Author Topic: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?  (Read 30332 times)

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Offline Fio

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I believe that eggplant is an under-utilized pizza topping.  There are posts in this forum that mention eggplant - and how good it is, but I couldn't find one that discusses how to utilize eggplant and more importantly, how to coax out it's wonderful flavor.

I'm trying to branch out from two comfortable pizza ruts: One is the very narrow range of permissible ingredients in Pizza Napoletana, and the other is the somewhat trite roster of "American" pizza toppings - pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, etc.  I love these, but I want to think of new combinations of traditional Italian ingredients that will make truly delicous pies that taste traditional and don't taste like they were made by a hippie named Chet with dreadlocks and a tounge stud.

I  have been using eggplant in spaghetti sauce for a few years.  It adds a wonderful background note to the flavor of the sauce that mixes VERY well with the pork fat/garlic/tomato flavors.   For every 3 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, I add one  eggplant - slightly smaller than a football.   I peel it with a veggie peeler, puree it, and saute it along with the garlic, onion, and pork ribs.  When it's soft, I add the crushed tomatoes.  Because it has a LOT of water, I need to add a 12-oz can of tomato paste to maintain the consistency.

Back to Pizza:

The challenge to eggplant is that it is a VERY watery vegetable.  You need to remove the water before putting it on a pizza.  Here's what I do (and maybe you, too):  Peel it with a veggie peeler.  Slice it lengthwise into 3/8" thick slices.  Coat them liberally with salt, then stand them up in a colander over a plate.  About 30 minutes later, you will have a brown puddle in the plate.  The slices are no longer firm, but limp and flaccid.  The salt has drawn out the water.

Rinse them well - quickly! - to remove all the salt.  Then layer them in paper towels for a little while to soak up the remaining water.

The eggplant is still NOT pizza-worthy.  You need to par-cook it.  The last time I used eggplant, I grilled them.   I fired up the Weber real hot.  Brushed them liberally with olive oil, greased up the grate and grilled them about 5 minutes per side. 

Here again, there is a challenge:  Eggplant is like a sponge.  It soaks up the oil (It presents many of the same challenges as do fresh mushrooms).  So you don't want to over-do it.  The trick is to not burn them.  Cook them until they are nice and soft.   It's difficult to over cook them (but don't burn them - thin slices will turn black, and that's not Good Eats) because the softer they are, the more they melt in your mouth. 

Once they are done, let them cool, covered, and steam in their own heat.   When they are cool, cut them into thin strips and put them on your pizza.

If you've done it right, you'll have soft, very flavorful eggplant lending a distinct earthy note to your pizza.  It may ooze a little olive oil, but no water on your pizza.  You should taste it, but not necessarily feel it.

I made a pizza with grilled eggplant, anchovies, and Stella Whole Milk Motz (no tomato sauce) and it was a showstopper.   Tonight, I used some of the leftover eggplant in an omelette with bell peppers, asparagus, and Stella Motz (note to self: leftover pizza toppings are excellent for omelettes the next day!).

Please comment - do you know a better way to use eggplant in pizza? 

Cheers,

- Fio

P.S. I didn't realize this until just now, but what I've described sounds a LOT like Caponata.  Has anyone put caponata on a pizza?



 
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.


Offline Wallman

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2006, 11:06:39 PM »
I like eggplant a lot, both on pizza and in eggplant parmesan (I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe, it's outstanding. In fact, it's one of the best tasting dishes I've ever made.)  For pizza, I follow the recipe in American Pie and simply roast the whole eggplant on my BBQ (like roasting a green pepper). Once the skin is charred and the eggplant is very tender, I scoop out the roasted flesh and mix with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.  This makes a great topping with fresh tomatoes and parmesan cheese, here's a picture: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=1298.0;id=4505.  The eggplant mixture also makes a great dip.

Last night I simply stir fried some fresh eggplant with squash, green onions, and cherry tomatoes, all fresh from a local farm.  I didn't bother pealing, blanching or salting the eggplant, but cooked with the other veges and EVO, it tasted great.

