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Creative Toppings to Make Pizza a Work of Edible Art

March 24, 2014

Creative Toppings to Make Pizza a Work of Edible Art

March 24, 2014

Great art and great pizza: The seven easy, colorful pies here pay homage to modern-art masterpieces — and they taste great too. Use them as a starting point for your own edible artistic creations.

Start with a great dough, the primed canvas that will let your other ingredients shine. Then comes the “paint”: toppings that bring delicious flavor, bright color, and contrast between both cooked and fresh ingredients. Last is the heat source, which for these pizza recipes is just a traditional oven and a basic sheet pan.

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Prosciutto Mozzarella Pizza

Grated mozzarella is laid over the raw dough and baked into the crust. It comes out of the oven sizzling hot, so when prosciutto slices are immediately placed on top, the fat and the flavors of the meat melt and meld into the golden, bubbly cheese.

Option: Top the baked pie with sliced fresh figs, and drizzle it with honey.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 6 thin slices prosciutto
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Cover with mozzarella in an even layer. Sprinkle with pepper.

2. Bake until cooked through, crust is golden on edges and bottom, and cheese is golden-brown in spots, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove from oven. Immediately arrange prosciutto slices in even intervals across pie. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

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Two-Tomato Pizza

Abstract expressionist Mark Rothko’s color-field paintings, like Orange and Yellow, are the inspiration for this pizza.

This is pizza at its most elemental — with just pureed yellow and red tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and dough. Because it’s made from a slow-rise, minimally handled dough, the crust is an outstanding mix of crispy, tender, and chewy, with a developed flavor all its own.

Option: Scatter freshly dressed salad greens over the top of the baked pie.

Pulse the yellow and red tomatoes in separate batches in a food processor, just to a coarse puree.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
1 medium yellow tomato, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely pureed (about 1/4 cup)
2 medium red tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely pureed (about 1/2 cup)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Spread yellow tomato sauce over 1/3 of length, and red tomato sauce over remaining 2/3 of length. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.

2. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, 20 to 24 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

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Escarole, Provolone, and Cherry-Tomato Pizza

Jackson Pollock is famous for large paint-splattered canvases like his Number 1, which inspired this pizza (and the next recipe).

Savory provolone, hearty dressed greens, and spicy red-pepper flakes are baked together on the crust. Before serving, sweeten and cool the assertive flavors with randomly placed cherry-tomato halves.

Option: Top the baked pie with sliced pickled pepperoncini.

1 small head escarole, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 to 2 heads Treviso radicchio, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon vinegar-packed capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
6 slices provolone
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a bowl, toss escarole with radicchio, capers, red-pepper flakes, and oil.

2. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Arrange cheese slices side-by-side to cover dough, then top evenly with escarole mixture. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, about 22 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Scatter cherry tomatoes on top, squeezing each to release a bit of juice onto pie. Sprinkle with salt. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

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Eggplant, Pistachio, and Pomegranate Pizza

Borrowing from the flavors of the eastern Mediterranean, this vegetarian pizza is a study in textural contrast: Eggplant is thinly sliced lengthwise, pressed into the dough, and drizzled with olive oil and salt before baking. Then salty nuts; bursting, juicy seeds; and herbaceous green cilantro leaves are tossed over the warm pie as soon as it’s out of the oven. Crumbled fresh feta cheese manages to be both cool and firm in some spots, and warm and soft in others.

Option: Crumble cooked lamb sausage over the baked pie.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
1 to 2 small eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise into 6 strips
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup salted pistachios, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Arrange eggplant lengthwise on dough, 3 slices side-by-side on top half, 3 on bottom half; press into dough. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and red-pepper flakes.

2. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, about 18 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with pistachios, feta, pomegranate seeds, and cilantro. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Mixed-Mushroom and Scallion Pizza

Pablo Picasso’s early work like Le Guitariste was the inspiration for this pizza.

Start by blanketing the dough with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Press in scallions to create faceted shapes, then fill in those shapes with any combination of sliced fresh mushrooms, such as portobello, cremini, button, and beech. Cut slices along the scallions for graphic presentation.

Option: Slide a few sunny-side-up fried eggs on top before serving.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 scallions, trimmed and halved lengthwise
3 cups mixed mushrooms, such as portobello, cremini, button, and beech, stems removed, caps thinly sliced (about 8 ounces)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over dough. Arrange scallions in an abstract pattern, as shown on page 88, pressing into dough, then press mushrooms into dough between shapes. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.

2. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, about 17 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Nicoise-Salad Pizza

This pizza is an homage to Pablo Picasso’s painting Girl Before a Mirror.

The classic French Nicoise salad gets deconstructed on this pizza. Press sliced raw small potatoes and pitted black olives into the dough, and brush on some olive oil before baking. Here, to emulate Picasso’s masterpiece, blanched beans, tuna fillets, sliced red onions, arugula, and tomatoes were artfully arranged on the cooked pie. Alternatively, toss all the salad ingredients in a bowl first and scatter them over the cooked pie.

Option: Top the baked pie with fresh anchovies.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
1 to 2 small potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup black nicoise olives, pitted
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
3 to 4 ounces jarred oilpacked tuna (about 1/2 jar)
2 ounces haricots verts, blanched and sliced in half on the bias
1 small red tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 handful baby arugula
1/4 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Arrange half of potato slices on top half of dough, the rest on bottom half, covering entirely; press into dough. Add olives, pressing into dough. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt.

2. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, about 18 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Artfully arrange tuna and remaining vegetables on top; sprinkle with vinegar and drizzle with more oil. (Alternatively, toss these ingredients together in a bowl, then top pie with salad.) Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Squash, Brussels Sprout, and Sausage Pizza

Graphic circles were a reoccuring motif in Wassily Kandinsky’s art. This pizza is a nod to his Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles.

Coat the dough with pureed fresh tomatoes, then layer on slices of delicata-squash rings, soppressata, and halves of Brussels sprouts. As the pizza bakes, everything roasts and caramelizes together, resulting in a salty, sweet, earthy flavor.

Option: Dust the baked pie with a flurry of grated pecorino cheese.

Instead of peeling and seeding fresh tomatoes, you can also use three whole peeled tomatoes from a 14-ounce can.

1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, or 3/4 pound store-bought dough
2 large red tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely pureed in a food processor (about 3/4 cup)
12 1/8-inch-thick rounds delicata squash, seeded
6 small brussels sprouts, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 thin slices soppressata
Coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Form dough (as directed in Basic Pizza Dough recipe) in a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Spread tomato sauce evenly over dough. In a large bowl, toss squash and brussels sprouts with oil. Arrange squash in 4 rows of 3. Place a soppressata slice in center of each squash round, then top with a brussels-sprout half. Sprinkle with salt.

2. Bake until cooked through and crust is golden on edges and bottom, about 24 minutes.

3. Using a metal spatula, slide pie onto a cutting board. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

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