Grilled Eggplant & Fresh Ricotta Pizza


Whenever I fire up my charcoal grill I make sure to cook a surplus of vegetables for the week ahead. Grilled asparagus is great tossed in a stir fry, soups, and omelets. Grilled corn, well the possibilities are endless there. Grilled zucchini is delicious in pasta salads and leftover grilled baking potatoes are perfect in a hash topped with a poached egg. My sentiment is, if I’m putting in the effort to start charcoal then I might as well grill as many ingredients as possible. However, eggplant is a veggie I don’t cook with often. Occasionally I’ll make a baked Eggplant Parm but usually I just snub the purple veggie. The skin is tough and can be bitter but overcook it and eggplant is slimy mush. I’m usually not too fussy or picky about vegetables but there’s always been this love/hate relationship with me and eggplant. This past weekend, I felt like giving it another shot out on the grill to see if this strange vegetable could win me over with char marks and smoke. True to my Texas upbringing, put some smoke on it and I’m in love. Grilled eggplant is delicious and super easy to prep. I may never cook it any other way again. The recipe below combines smokey grilled eggplant and amazingly fresh ricotta all on top a beautiful, hearty pizza crust. If you’ve never made ricotta at home it is a simple recipe that just requires a little time. The flavor is beyond anything you can imagine for a four ingredient recipe. Once you’ve tasted the fresh ricotta, you’ll never buy it from the grocery again!

Ingredients: 

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Pizza sauce

1/2 a cup fresh ricotta

1 fresh tomato, chopped

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella/smoked provolone cheese blend

1 serving Pizza dough

1 bulb roasted garlic, optional

2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, optional

Salt and pepper

EVOO

Method: 

On a large platter or cutting board arrange the sliced eggplant and lightly salt the front and back of each slice. Allow the salted eggplant to sit 15 to 20 minutes.The salt helps to tenderize the eggplant. Prepare your grill. Lightly brush grill grates with EVOO and grill the eggplant on both sides until tender. Note: I usually grill a large amount of veggies at once and then use them throughout the week in a variety of recipes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pizza dough, add rosemary, then roll out once more. Lightly coat a pizza pan with course cornmeal. Transfer the dough to the pizza pan. Flash bake the dough about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest about 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, spread roasted garlic evenly over the dough, if using, with a silicone basting brush. Top the dough with your favorite pizza sauce, shredded cheese blend, grilled eggplant, chopped tomato, and fresh ricotta. Bake in the oven 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Allow the pizza to rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Pizza Dough:

1 cup wheat flour

1 cup self rising flour

1/2 cup white flour

1 teaspoon yeast

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons local honey

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coarse cornmeal, reserved

6 ounces of warm water plus 1 ounce of water reserved

In a stand mixer, add the warm water and yeast (the warm water activates the yeast). Once yeast is activated, add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and reserve one ounce of water. Knead the dough about 7 minutes on a low-medium speed, add reserved water if dough is too dry and not forming properly. Once the dough has mixed, either proof the dough in the oven for one hour or let it rise at room temp for an hour and a half. Be sure to cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel so the dough doesn’t try out and start forming a crust.

Once the dough has risen, divide it into three or four equal portions (vary by how thick you like your dough) and freeze the remaining dough for quick pizza nights. Dust a rolling mat with course cornmeal and flour then roll the pizza dough out large enough to cover your pizza pan. We use a round cast iron pizza pan which is pretty large in size. So our dough is thinner but sturdy enough to hold up elaborate toppings. The trick to a great dough is to preheat your pizza pan. We usually set the oven at 450 degrees but feel free to set the oven as high as 500 degrees, just be certain to adjust your cooking time to accommodate the higher cooking temperature. Once your pizza pan is preheated, dust it with a bit of the cornmeal. Then very carefully place the dough on the pan. Amy rolls the dough back onto her rolling pin and then slowly unrolls it across the pizza pan but use whatever method is most comfortable for you. Place the dough in the oven and flashback the dough about 10 minutes. Remove the dough from the oven and if desired, coat the dough in a little drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle the edges with kosher salt. Top with pizza sauce, grilled eggplant, fresh ricotta, tomatoes, and mozzarella/smoked provolone cheese blend.

Fresh Ricotta: 

4 cups 2% milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

cheesecloth

large mixing bowl

colander

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, heavy cream, and salt up to a soft boil. Turn off heat and add the vinegar. Allow the milk to sit about five minutes to allow the vinegar to curdle the milk. Set up your cheese making station by placing a colander inside a deep bowl then line the colander with cheese cloth. Once curds are present, slowly pour the milk into the colander. Allow the mixture to drain about 30 minutes, occasionally discarding liquid from the bowl as needed. Once the ricotta has drained to your desired consistency use it immediately or store in the fridge.

Roasted Garlic

1 bulb garlic, top sliced off

1 medium size sheet of aluminum foil

1 teaspoon EVOO

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the topless garlic bulb on the aluminum foil and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper the garlic then fold the aluminum around the bulb creating a sealed packet. Roast the garlic in the oven 30 to 45 minutes or until the garlic is deeply caramelized. Remove from oven and allow the aluminum to cool slightly. Remove the garlic from the foil packet and let it rest at least 20 minutes. Once cooled, remove the roasted garlic from the skins. The garlic will be soft and should remove very easily. Discard the skin and in a small prep bowl, smash the roasted garlic into a paste with a fork. Spread on pizza dough, garlic toast, or crostini. Roasted garlic also adds an amazing umami flavor to pesto and pasta sauces.

 

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