Lynda Balslev: End of summer pizza
Late summer reaps a kaleidoscope of peppers. Many recipes specify a certain type of pepper, often the ubiquitous bell pepper, but when it’s the height of pepper season, I opt for combining a variety in one dish, bringing a balance of heat, sweetness, flavor and color.
Homemade pizza is a great way to show off a fresh and feisty chile pepper combination. On this white (no tomato sauce) pizza, I’ve combined four distinctive peppers that are in season. Highly decorative Jimmy Nardello chile peppers are long, slender and gnarly with a mild fruity flavor. Hatch chile peppers are a seasonal specialty, prolific from August through September. They are earthy and buttery in flavor and slightly smoky when roasted.
When possible, I make my pizza on the grill. Not only does it keep the heat outdoors in the warm weather, but it yields a wonderful charred and smoky flavor to the crust.
Pizza With Roasted Cauliflower, Chile Peppers and Green Olives
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: Makes one rectangular thin-crust pizza, approximately 10 by 15 inches
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 head small cauliflower, florets broken into bite-size pieces, about 1 1/2 cups
3 assorted chile peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello, Hatch and Poblano, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh pizza dough
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup loosely packed finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
8 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella (1 ovalini or 8 ciliegine balls), thinly sliced or shredded
2 Calabrian chiles, thinly sliced (or 2 tablespoons chopped jarred Calabrian chiles)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Picholine, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Preheat a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack or on the grill grates for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
Toss the cauliflower and sliced peppers with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Lightly season with salt and black pepper and toss again.
Roll out or stretch the pizza dough to your desired shape and thickness on parchment paper. I prefer to stretch my dough thin in a large rectangular shape.
Lightly brush the dough with the garlic oil, leaving a 3/4-inch border clear around the edges. Sprinkle the red chili flakes and 1/4 cup pecorino cheese over the dough. Spread the cauliflower and peppers over the crust, keeping the border clear.
Arrange the mozzarella over the pizza, gently nestling around and over the vegetables. Scatter the Calabrian chilies and green olives over the top and sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese over the pizza.
Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the cauliflower is tinged, the crust is golden brown and crisp, and the cheese is melted, 13 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the crust.
Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and immediately brush the crust with some of the garlic oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Sprinkle the lemon zest and black pepper over the pizza. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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