Homemade pizza is a great way to show off a fresh and feisty chile pepper combination. On this white (no tomato sauce) pizza, I've combined four distinctive peppers. Highly decorative Jimmy Nardello chile peppers are long, slender and gnarly with a mild fruity flavor. Hatch chile peppers are earthy and buttery in flavor and slightly smoky when roasted. If Hatch chiles are unavailable, mild Anaheim peppers are a good substitute.
Poblano chile peppers are the fresh version of dried ancho peppers. When fresh, they are relatively mild and earthy with a bite, and are great for roasting. Calabrian chiles are small, bright red peppers, round or conical in shape, with a moderately high heat level. They are available fresh and are also sold jarred in the Italian or condiment section of your grocery store. They make an excellent garnish with a kick of heat.
Feel free to mix and match your own combination of peppers, depending on taste and availability, but try to include a colorful range of sweet to hot for the most flavorful result.
When possible, I make my pizza on the grill. Not only does it keep the heat outdoors in the warm weather, but it yields a wonderful charred and smoky flavor to the crust. Bear in mind a few tips when preparing your pizza:
1. Store-bought dough is OK! I confess that while I make my dough from scratch from time to time, I often purchase fresh pizza dough at the store to use immediately or freeze for later use. Prepared doughs are usually sold in 1-pound packages and yield one large rectangular pizza or two small round pizzas.
2. Don't overload your pizza. If the pizza has too many toppings, it will be heavy and the crust can be soggy. The amounts below are for one large rectangular pizza, using 1 pound of fresh dough, thinly rolled or stretched. Have all of your ingredients prepped and ready, so that once you roll out the pizza, all you need to do is assemble. Use your judgment when layering the ingredients, and don't feel compelled to use every last piece. When stretching the dough, it's fine if it's irregular in shape. The key is to make it uniform in thickness to ensure even cooking.
3. Parchment paper is your friend. I find it easiest to assemble the pizza on parchment paper, which is easy to slide on and off of the pizza stone. You can trim any excess paper around the edge of the pizza to prevent charring on the grill. If you don't have a pizza paddle, you can use a rimless cookie sheet to slide under the paper.
4. A pizza stone is ideal. Whether you make a pizza in the oven or on the grill, a pizza stone is a terrific way to transmit the heat evenly to the bottom of the pizza. If you don't have a pizza stone, then a perforated pizza pan or a baking sheet will also work, but the cooking times may vary.
Lynda Balslev is the co-author of "Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture" (Gibbs Smith, 2014). Contact her at TasteFood, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the TasteFood blog at tastefoodblog.com.
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