Smoked Eggplant Pizza with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Pesto and Goat Cheese Recipe


Ingredients

Smoked Eggplant:
1 1/2 pounds of eggplant
2 Tablespoons kosher salt (or rock salt)
3 Tablespoons of olive oil

Red Bell Pepper Pesto:
2 red bell peppers
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/4 cup roasted almonds
2 large cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pizza Dough and Cheese:
1 recipe of cornmeal pizza dough
Polenta or semolina for dusting the pizza peel
12 ounces of goat cheese, chilled, crumbled
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Parsley leaves for garnish

Flour (unbleached, all-purpose) for dusting/kneading dough
Polenta or semolina flour for dusting pizza peel
Olive oil for the rising dough and for brushing the rolled-out dough

Methods/Steps

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Smoked Eggplant: Cut the eggplant into 1-inch thick "wheels" through the width. Lay the eggplant on a sheet pan that is covered with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and allow the slices to drain for 30 minutes to eliminate all the bitterness. Turn over the eggplant and salt the other side and let sit for 15 minutes. Brush off the salt, pat dry and cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss the cubes with the olive oil. Sprinkle the bottom of a stovetop smoker with 1 teaspoon of smoking chips. Cover the drip plate with aluminum foil. Place the eggplant on the rack of the smoker and cover with the top of the smoker. Place over high heat and start timing when you see the first wisps of smoke coming out of the corners of the smoker. Time 10 minutes from this point. Remove the smoker from the heat and allow to stand 10 minutes before you open the top. Remove the eggplant from the smoker and place in a bowl.

Red Bell Pepper Pesto: Roast the peppers over a flame (on the stove-top flame or an outdoor grill) until blackened. Put into a paper bag for 5 minutes then peel off the charred skin and remove seeds and stem. Blend the peppers, chilies, almonds, garlic, oil, lemon juice and parmesan in a food processor until blended and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Rollout/Assemble: Once the dough has doubled in volume, remove the dough from the bowl and cut in half with out working it. You do not work the dough, as it will make it too elastic when you try to roll it out. Instead, generously dust the dough with flour and begin to roll out. If the dough is too elastic, let it rest, covered for 15 minutes then try rolling again. Do this until the dough is rolled to your desired thickness.

Transfer the dough to a pizza peel that has been dusted with polenta or semolina flour. Brush the dough with olive oil. Form a rim around the edge and fill the center with half the roasted red bell pepper pesto. Top with half the eggplant, half the goat cheese, then half the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Transfer to the pizza stone and bake until crisp and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 15-25 minutes. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve immediately.

Note: If cooking on an outdoor grill, heat up the grill on medium then turn the grill down to low. Brush the grill with olive oil. Also brush the top of the pizza dough. Turn the dough over onto a pizza peel dusted generously with polenta or semolina and then slide onto the grill. Brush the top side of the pizza with oil and add toppings. Close the grill cover. After a few minutes or when the bottom has started to firm up and crisp, turn off the grill (or move the pizza to a part of the grill that is off), close the cover and let the pizza cook in the ambient heat until the dough is cooked and the cheese is melted.

Serves/Makes

Makes two pizzas to serve 10-12 people

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