Is it just me or when you’re away for a few days you come home to find little bits and odds and ends of stuff in the fridge? Does anyone see these things and think to eat them? Are they still edible? Have they turned into a giant hunk of mold in the container? I hate to waste so I always try find a way to use what I have on hand.
My favorite thing to do with odds and ends in the refrigerator is make a pizza. The danger with using lots of veggies on your pizza is that it’s easy to have a soggy crust. Read along and I will tell you my tips and tricks for using up your leftovers on a pizza and keeping the crust crispy.
I few days ago, I made my way in to the unknown….the back recesses of the fridge to find all of the these ingredients: sauteed escarole, oil packed sun dried tomatoes, pitted stuffed olives, cooked mushrooms, pepperoncini, roasted yellow pepper strips and grated parmesan cheese. I was also lucky enough to find a container of my Mom’s nut free pesto in the freezer. She makes it at the end of the summer and its delicious. We had been to the store the day before and stocked up on some fresh veggies as the fridge was more than kind of empty since I had been gone. We got some chopped kale and some more mushrooms, both of which I sauteed in a large batch to have some to put in my eggs the rest of the week. I also had some shrimp in the freezer (we love shrimp on our pizza) and some four cheese pizza blend.
You might be afraid to put so many veggies on your pizza for fear that it will never crisp up but the secret to using high water content vegetables is as follows:
- Roast veggies on the top of the pizza (as I will do with the kale)
- Cook out most of the water (which is what I did with the mushrooms, slowly over medium heat and did not salt them until they were mostly cooked, which roasts them and enhances the flavor)
- Literally squeeze the liquid out of the greens (which is what I did with the escarole and do with spinach)
- Pat dry anything that is in liquid or oil (the pepperoncini, olives, roasted peppers and the sun dried tomatoes)
The next trick to a crispy crust is a pizza stone or an overturned large baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone and a very high oven temperature. Long before you start building your masterpiece, put the pizza stone in the oven at 450 degrees to heat all the way through. It’s going to take a good 25-30 minutes to heat to 450. If you are using a baking sheet overturned, it only takes about five minutes. The key to a crisp crust is sliding the dough on to a hot surface to set it right away.
If you have a pizza peel, use it. If you don’t, you can use a second overturned baking sheet in it’s place. Cornmeal. Cornmeal is the key to success with all pizza but especially a heavy one laden with deliciousness. Sprinkle your peel (or second baking sheet) with a generous amount (at least 2 tablespoons) of cornmeal and spread it around to the edges of the peel. Stretch your dough as thin as possible, leaving a nice edge for the crust and lay it on your pizza peel. Now shake the peel. Does the crust move freely back and forth? If not, lift up the crust gently where it’s stick and through some cornmeal in there. Shake it again…does it move? You’re in good shape.
The next step is to layer appropriately. I start with the pesto (obviously) in a very thin layer and then the dried vegetables that don’t need to be cooked, just heated including the escarole, sun dried tomatoes, olives and roasted peppers. It’s important NOT to put anything that needs to be cooked (such as raw chicken, shrimp, raw mushrooms etc) under the veggies and cheese on the pizza because by the time the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted the raw food will not be cooked through, it will steam being trapped under the cheese and veggies and will cause the crust to be soggy. Now is time to shake your crust again to be sure it moves freely. If not, through some more cornmeal under the crust. This is going to be a heavy pizza with all of the stuff on it so periodically, make sure it moves.
The next layer is the remaining veggies, all but the kale, the cheese and the raw protein. Keep in mind, however, that unless chicken, for example is cut very small it may not cook through, even on the top of the pizza. Seafood, shrimp and/or scallops are a good bet because they cook so quickly as is any other cooked protein. Time to add the shrimp and then sprinkle with some grated parmesan.
And finally the kale. I love crispy kale so it’s the perfect veggie to top the pizza. Cooked broccoli is also a good bet as both kale and broccoli get very crisp when exposed to high heat. Then some dried rosemary/oregano/ thyme or whatever you have on hand and some kosher salt and pepper.
Shake your pizza on the peel once again and if it moves freely, you are all set. If not, you know what to do. Bake for 10-12 minutes until shrimp is cooked through and crust is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and let pizza sit for 5 minutes for the cheese to set up and so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth because you’re going to want to eat this pizza as soon as possible!