28 August 2013
Toaster oven pita pizza with eggplant pickle and heirloom tomato
The other day I wanted pizza for lunch, but didn't want to expend any time or effort making a crust. So I decided to break out some pita bread and use it as the crust for a tiny & nearly-instant pizza.
As I poked around the refrigerator, trying to decide what I could use for sauce, my eyes fell on the jar of pickled eggplant with red wine vinegar, made from Marisa's recipe. I've been struggling a bit to find good ways to eat this, simply because it is so strong. But on pizza? Perfect!
I finely chopped a few eggplant pickle spears and spread them on the pita as my line of first defense. Was it a good idea? YES. The tang is reduced a bit though cooking, but it still provides a delicious and slightly mysterious base for everything else. That pickle, topped with an arrangement of chopped salami, big slices of backyard tomato, chunks of mushroom, little bits of hot pepper, and several slabs of mozzarella, made one of the best lunches I've had in quite a while.
A good pizza definitely needs a huge blast of heat to crisp up nicely. Generally this requires an oven. But not this time! Instead, I turned to the toaster oven: my favorite small appliance ever.
The toaster oven not only warms small items, but actually cooks them. You never get the gross spongy quality of microwaved food--because it's an actual tiny oven. Toast gets crisp and nice, and yet you can also cook things bigger than a slice of bread. Open-faced sandwiches topped with cheese go into our toaster oven regularly, as do giant bagels, servings of last night's rice and curry (with a bit of water to re-steam the rice), frozen homemade belgian waffles too big to ever fit in a toaster, and even occasional bowls of soup. Oven-safe dishes are a must, and you should certainly employ oven mitts as needed, but those are the only real caveats to consider.
In this particular case, since my crust was already baked, I only had to worry about searing all the toppings adequately. This meant I could sit down to eat my finished pizza a bare ten minutes or so after dreaming it up. It was perfect: fast, crispy, and delicious.
You can absolutely use any combination of ingredients you like on a pita pizza like this. Just go through your refrigerator and pick out whatever looks good to you. That's really all I did to come up with mine.
Pita pizza with eggplant pickle and heirloom tomato (among other things)
optional olive oil
oregano, basil, hot pepper flake
If you like, you can prepare your pita by brushing it with a thin layer of olive oil. If not, that's fine too. I didn't use oil because I was using salami, which has plenty of its own oil happening already.
Chop a few spears of eggplant pickle as finely as you can. Spread them thinly over your pita. They will be your sauce layer.
Slice up all the vegetables, meat, or cheese you want on your pizza. Layer them over the pita, finishing with the cheese layer. Sprinkle some oregano, basil, and hot pepper flake over the top, and you'll be ready to go.
It's best to be a little sparing with the toppings, so everything cooks evenly and your crust doesn't get soggy. If you want more toppings, make two pita pizzas.
Bake in a 450F toaster oven (or an actual oven--it's all good) until your ingredients are seared nicely, your cheese is golden brown, and your crust is beginning to turn brown and crispy around the edges.
This particular combination of ingredients was wet enough to generate some of its own liquid, mostly due to the very juicy tomatoes. To avoid drippage issues, it's a good idea to bake your pizza on a pan instead of just the toaster oven grate (which is what I normally do). You could also line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil to catch drips, but a pan is safer, especially if you have an exposed heating element. Then, if there's any liquid accumulation, you can simply tilt the entire pan to the side and let it evaporate against the hot metal.
Cut your finished pizza into four pieces. SERVE.
This pizza was excellent all by itself, but I also find that tossing a couple handfuls of raw spinach or arugula on top is more than worth the two seconds of effort.
Items: 1. toaster ovens vs. other small appliances 2. best uses for eggplant pickles 3. favorite pizza toppings. Discuss!