Offline David

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2006, 07:39:04 AM »


I'm trying to branch out from two comfortable pizza ruts: One is the very narrow range of permissible ingredients in Pizza Napoletana, and the other is the somewhat trite roster of "American" pizza toppings - pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, etc.  I love these, but I want to think of new combinations of traditional Italian ingredients that will make truly delicous pies that taste traditional and don't taste like they were made by a hippie named Chet with dreadlocks and a tounge stud.


I grew up eating a lot of Pizza from a  company called Pizza Express in the U.K..They used to dominate the Pizza business and really had no competition back then.They had a combination of  onions, capers, olives, sultanas and pine kernels,that was unique and I still enjoy, to this day and it still remains on thier menus.Just out of interest I spend time when I travel and on the internet looking a Pizzerias around the world and what they offer. 99% of the time I wouldn't be interested in some of the toppings,but every now and then you get intrigued and a catalyst for a  combination is born.However 99.9% of the time I only eat a Margherita or Marinara,and my friends are getting tired of me not putting anything else on for them.(That's one way of getting rid of them I suppose?)
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Offline lilbuddypizza

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2006, 11:08:19 AM »
Yeah, the water in the eggplant is a big problem. So is its absorbency, as with fried eggplant. I love it, but essentially I feel it is more of a filler, esp. with Italian cooking, because usually everything else overtakes it (which isn't bad....the sauces, the cheeses....all powerful stuff).

Offline mivler

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2006, 01:58:41 PM »
Fio,

I prepare it similar to what you do. I cut it about 3/8 inch thick. Salt, then I let it sit on a colander for about 1.5-2 hours. Rinse off the salt, take a few layers of paper towels and press out as much water as possible. Then I either bake them (coating the bottom of pan with oil and drizzling a little on top. Or I fry them in a little oil. The first time I did this I cut them way to thin (like 1/8 inch). I ended up with egglpant crisps. (I don't recommend them but my wife enjoyed them dipped in my tomato sauce.)

Michael

Offline Finnegans Wake

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2006, 02:47:23 PM »
I grew up eating a lot of Pizza from a  company called Pizza Express in the U.K..They used to dominate the Pizza business and really had no competition back then.They had a combination of  onions, capers, olives, sultanas and pine kernels,that was unique and I still enjoy, to this day and it still remains on thier menus.

That sounds more like the caponata recipe I've used.

IMO, grilling the eggplant, if it is cut at leat 3/8" and not overdone, will yield a nice flavor and extract the remaining moisture.  Two hours for salting sounds largely impractical, I usually go 20-30 minutes.  And with the grilling, you're really finishing it.  For normal grilled veggie platters, I'd be more liberal with EVOO, but for a pizza topping I might watch it a bit.  Don't want it pooling/smoking.

BTW, the eggplant dip referenced earlier is baba ghanouj (various spellings).  It's a great dip with pitas or mild chips, but I also love it with grilled chicken wraps.  Basically, throw it on your Weber type grill, turning every few minutes when it gets soft, and I use lots of wood chips for smoke.  Let it cool, scoop out the goodies into a processor with a couple cloves of garlic, and throw in a couple tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste).  Thin with EVOO; season.  Cook's had this recipe, and it's nice.  As a matter of fact, using Cook's brined chicken breasts, very lightly seasoned, and grilled briefly, makes a very easy day at the grill...

