Fennel Pesto Pizza
Rafi and I have a bad (or not so bad) habit of making too much pizza dough when we’re craving a pie for dinner. However, we’ll simply freeze the extras and then have a good excuse to make pizza again in the coming weeks. We make a decent amount of pizza. Then again, most nights we tend to forget to take the pizza dough from the freezer and end up having to buy the dough from Whole Foods. Oh well. We’re trying.
We don’t follow one recipe each time. We use different toppings, try to be brave and mix it up for each pie. We typically use feta considering the other cheese we have in the house most of the time is a Mexican blend cheddar (we haven’t been brave enough to try using that yet. Maybe next week). And, along with feta, we tend to top the pizzas with red onions and garlic. Other than that, it’s fair game.
We pulled the pizza dough from the freezer in the morning and were ready to start cooking by the time we both got home from work. The toppings we chose this time? Fennel, eggplant, feta, red onions and for a sauce, pesto made with the fennel tops. We thinly sliced the fennel and eggplant, layered them on top of the creamy pesto, and topped that off with feta and red onion. We made sure to drizzle olive oil over the veggies so that they wouldn’t dry out in the oven.
After baking in the oven for about ten minutes at 500 degrees, we had a gourmet-looking (and tasting) pizza. Knowing us, we then sprinkled a generous amount of red pepper flakes on top to spice it up.
This was one of the best pizzas we’ve made and we’ve made some pretty great pizzas in the past. The fennel, eggplant and fennel pesto combination really worked well, especially with the slightly bitter feta to balance out the richness of the oil. The pizza came out crisp with a rich earthiness (topped with pine nuts) and paired really well with Rafi’s homebrewed Amarillo IPA: a smooth, bitter, citrusy pale ale.
Quick Pizza Crust (1.5 hours)
1 cup hard cider (or light beer)
3 cups flour (I use a mix of about ½ white wheat and the other half whole wheat or other grains including amaranth, tef, rye, and oat flour)
½ cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
Mix the yeast, salt and sugar into the half cup of water. Let this sit for five minutes or so, it should start bubbling. Add the cider or beer to this mixture. I use a kitchen aid to mix in the flour; pizza crust should have great elasticity and it’s a lot of work to do by hand. At this point I add in all of my specialty flour, this way I can use as much white flour as I need to get to the right consistency (tacky, but not dense). Let this rise in a warm oven (<120ºF) for at least an hour. We love thin crust, so I roll it out with a rolling pin to about ¼ inch. It comes out really crispy!
Fennel Pesto (.5 hours)
1 Fennel top
1 cup olive oil
½ cup walnuts
1 bulb garlic
½ cup crumbled Romano cheese
Start with half the olive oil in a blender or food processor (you can also make this in a pitcher using a stick blender—easy clean-up!). Add a couple stalks of fennel at a time, and then more oil (you might need more than a cup depending on the size of the plant). Alternate between fennel and other ingredients while drizzling in olive oil.
We both felt that the eggplant could be cut into more bite sized pieces. Otherwise, this pizza was dangerously good! Don’t expect leftovers…
Update: Can easily be made vegan with Daiya or other cheese for the topping, and using a vegan pesto. Will post a recipe for that soon.