Posts Tagged ‘best fruit pizza recipes’

Brown Turkey Fig, Guanciale and Maytag Blue Pizza

“That’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted”,  my wife said to me as she took a bite of  this pie on a sunny October afternoon. I was somewhat put off by her excitement-as if she was actually saying “You mean to tell me that YOU made this pizza?” After snarfing down a slice, I couldn’t disagree, this pizza really is great!

The pizza in question is festooned with my crowning achievement in agriculture this year, which means I grew something that didn’t die a horrid shriveled death. The Brown Turkey fig tree that my son Sam and I planted (he calls it “Little Grumpy”) had actually produced fruit: little teardrop-shaped orbs of sweetness.

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My introduction to the savory-sweet contrasts of a fig pizza was in Sorrento, Italy, where I shared a prosciutto and fig pizza with my wife on our first trip there. On top was shaved Parmesan and rocket (arugula) drizzled with unfiltered olive oil, and balsamic-soaked raisins. The taste of that pizza (and the one in this recipe) flies gloriously through the whole spectrum of salty, sweet, sour and bitter, which, along with the crunchy textural quality of the crust, is a whole dinner unto itself.

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Figs are originally from western Asia. From excavations, they are known to have been around since 5000 B.C. In Italy, the best known varieties are the Gentile Bianco from Liguria, the Verdello, Ottato, and the Brogiotto Bianco. The Italians usually eat them fresh or paired with Prosciutto di Parma. Figs are frequently sun-dried, which gives them five times more calories by weight than when fresh. Italians also  soak them in blood orange juice and honey, or boil them with honey and cover with chocolate.

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The Brown Turkey fig has much more sophisticated names such as Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero. It is originally from the Provence region of France. Some sources describe the flavor as “insipid,” but not my figs. More teardrop shaped than round, they explode with sweetness.

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In usual Pizza Goon form, I ate wayyyy too many of the figs and had to bolster the pizza with a few black Mission figs from California (so much for a sustainable pie). This pizza also consisted of an adventurous grilled guanciale (pork jowl), roasted sweet red pepper, Maytag blue cheese, fresh mozzarella, baby arugula and a balsamic glaze straight from heaven.

If you do not have fresh figs, use Dalmatia Fig Jam from any specialty store or (and I know I’ll get hell for suggesting this…) buy some Fig Newtons and ever-so-gently cut the breading off of the sides. Scrape the middle into a bowl, add a little water, whisk and…yuk-a-voila, faux fig jam is born.

If you have a great fig pizza recipe, please send it and I will publish it.

Using the Easy Dough Recipe, make two 7 ounce dough balls

Guanciale or pork jowl (or 5 slices of cooked bacon, cut in matchsticks)

1 medium red bell, sweet Italian, or Toro pepper (see Toro pepper pizza)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons crumbled Maytag blue cheese

3 to 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (5 small balls of Ciliegini brand)

15 leaves of baby arugula

6 to 8 fresh figs

Balsamic glaze for drizzling

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Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees, with a heavy duty upside-down cookie sheet in the middle rack.

Fire up the grill to high.

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Slice approximately 2 centimeters of the skin off the guanciale or pork jowl. Turn the jowl on its back and slice 4 to 5 thin (quarter sized thickness) slices.

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Place the pork on the grill and wait for the action to begin. (This practice is inherently unsafe. Why? The pork fat will drip onto the drip pan or coal and start a fire. So be careful.) The jowl will not start flaming until you turn it over. Place the pepper on the slices to get greasy and help burn the skin off and incorporate the porky flavor into the pepper. Keep an eye on the slices as they will flare up. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the jowl is browned around the edges. The pepper will take a little more time to become blackened and devoid of structure.

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Put the pepper in a paper bag or bowl with plastic wrap over the top to steam for 10 minutes. Peel the skin off of the pepper, starting at the top, where you can get ahold of the skin. Without running water over the pepper, finish peeling it. Pull the stem and core out and shake off the seeds. Cut in strips lenthwise down the pepper.

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Cut the guanciale into matchsticks the same size as the peppers.

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Cut the figs into 3 slices each, by first cutting off the stem and slicing vertically down the figs.

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Roll out the dough per the instructions in the recipe. Brush the crust with extra virgin olive oil.

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Place the Maytag blue cheese, then the mozzarella, on the oiled crust.

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Place the guanciale on the cheese, followed by the red pepper strips.

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Place pizza in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

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Wait for 4 minutes to top with the arugula and fig slices.

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Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve one of the best fruit pizza recipes I’ve ever tasted.

Paw Paws, Possums and Pide

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In 1541, Conquistidor Hernando Desoto came acoss the paw paw in the Mississippi Valley while looking for the city of gold. He was so impressed with the fruit that he sent seedlings back to Spain. Poor Hernando never did find that elusive city, but did succeed in introducing smallpox to North America. Because of logging, the paw paw tree has reached the same endangered fate as those natives unlucky enough to have had Hernando sneeze on them. But luckily, in the Ohio Valley, the paw paw is celebrated. It’s a perfect topping for my next pizza.


My Paw Paw Turkish Pide (PEE-day) with lentil cream, arugula, goat feta, pancetta and black sesame.

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The glorious paw paw fruit that hangs from trees in bunches has a banana custard-like taste with a pineapple finish. The flesh feels like all the decadent desserts I’ve ever swooned over: creme brulee, creme caramel being on top of that list. When the leaves of the paw paw tree are young, in the spring, they look exactly like the pods from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  Paw paw is the official fruit of Ohio and is suprisingly hard to spot, even when staring straight at it.

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Chris Schmiel, with the the tenderness of a urologist and the eyes of an eagle, takes the wild paw paw from the forest.