Not sure if I'd want cooked eggplant on pizza, though.  If it's soft to the point that it's lost its will to live, then you just have mush.  I'd like to see it, and be able to recognize it. 
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. --
Mark Twain

Offline David

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2006, 04:46:14 PM »
For the first time ever I decided to try and mimic the pizza I was talking about  - here are the results.The dough was not very good at all,and failed to rise much. (Starter,Mixing?)Anyway you can get the idea.The combination of flavours however did bring back happy memories though!If I do it again i'll add the pine nuts midway throug cooking though. Pizza Express donates a portion of the profits from the sale of each one of these to a Fund known as "The Venice in Peril Fund" BTW.
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« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 04:48:33 PM by David »
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Offline David

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2006, 05:01:04 PM »
Oooppss !       and cooked............
If you're looking for a date... go to the Supermarket.If you're looking for a wife....go to the Farmers market

Offline DNA Dan

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2006, 01:50:07 PM »
Typically with high water content veggies, like eggplant, mushrooms, etc. I pre cook them for about 5 minutes to draw out the water. I do this on a blackened pan right on my pizza stone. When I take it out of the oven I let the pan sit tilted to one side to allow the water to seep out.

Grilling is also an excellent suggestion, however it may impart a grill taste to the pizza. Not bad if that's what you're after. I have also seem people use dehydrators to extract out the water in mushrooms, however I don't think this would work well on other veggies. The mushrooms taste great this way, however the texture is somewhat "leathery" and chewier.

Offline toyman

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2008, 02:42:05 PM »
Feeling unmotivated on a Friday afternoon and came across this post.  I can't believe I haven't seen it before.  One of my 'specialty' pizza's is an eggplant pizza.  Pic attached.
http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q73/newrizzini/P5311140.jpg

Here's how we (my wife & I) do it!  We cut eggplant circles, about 1/2-3/8" thick, skin on.  Use plenty of olive oil, with garlic, rosemary, salt & pepper, in a 14" cast iron skillet.  Score each of the circles, front and back, with a tic-tac-toe pattern.  (Why, I really don't know, but that's they way here Italian grandmother did it)  Cook them until they are tender and the moisture is cooked out.  We then take them and put them on a plate with paper towels to absorb any extra moisture.  Then I add a little more olive oil to the hot skillet.  Stretch out my dough and put it in the skillet.  Place the eggplant circles on the dough and then add cheese.  Usually a mixture of mozzerella, asiago & parmesan.  Then I put it in the oven or grill at 490* until done. 

We only use 4 or 5 circles for the pizza, so we have an awesome appetizer while we're waiting for the pizza to cook! 

It's one of our favorites, and I'm actually making one tonite.


Online Pete-zza

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2008, 02:50:17 PM »
toyman,

That's a great looking pizza. When I lived in Connecticut many years ago, there was a local pizza place that made a great eggplant pizza that became one of my favorites. In your case, what dough recipe do you use?

Peter

Offline toyman

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2008, 03:48:42 PM »
This is the basic recipe that I've been using.  From all the great info on this site, I'm now using a scale and amazingly end up with 1057 g of dough almost everytime I make the recipe.  I'm not sure of the exact recipe in that pic, but it was based upon below.  I finished a wood fired oven a few weeks ago.  It's about as hard to learn to use it as it is to make decent pizza dough!  But, as the dough is, it's coming along.  Having guests over tonite for a wood fired cheese pizza, a wood fired white pizza with fresh tomatoes from the garden, and an eggplant that will be cooked on my gas grill. 

650 g KA bread flour or hi gluten flour
405 g cool water
3 g IDY (Instant Dry Yeast)
3 g Evoo
3 g Salt

I incorporate the flour & yeast and then add the water until it forms a ball.  Then I add the EVOO and then the salt.  Divide up into 3 350 g balls and let rise in the fridge for 24 - 48 hours.  It comes out very silky & easy to shape. 

Peter - if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.  Also, from reading on this board, I'll add a little powdered milk (3-4 grams) when I'm cooking at lower temps (ie in my home oven or gas grill) to get the crust nice and brown. 
« Last Edit: August 15, 2008, 03:50:35 PM by toyman »

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2008, 04:13:21 PM »
Coincidentally, we did eggplant pies for lunch. I have struggled with eggplant topping in a 900+ oven baking for less than 60 seconds so that it is perfectly cooked - no puddles of bitter eggplant juice and no greasy/mushy/textureless eggplant and no burnt eggplant. I ended up precooking the eggplant using a technique adapted from Julia Childs' ratatouille:

1. Remove the ends of the eggplant.
2. Slice about 3/8" thick
3. Sprinkle with K-salt on both sides and place on paper towels for about 30 minutes.
4. Blot off excess moisture
5. Brush with olive oil
6. Place on baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake @ 375 for 15-20 minutes until soft

The cheese goes on top of the pre-baked eggplant.

