while grilling, about 4 to 5 minutes) then pulling it out, flipping it so grill marks are up, build the pizza, re-oil the grates and toss the pizza on until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom is marked. The smokiness from the grill adds another layer of flavor (and yes, gas grills can give a bit of a smoky flavor and a nice char and I'm sticking to that statement because I simply don't have the patience for charcoal grills).

However, making it in the oven is just as tasty! If you don't have a pizza stone, take a rimmed baking sheet, place it upside down on a center rack and let it heat up with the oven. Be sure to use corn meal on the peel so that the raw pizza will slide easily onto the pan or stone.

OK, are you ready for some pizza?

Until next time, friends … xo, ani


MOROCCAN-SPICED GRILLED EGGPLANT & RED ONION PIZZA
Yield: 1 (12 to 14-inch) pizza

INGREDIENTS
1 pound fresh pre-made whole wheat pizza dough
½ medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
olive oil
salt
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
⅔ cup pizza sauce (here's my homemade version)
2-3 teaspoons Mina Harissa Spicy Red Pepper Sauce, or to taste 
1 cup shredded mozzarella
corn meal
handful basil leaves, torn to bite-sized pieces

DIRECTIONS
Lightly oil a small bowl. Form dough into a tight ball and place in bowl; cover with a warm damp towel and set aside.

Slice eggplant into ¼-inch rounds. Generously salt each side of every slice. Stand eggplant slices in a colander with a plate below it to catch the run-off. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat grill to 450 - 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thinly cut about a quarter cup's worth of red onion. Set aside.

Measure out the pizza sauce and stir in 2-3 teaspoons of Mina Harissa, or to taste; set aside.

After 30 minutes, rinse each eggplant slice well. Place on paper towels and blot dry. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil. When grill is hot, place slices on grill and cook on each side with the lid closed until just charred on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and set aside.

Roll out pizza dough to 12 to 14 inches round on a lightly floured surface. Generously brush olive oil on one side. Carefully oil grates and place dough, oil side down, onto the grill, close lid and cook 3-4 minutes or until grill marks just appear on the bottom. In the meantime, spread about 2-3 tablespoons of corn meal over a pizza peel. Remove pizza crust from grill and place uncooked-side-down onto prepared pizza peel. Spread the pizza with sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly over pizza reserving about ¼ cup of cheese. Top the pizza with onions and eggplant slices. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the eggplant. Jiggle the pizza peel to make sure the pizza moves freely. Use a spatula to loosen pizza if it's stuck. Coat the grates with oil, then shimmy the pizza off the peel onto the grates, close the lid and cook pizza until cheese has melted and crust has grill marks, about 4 minutes. Remove to the pizza peel and allow to rest 5 minutes then top with basil just before slicing.


Disclosure: Cassablanca Foods, the maker of Mina Harissa, is providing harissa and some compensation for recipe development. This is the fifth of eight recipes that I'll be sharing through the end of summer. To help offset the cost of running this blog I sometimes take on sponsored posts but rest assured,  I only work with brands I love and use myself and feel 100% confident in the sharing of these brands with you. As always, all opinions, photographs and recipes are my own.


2 comments:

Leanne said...

That sounds amazing! I love eggplant on pizza, but never thought of using different spices for it. I have a couple eggplants in the kitchen right now... I may have to try this.

Anita L Arambula said...

@Leanne --- Let me know if you do. Simple ingredients but nonetheless flavorful even without the harissa!