Luckily, I’ve got a friend in Chris Schmiel, founder of Integration Acres, the largest paw paw producer around. He’s also the guy who is makes great chevre and goat feta for my pizzas. Chris can have his goats graze through his paw paw forest without disturbing the trees or twigs, because of some intense chemicals in the bark called Annonaceous acetogenins.

Today is the day before the 2009 Paw Paw festival, which Chris organizes every year. I begged Chris to drag me though the forest for some righteous paw paw scavenging. We headed out into the forest while I kept an eye out for the billy goats (I have a history with them, and I want to sit down again).

Chris deftly dissapears into a leafy wall and screams “Gotcha, you varmint!” I run through the brush and see a live-catch cage with an oppossum in it. “That’s what these varmints do,” Chris says as he points to the opposum scat. The poor creature shoots me a “What? I swear dude, that’s not my poop” look. Here’s the possum:

Finding the right paw paws is a delicate process. Once you’ve donned your jungle gear and waded your way into the green forest, the last thing on your mind is to come back empty handed. This is why folks tend to grab the unripe paw paws and therefore never touch them the rest of their lives. Below is a tutorial on how to pick paw paws.

To taste the paw paw you have to throw caution to the wind. Take off that Hugo Boss tuxedo jacket and get your hands gooey, because most of the succulent soft meat surrounds the small black seeds. Once you taste it, your brain enters “custard mode,” a state of mind where you might babble, “I’m in my comfortable place now, you must leave” as you spit out the seeds and the paw paw juice dribbles down your chin. Chris has years of experience eating these fruits:

Bravo! Now let’s witness an uncultured putz eating a paw paw:

Man, I had some great fun here. I bid Chris Schmiel and Integration Acres good-bye. My car was 16 paw paws and 2 pounds of goat feta heavier as I headed back to make a paw paw pide.


Paw Paw Turkish Pide with Lentil Cream, Arugula, Goat Feta, Pancetta and Black Sesame

I wanted this pide’s flavors to compliment to the paw paw without overwhelming its complex, delicate taste. The creamyness of the ricotta, lentils and Parmesan mirror the texture of the paw paw and pair well with the  pancetta and the pineapple and almost-cinnamony paw paw taste. The spicy arugula wilts in the oven and offers a fantastic textural foil, as well complimenting the astringent goat feta. Finally, the black sesame seeds play the banana notes perfectly while counterbalanced by a tangy balsamic glaze (found at specialty stores or you can use regular balsamic vinegar).

I love keeping cooked lentils on hand at all times for salads. (Trader Joe’s has some bodacious precooked lentils in the fridge department.) If you think lentils are a pain in the ass, substitute cannolini beans out of the can.

Easy Dough Recipe

3 tablespoons ricotta cheese

8 ounces brown or green lentils

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 – 8 large leaves of fresh arugula

3 or 4 slices of thin-cut pancetta

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh crumbled goat feta or goat chevre

1 egg, whipped with tablespoon of warm water

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

4-6 fresh paw paws

Balsamic glaze or vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat baking stone or upturned heavy cookie sheet on middle rack of oven.

Prepare dough recipe using only one 7-ounce dough ball. Let one ball rest in a warm place. Put the extra dough ball on an oiled piece of plastic wrap and into the freezer.

Prepare the lentils.  Lentils are just like sushi rice in that they are best covered and cooked for 20 minutes under low heat after being brought to a boil. Bring either 1 3/4 cup water or chicken stock (or combo) to a boil. Bring back to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer on medium low for 20 minutes. Set aside 3 tablespoons of cooked lentils for this recipe. Let cool and hold the rests in the fridge for future recipes.


Put ricotta, lentils and Parmesan in bowl and whisk together.

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Place the round dough ball on the table with 2 tablespoons of flour. Push the dough out into an 8 – 10 inch football shape or oval. Spread the ricotta and lentils on the dough with a spatula.

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Tear arugula leaves and place on top. Scatter the crumbled feta on the arugula.


Place the pancetta on the pide. Don’t worry that it’s raw: The fats will cook and drain nicely, adding flavor to the pide.

Forming the Pide

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Go along the side of the football shape and fold the dough over the ingredients, making your way to the end. Do not pull dough too hard or it will rip.

(1) Pull both ends together and twist the excess dough. (2) Continue to pull so that you can tie a small knot (the stickiness of the dough will help so do not pull too much). (3) Wrap the dough around your finger and make a small knot. (4) You may need to manouver the dough through, using your pinky finger.


Each side of the pide should have a knot. Gently place the pide onto a parchment covered pizza peel (large spatula for pizza) or a parchment covered pizza screen, or just parchment.

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(1) Using a whisk, stir the egg and water in a bowl until foaming. (2) Brush the egg wash onto the pide with a pastry brush. Remember, if you miss a spot, the sesame will not stick, but do not put too much egg wash on. (3) Using both hands,  sprinkle on the sesame seeds. (4) You may need to use your hand for some hard to reach areas.


Place pide in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Oven temperatures may vary so as a rule of thumb, check the pide after 8 minutes and check the bottom and top dough for golden-dark brown look. The black sesame may make it a little hard to discern the color on the sides.

While the pide is in the oven, prepare the paw paw topping. Use a bowl to catch the pulp.

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Start by cracking the paw paw in half like Chris did in the video. Grab the seeds and press each firmly in your hand.

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You will feel the pulp squeeze away from the seed. The pulp will squirt out between your fingers. Not to worry, keep going, and flick the pulp into the bowl.

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When the pide is out of the oven, don’t worry about cooling it. Place the paw paw on the pide in stripes or any artistic way you can handle. Lick the bowl clean. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy one of the best fruit pizza recipes inspired by the paw paw.