Asian Pear Pizza with Blue Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Walnut Pesto

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We picked up some Asian pears from Saunders Brothers Orchard at the farmers’ market this weekend.

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We also picked up a very fancy grape leaf wrapped ripened Chesapeake Blue goat cheese from Sullivan’s Pond Farm.

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With a little help from Serious Eats to perfect my onion caramelization method, and a batch of my basil pesto with just a few ingredient adjustments, we were in business.

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Nutty, earthy pesto made with Victory Farms basil. Crisp, slightly sweet pears from Saunders Brothers. Caramelized red onion from Walnut Hill Farm. Tangy blue goat cheese from Sullivan’s Pond Farm. It was a locavore’s late summer feast!

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I served this alongside a simple salad of fresh arugula with dried cherries, walnuts, and a berry walnut vinaigrette. Fresh cherries would be perfect this time of year too. There are a few steps to get the components just right, but this pizza is worth the extra effort. It looks impressive but is easy to make; it works on a weeknight family dinner or for company on the weekend.

Asian Pear Pizza with Blue Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Walnut Pesto

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Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 recipe pizza dough, store bought or homemade (great recipe here)
  • 5 small Asian pears (or 3 large), thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. blue cheese (I used goat cheese but any kind will do)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over low-medium heat in a medium pan. Caramelize the red onions according to instructions here: How to Caramelize Onions.
  2. While the onions are cooking, make the pesto. In a food processor, combine basil, mint, walnuts, garlic, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt to taste.
  3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add sliced Asian pears and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside to dry.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Top with pesto, sliced pears, and caramelized onions. Crumble the blue cheese over top.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

Escarole

To celebrate my POM Wonderful dinner party, I am serving up a week’s worth of pomegranate recipes starting Monday, November 15th. Before I get POM’ed out, I want to share a first-time recipe from earlier this month.

I picked up this escarole at the SOTJ Market a couple weeks ago. I had seen something on TV about escarole as a traditional Sicilian dish, so when I saw the bright green leaves at the Victory Farms stall, I had to try it for myself. When Kyle and I were lured in (again!) by the Bombolini Pasta stall, I started thinking about serving the escarole alongside a pasta dish or incorporated into a one-pot pasta meal. However, inspiration struck when I least expected it: a weeknight on which I had planned a very involved dinner and I had not planned to work two hours late.

When I burst through the door of my apartment just after 7:00 and kicked my peep-toe heels under the coffee table, I knew that a cooking marathon was not about to happen. I HATE it when this happens because we usually end up ordering greasy subs packed with sautéed vegetables, delicious oily dressing, and melted mozzarella from the Italian place around the corner, or picking up white paper takeout containers stuffed with vegetable fried rice or mock beef and broccoli, dripping with spicy brown sauce. And while the local takeout options are delicious, I always feel like I have failed to put a nutritious meal on the table. I also wonder if the thick slices of sautéed zucchini or the chunky broccoli florets dripping in oil even count as a vegetable serving once you factor in all the fat and sodium they are swimming in. 😦

With limited time and a random assortment of ingredients, I made it my mission to make this night different than the others. On this night, we got plenty of greens. We enjoyed the last of the season’s local heirloom tomatoes. We got the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal with almost the convenience of takeout pizza. I present to you…

Pesto Pizza with Escarole and Heirloom Tomatoes

Because this was just thrown together, the measurements are not exact. Here is a rough outline of the process; you may adjust it to your tastes.

Start with a bunch of fresh escarole. This stuff can get pretty gritty, so make sure you wash it thoroughly by submerging the leaves in a bowl of cold water and shaking the leaves to get the grit out. Remove them from the water and rinse under the tap. Pat dry or use a salad spinner (I need one of those!) to remove excess water. Do a rough chop on the escarole before cooking.

I have found that this process can be made a lot easier by using a cutting board with a built-in colander. See the colander in the corner of the photo?

Next I started a pot of boiling water on the stove. I added a pinch of coarse salt and then threw in the chopped escarole when the water reached a rolling boil. After 8-10 minutes, I poured the escarole and water over a colander and squeezed the water out with a spoon.

Because the escarole was still really watery and that would make for a soggy pizza, I squeezed it between some paper towels, like you would do with frozen chopped spinach.

To make the pizza, start with your favorite pizza dough recipe. I use the Martha White Pizza Crust Mix packets from the grocery store that are just add water and olive oil. They are fool proof which is great because I have a fear of yeast that I haven’t quite conquered yet.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while you assemble your toppings. Top the pizza with fresh pesto. You can use the store-bought stuff, but the homemade pesto I made this summer is absolutely divine and freezes well for use year-round. I have included a link to the recipe at the end of this post.

On top of the pesto, add mozzarella cheese, escarole, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and the Italian seasoning of your choice. Mine was oregano, basil, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. Finish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. I used aged parmesan and it was excellent.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Buon appetito!

Homemade Pesto

I use the recipe posted here on Savory Sweet Life. This summer, I made a huge batch and then dropped portions of 2 tablespoons each on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Then I froze it overnight and rolled up the wax paper with the pesto blobs and sealed it in a plastic freezer bag. Every time I want “fresh” pesto, I pop a blob or two off of the wax paper. It is so much better than any store-bought pesto I have ever tried!

Now I am off to package pomegranate arils for freezing and portion some out for my coworkers. I’ll start rolling out the POM party recipes tomorrow, so if you ever find yourself in the situation that I was in (proud owner of 36 pomegranates), you’ll know what to do!