Monday, September 5, 2011

Pizza Jones and The Eggplant Alternative

Sometimes I get a craving for something a little cheesy with pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions....something yummy.  Sounds like a Pizza Jones to me!

But with so many dietary considerations our the house, I'm trying to keep an eye on carbohydrates.  Eggplant is a great way to get most of the fun of good pizza without any of the starchy guilt. You can even cut it with a pizza cutter when the time comes!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, assemble all ingredients and tools.

Scoring eggplant with a fork
Select firm, shiny, unblemished eggplants. These will become your pizza's base.  Once the veggies are washed clean, score the skin with a fork.

If you want to peel it, that's fine too. It's one of those personal preference things. Just be careful not to over cook it, skinless eggplant slices tend to get mushy quicker than their "clothed" counterparts.

NOTE: I don't bread my eggplant just tends to make everything too gummy and overcooked.  Besides, bread is what we're trying to avoid with this dish.

Next, slice the eggplant into disks and place these on  a wire rack for
Seasoning on the rack
seasoning. This step is important; it's where your pizza's "crust" starts developing flavor.

Think garlic, oregano, basil, dried onion...things you'd expect in a traditional pie. Be generous.   While doing that, heat and prepare your pan with either release spray or an even coating of oil. Then add the eggplant slices, spiced side down.  While they're cooking, season side two, then flip and cook them too. 

Cut the other ingredients in between spicing, flipping and so on.  You know the ones...tomatoes, mushrooms, green onions, pepperoni....what you usually like on your "regular" pizza pies.  In truth, I haven't tried pineapple with it yet, although Hawaiian is one of my favorite pizza types!

Don't let the eggplant slices get overcooked!  A little browning is all that's needed. Pay extra attention if you skinned the vegetable ahead of time...don't want it to turn to mush!

Prepare one or two cookie sheets by coating with an even film of olive oil or cooking spray.  Sometimes I sprinkle a little cornmeal on top of this, sometimes I don't  For this recipe I didn't but if you want to, so be it.
You'll find an extra texture and flavor to the underside of your "crust" when it's done.

Parm/Romano cheeses and green onions
Arrange eggplant slices to form a base for your other ingredients.  Then it's all a matter of layering.  Start with cheese, the "glue" for your pizza.  I sprinkle some grated Parmesan and Romano, then go in for the kill with a generous dose of Mozzarella.

After that comes the diced green onions.  I prefer these to the full grown onions because they have a more delicate flavor-they give a hint of their lineage without going overboard, and are tiny, delicate slivers rather than big, strong tasting strands. 

Next comes diced fresh tomatoes. 
Tomatoes diced
I don't bother with  canned tomatoes here, but if you must don't forget to strain them first. After that I usually do a little more spicing - garlic, oregano, a little crushed dried anise or fennel - and then back to layering.
Then I add an additional sprinkle of Parm/Romano...then more layering.

IMPORTANT: Try to distribute everything evenly, that way you'll be sure your flavors will be balanced.

Pepperoni and mushrooms
Next comes pepperoni, mushrooms and what ever else you might like....olives are nice, anchovies, green and or red bell peppers, sausage, spinach, diced sink.  Go ahead!  Have some fun!  Just remember to drain anything that comes with extra liquid, and in the case of the kitchen sink, make sure you have a professional installation-don't want any leaking going on!

At long last comes the final few additions....a nice sprinkling of Parm./Romano,a dash more garlic and oregano if you think it's needed, then a final bit of Mozzarella....just because.  

With a final flourish, put the assembled "pizzas" in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until everything is cooked and the cheese is melted.  There might be a slight browning to the top of any exposed eggplant edges. That's okay.

After it's done, take the pies out of the oven and let them rest for about five minutes while you call everyone to the table.  This pie will slice easily with your favorite pizza cutter.  Serve with soda, beer or other favorite beverage and any side-dishes you want.  But even if you just serve it solo, you can feel assured that you've eaten your veggies.

No guilt, no gluten Eggplant Pizza...Enjoy!

Eggplant Pizza....Enjoy!
As always, let me know what you think...if you have any variations or suggestions....any recipes you'd like to see on the site-along with your name as contributing cook.

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