Mediterranean-Inspired Veggie Pizza (and a Fix for Mushroom Lover Overload)
This is a Mediterranean-inspired pizza based on the basic mushroom and olive standby. It came about from my love for spicy red sauce and stacked, savory vegetables. I generally start with Anna's sourdough and zesty Roma tomato sauce, but you can use whatever crust and sauce you'd like. For the toppings, I start with a handful of mushrooms or so, about a quarter of an onion, and ⅓ a jar of Kalamata olives. I don't worry about chopping more than I need since the mushrooms and onions can always be reprised the next night in a soup, a pot of beans, pasta, stir-fry, or to add some pizzaz to a sandwich. Any leftover Kalamata olives can just be put back in the jar. The Kalamata olives are where it’s at. The brine imbues the pizza with a tangy flavor well beyond the more pedestrian black olive. The crimini mushroom is also heartier than your standard button and stands up better to the extra flavor.
While you prepare the toppings, preheat the oven to between 425°F and 500°F. A 12" pizza will usually cook in about 11 minutes at the lower temp, and about 8 minutes at the upper temp.
Prepping the Ingredients
I wipe the mushroom clean with a paper towel since they quickly soak up water. For the sake of your pizza's integrity, you want to avoid this. You'll also want to slice the mushrooms as thinly as possible. This helps with moisture as well. (For thicker slices, people often sauté them first to cook off some of the water.) The onion can be diced into 2 inch strands (pictured below) by cutting a few thin rounds off the bulb, then cutting these in quarters. You can also use a red onion if you prefer. I generally slice the olives in half lengthwise.
Topping the Pizza
Make sure to use plenty of corn meal with serious texture. Pound out the dough over the cornmeal to make a 10-12 inch pie. Whether you use a pizza peel and stone (like I do) or a baking sheet, cornmeal should help ensure the pizza doesn't stick as long as you use enough of it. Once you've massaged out a nice, thin circle of dough, spread the sauce with the back of a spoon. I use just enough to cover the dough. Too much red sauce makes the toppings fall all over the place when I eat it--mostly into my lap.
Layer the cheese over the sauce, then add your mushrooms, onions and olives. The last touch is to add some minced garlic and Greek oregano, and finally some grated parmesan. This finish imparts the pizza with a slight garlic-and-herb bite and a thin layer of crispy cheese goodness. The pizza is ready when the crust is lightly browned and the cheese is starting to brown around the edges.
Pro Tip: Saving a Pizza from Soggy Mushroom Overload. I love mushrooms, but adding more than just a thin layer as I've done the photos above (notice how they form a mound) makes for a soggy pizza. You can stay conservative with the mushrooms, or simply drain the pizza afterwards. When I feel like a lot of mushrooms, I just plan on draining it. To drain the pizza, I place it on a pot with a rim smaller than the circumference of the pizza by a few inches. If the pot isn't small enough (that is, if the circumference of pot and pizza are too similar), the edges of the pizza can buckle and cause a landslide of toppings into the pot instead of just the liquid. I puncture a hole in the middle of the pizza with a knife so that the fluids can drain. I let it sit here for at least 5 minutes, which is how long I let pizzas sit when they come out of the oven anyway. Then, cut and serve!
Toppings (approximate amounts):
-6 large crimini mushrooms (sliced as thin as possible)
-¼ white onion (quartered rounds cut into 2-inch strips)
-1/3 jar of Kalamata olives (at least 1/4 cup)
-3 cloves garlic (chopped)
-3 springs fresh Greek oregano (chopped)
-3 Tbs. grated parmesan
-crust (John's stuffed crust recipe; TJ's dough; frozen or packaged crust, homemade sourdough, french bread, etc.)
-red sauce (homemade, or from a jar)
Additional Toppings to Try: