Mediterranean Pizza

Simply saying the word “Mediterranean” as it pertains to pizza sets into motion a wealth of tasty possibilities. The palette of ingredients that can be used to fashion a Mediterranean pizza are as colorful and as rich in texture as the countries that make up the Mediterranean community itself. And if we focus solely on, for example, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, we will have more than enough on our plate; or in this situation, on our pizza.

First let’s look at the ingredients we might find in a Mediterranean cupboard. Once we have set up our cupboard, we can decide how we want to use them in various pizza applications.

Our basic Mediterranean ingredient list would include olives (Kalamata, Nicoise, Arbequina), capers, tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes, spinach, olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic, anchovies and onions.

Our basic Mediterranean cheese list would include feta, fresh mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, Manchego, and provolone.

Other ideas come to mind. For example, we can bring in seafood–shrimp, tuna, and clams-to add even deeper interest.

Now that are cupboard is full of interesting choices, let’s see how we can use some of those ingredients in ways that are creative and interesting. (In a menu situation, I would take two or three of these ideas, box them in, and title them “Gourmet Mediterranean Pizza.” The subtle message to these pizzas reads “healthy” and, in most every instance “vegetarian ) Also, considering that some of these ingredients carry a higher food cost, you can easily charge more for a full-flavored Mediterranean pie.

To turn out a range of Mediterranean pizzas, it is not necessary to alter your crust in any way. The real flavors are to be found in the toppings.

PIZZA ATTSA NICE

This is my version of a pissaladiere, the famous onion pizza that is so highly favored in Nice and along the French Riviera. The interesting aspect concerning this pizza is that is does not have any tomatoes. Anchovies are a part of the original creation, but I left them off. But feel free to add them. You can offer anchovies to your customer as an option.

Makes one 14-inch pizza

1 14-inch pizza shell

2 large onions, julienned (about 3 ∏ cups)

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried0

∏ cup chicken broth or stock

1 cup coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

18 (about) brine-cured olives, pitted

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onions and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the thyme, tarragon, and chicken broth. Cook and stir for about 4 minutes or until the onions are soft and limp and all of the chicken broth has evaporated. Set aside for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Spread the onion mixture evenly over the pizza crust. Sprinkle on the sun-dried tomatoes. Arrange the olives on top. Sprinkle on the remaining olive oil. Bake.

Note: if using anchovies, arrange them spoke-like on top.

Shrimp Marinara Pizza

This pizza bursts with Mediterranean flavors. Use fresh thyme if you can, since it enhances the flavor profile dramatically

Makes one 14-inch pizza

14-inch pizza shell

8 ounces tomato puree or all-purpose ground tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled, or two tablespoons fresh thyme

2 tablespoons capers

8 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined and sliced in half lengthwise

∏ cup sliced pitted brine-cured green olives

∏ cup sliced pitted brine-cured black olives

π pound feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

Spread the tomatoes evenly over the pizza crust. Drizzle on the olive oil. Add the garlic. the thyme and the capers. Arrange the shrimp evenly over the pizza. Add the green and black olives. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top. Bake.

PAN CON TOMATE, JAMON Y QUESO

(Tomato Pizza with Ham and Cheese)

In my journeys to Spain I went nuts over a first plate or tapa called pan con tomate (bread with tomato) that is common to most restaurants. In its classic form, pan con tomate is simply grilled or toasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic and fresh tomatoes (the pulp actually). Here is my version of pan con tomate translated into pizza.

Makes on 14-inch pizza

1 14-inch pizza shell

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

≤ pound dead-ripe fresh plum tomatoes, sliced lengthwise, about

π-inch thick

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or ∏ teaspoon dried, crumbled

π pound Spanish ham (jamon Serrano) or imported prosciutto,

sliced almost paper-thin

∏ pound mild Manchego cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

Brush the olive oil over the crust, including all around the edge. Sprinkle on the

Garlic.

Arrange the sliced tomatoes evenly over the crust up to the border. Sprinkle the oregano over the tomatoes. Arrange the ham over the tomatoes and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the ham. Bake.

Spinach Pizza with artichokes and Tomato

This is what I call a full-flavored Mediterranean pizza. The combination of spinach, artichokes and fresh tomatoes make each bite one to enjoy and treasure. Without reservation, this pizza can be promoted as vegetarian.

Makes one 14-inch pizza

1 14-inch pizza shell

1 pound fresh spinach, washed and trimmed of thicker stems

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

π cup finely chopped red onion

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Olive oil

14-16 thin slices fresh plum or Roma tomatoes

8 marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

π cup grated Parmesan

8 ounces shredded provolone (about 2 cups)

Saute the spinach with the olive oil, garlic, red onion and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Brush the crust with olive oil. Arrange the spinach and mushroom mixture evenly over the crust. Arrange the tomatoes over the spinach followed by the artichokes. Sprinkle on the parmesan and provolone. Bake.

Note: a topping option here would be to replace the artichokes with slices of grilled eggplant.

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