Bill/SFNM


Online Pete-zza

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2008, 04:14:49 PM »
toyman,

I ran your numbers through the Lehmann dough calculating tool at http://www.pizzamaking.com/dough_calculator.html and got the following dough formulation from a baker's percent standpoint:

Flour (100%):
Water (62.3077%):
IDY (0.46153%):
Salt (0.46153%):
Oil (0.46153%):
Total (163.69229%):
650 g  |  22.93 oz | 1.43 lbs
405 g  |  14.29 oz | 0.89 lbs
3 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1 tsp | 0.33 tbsp
3 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.54 tsp | 0.18 tbsp
3 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.67 tsp | 0.22 tbsp
1064 g | 37.53 oz | 2.35 lbs | TF = N/A

If you are satisfied with your results, that is all that should matter. I personally use around 1.5-1.75% salt because of personal preference and largely out of habit. But if the salt used in preparing the eggplant and used in the sauce and cheese produce a total level of salt that is sufficient for your purposes, then the lower salt level in the dough may be fully justified. You are also getting a lot of oil from cooking the eggplant, so a small amount of oil in the dough also makes sense.

Peter

Offline toyman

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Re: Eggplant - a VERY underrated pizza topping - but how do you use it?
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2008, 07:51:19 AM »
Peter - thanks!  I'll try upping the salt in a future batch.  The eggplant pizza came out very good last nite, although my wife cheated and diced the eggplant instead of cutting the circles to save time.  I'm still learning to cook in my wood fired oven.  The first pizza, a basic cheese with sauce made from canned san marzano's and dried spiced (wet & then microwave ala Red November) was good, but I couldn't work my turning peel as well as I would have liked.  (I just finished making it and it was the first time I used it, or any other)  The outer crust had good spring, but it got pretty charred.  The second was much better and cooked properly.  It was fresh tomatoes with salt, pepper, rosemary & garlic.  It looked as good as it tasted.  The outer rim of that one sprung and browned very nicely.  The pizza took about 90 seconds in the WFO, the eggplant pizza took about 12 minutes at 550* on the gas grill, in the cast iron skillet.  Makes me want to cook some more tonite!

Offline rahaaland

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I had an incredible eggplant and asparagus pizza with hummus at a local cafe. It seemed like they grilled both the eggplant and asparagus and then baked it (they have a wood-fired oven). It was amazing - the hummus counteracts how moist the eggplant is. I almost had to order a second because everyone at my table wanted a piece.

Offline jimd

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Here is what I have done:

Slice Eggplant crosswise (not lengthwise) about 1/4 inch thick;
Lightly fry it in olive oil until edges crinkle a bit;
Put just a little tomato sauce on pizza base; and
Add smoked mozzarella, pine nuts.

This is a really good combination, and the credit goes to member Shango (Edan), who developed this combination while in charge of the pizza at 2Amys here in DC.

Jim

Offline AZ-Buckeye

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I make a wood-fired eggplant and zucchini pizza that is one of my favorites. Although I have a wood-fired oven, no reason it couldn't be done in a regular oven.  Recipe is as follows (this is from the Mugnaini website):

Peel eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch rounds or strips.  Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch strips.  Place on baking sheet lined with foil and lightly sprayed with olive oil.  I then roast in my WFO while I am bringing it up to pizza temps -- turning once, until lightly browned on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and cover with foil until cool to touch.  Then drizzle with a seasoned olive oil made with lemon zest, chopped fresh oregano and parsley and pinch of red pepper flakes.

Make pizza with fresh mozz, shredded Gruyere, fresh basil and the marinated eggplant and zucchini.

REALLY GOOD!


 

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