Sometimes, pizzas just happen. Certain factors gel together in the cosmos to throw great foods into my lap just begging to be rendered into a great pizza. Case in point: a freaky, tie-dye-poisonous-looking-wood-growing-dense-alien-like mushroom that is called “Chicken of the woods” and a lame-green-bulbous-gourd-watermelon-wannabe called “Loki.” (…was I channeling Tyler Perry?)
Last week a good friend of mine foraged some wonderful Sulpher Shelf Mushrooms, also called “Chicken of the Woods.” This wild and bright fungus was new to me. I had tasted another bracket fungus that grew on trees- the “Hen of the woods” (or Maitake) before but this was much different. I was in for a suprise. After a quick saute I said, “Wow, this tastes like chicken,” then made a stupid joke about the Donner party and a plan was hatched to make a great pizza out of it.
That same day at the Athens Farmers Market, my good friend Larry Cowdery of Cowdery farms handed me what looked like a bottle goard saying it was called Loki, in Hindu. That was karma ingredient number two and it seemed the recipe for this pizza was being made for me. And what better ingredient to bind the two…CURRY!
Loki, or Lauki, is a Calabash squash and called by many names like doodhi or bottle squash. Pale green and prized for it’s firm nutty and delicate flavor, Loki is perfectly suited for curries. Unlike other squash, it has a firmer and crisper texture.
I’ve decided to do what I call “A Preppie Pizza” wherein all the labor goes into the prep and then just gets dumped (a culinary term) on the dough. Added to the Loki sauté will be some pattypan squash, garlic, tomato and some excellent curry powder. I had some Paneer cheese hanging around so I will add the mushrooms to these and make a great pie.
Preheat the oven to 495 degrees and insert a pizza stone or heavy upturned cookie sheet on the middle shelf.
One seven-ounce dough ball from the Easy Dough Recipe
Two cloves of garlic
Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One quarter of a large loki squash
One half of a pattypan squash
One Amish paste tomato (or Roma tomato equivalent)
Two tablespoons of good curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces of trimmed Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
five to six ounces of paneer cheese
Cilantro for garnish
Peel the loki squash, cut in half then down the tube. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds out then cut the meat in thin slices.
Cut the ends off of the pattypan then slice in half. Cut into thin strips. Reserve.
Cut the tomato in half lengthwise then into thin strips. Reserve.
Smash the garlic cloves and roughly chop. Reser…you know what to do.
Heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame and add the garlic. Let that saute for three minutes, add the loki, pattypan, salt and curry. Saute for four minutes keeping in mind that this cooking is just to meld the flavors together add the tomato and cook for another minute. These will cook again on the pizza.
The Chicken of the Woods mushroom is very thick so to facilitate a quick saute, slice horizontally in thin slices (or medallions). Add another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the same curried pan and turn to medium high. Wait for the oil to heat (two minutes) then saute the Chicken of the Woods mushroom for five to six minutes. This type of mushroom will not wilt much no matter how long you saute it so watch carefully for searing or browning at the edges. When this occurs, remove mushroom from the heat.
Form the pizza dough into a disc. Place the curried vegetables, the paneer, then the mushroom. Bake in the oven for twelve to fifteen minutes. NOTE: The paneer will not melt much so do not ruin your crust by waiting for it to do so.
Take out of the oven and garnish with cilantro and dig in! This pizza is an awesome vegetarian option to any table!
Here are the ingredients above.