Late summer reaps a kaleidoscope of peppers. It’s impossible not to scoop up armfuls of chile peppers with myriad shapes and a rainbow of colors. Some are sweet, some are fiery, and all are rich sources of vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium and fiber, with the added benefit of beta-carotene in the red and orange varieties. Many recipes specify a certain type of pepper, often the ubiquitous bell pepper, but when it’s the height of pepper season, I opt for combining a variety in one dish, bringing a balance of heat, sweetness, flavor and color.
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 that are in season. Highly decorative Jimmy Nardello chile peppers are long, slender and gnarly with a mild fruity flavor. Hatch chile peppers are a seasonal specialty, prolific from August through September. They 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.
Pizza With Roasted Cauliflower, Chile Peppers and Green Olives
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: Makes one rectangular thin-crust pizza, approximately 10 by 15 inches
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 head small cauliflower, florets broken into bite-size pieces, about 1 1/2 cups
3 assorted chile peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello, Hatch and Poblano, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh pizza dough
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup loosely packed finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
8 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella (1 ovalini or 8 ciliegine balls), thinly sliced or shredded
2 Calabrian chiles, thinly sliced (or 2 tablespoons chopped jarred Calabrian chiles)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Picholine, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees or prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Preheat a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack or on the grill grates for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
Toss the cauliflower and sliced peppers with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Lightly season with salt and black pepper and toss again.
Roll out or stretch the pizza dough to your desired shape and thickness on parchment paper. I prefer to stretch my dough thin in a large rectangular shape.
Lightly brush the dough with the garlic oil, leaving a 3/4-inch border clear around the edges. Sprinkle the red chili flakes and 1/4 cup pecorino cheese over the dough. Spread the cauliflower and peppers over the crust, keeping the border clear.
Arrange the mozzarella over the pizza, gently nestling around and over the vegetables. Scatter the Calabrian chilies and green olives over the top and sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese over the pizza.
Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the cauliflower is tinged, the crust is golden brown and crisp, and the cheese is melted, 13 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the crust.
Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and immediately brush the crust with some of the garlic oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Sprinkle the lemon zest and black pepper over the pizza. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
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