Eggplant Confit Pizza

eggplantconfitpizza

I know most people don't think of pizza as an elegant meal.  Traditionally eaten in front of the TV and topped with greasy pepperoni, sausage or bland vegetables, it's not known to be an extraordinary dish. But when you pick out some top-notch ingredients and dress them up, pizza really can be a bit fancy.  Case in point - the above pictured Eggplant Confit pizza with Ricotta Salata.  A delicious and slightly extravagant take on your regular old pizza.  It looks beautiful, tastes wonderful but super simple to make.

I was inspired to make this pizza after dining at a new Italian place nearby with my husband Dario.  On the specials menu was an interesting sounding dish...Eggplant Confit pizza.  Images of rich duck breast simmered in oil flashed through my mind.  I had no idea that you could actually confit a vegetable.  But how bad could it be?  I went ahead and ordered the speciality pizza and needless to say...there definitely weren't any leftovers.  Between Dario and I (his pizza slightly ignored) we devoured it in seconds.  It was one of the best pizzas I had in a long time.
eggplantconfit2

There was no question in my mind that I was going to try to recreate this dish at home.  It was just too good.  But confit an eggplant?  I had no idea what that entailed.  I know what confit is... in the context of a duck.  So using the same technique on an eggplant couldn't be all that different.  I started by cubing up a giant eggplant and cooked it in a good amount of olive oil.  I didn't submerge it in oil...obviously that doesn't coincide with the nutritionist half of me.  A quarter cup was just enough olive oil to use without compromising flavor or texture.  I then cooked the eggplant for about 45 minutes on medium low.  Somewhat similar to the technique of caramelizing onions.

Then I decided adding tomatoes would be a good idea...it is a pizza after all and tomatoes, I think, really do belong on pizza.  Canned tomatoes come with a lot of liquid so I had to reduce the mixture for an additional 30 minutes so that I was left with a thick and rich sauce.  Or I suppose, a confit.  I pureed it into a pesto-like consistency making it nice and easy to spread over the pizza crust.  The tomatoes lend a slight sweetness to the sauce, so a nice salty cheese, like ricotta salata, balances out the whole thing.  Fresh basil...a must on pizzas for me!
eggplantconfitThis stuff is delicious!  It almost tastes like eggplant parmesan in sauce form.  I think I would eat just about anything if it has this eggplant confit slathered on it.  Which is a good thing, because this recipe makes a ton.  I'll either have to make a lot pizzas or use it up in other recipes.  I'm thinking it'd be great as a bruschetta topping, tossed over hot pasta (and loosened up with some pasta water) or added to grilled veggie paninis.  But for now it's going to rank as my favorite pizza topping!

Eggplant Confit Pizza with Ricotta Salata:
Ingredients:  

  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 1 tsp both salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 springs fresh rosemary
  • 1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 16 oz refrigerated pizza dough (or your own recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal (for dusting)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta salata
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, optional (for drizzling over pizza)

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saute pan over medium low heat.
  2. Add cubed eggplant, salt and pepper.  Saute for about 45 minutes or until eggplant is golden and has broken down a good bit.
  3. Add in garlic and canned tomatoes - breaking up whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  4. Cook eggplant and tomato mixture for an additional 30 minutes or until mixture has thickened and most of the excess moisture has evaporated.
  5. Place eggplant tomato mixture into a food processor in batches.  Process until completely smooth.
  6. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Reserve 1 cup of eggplant confit and place the rest in a tupperware and freeze for a later use.
  8. Preheat oven to 500 F.  If using a pizza stone, place stone in cold oven and preheat it along with the oven.  Allow stone to heat for at least 15 minutes at 500 F before putting pizza in.  If not using a pizza stone, a well oiled baking sheet will suffice - do not preheat baking sheet.
  9. Roll out pizza dough to about 1/4" thick.  Place dough on baking sheet or pizza peel sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent dough from sticking).
  10. Rub 1 cup of the eggplant confit over top of pizza leaving about 1/2" of crust at the edge.  Sprinkle on kalamata olives and ricotta salata.
  11. Slide onto pizza stone (if using, otherwise place baking sheet into oven) and bake for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown around the edges.
  12. Remove pizza from oven, sprinkle on the parmesan cheese, torn basil and drizzle additional olive oil over top of pizza.  Slice and serve hot!
 
Maria Tadic is author of Bean A Foodie blog:  http://beanafoodie.com

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