28 July 2013

Artichoke Avocado Pesto Mini-Pizza

With all the beautiful summer produce available, you'd never think that a foodie like me would be distracted by the pantry.  But alas, this is indeed the case.  I have been absolutely obsessing over canned artichoke hearts lately.  Munching them here, there and everywhere is my new favorite past time.  And it seems I'm not alone in this obsession.  Ever since I saw this delicious recipe for couscous where artichokes stood in for the typical cucumber, I have happily joined the subbing bandwagon.  But out of all the dishes I've tried and created, the best by far is this slamming Artichoke Avocado Pesto Pizza.  Beautiful to look at and even better to eat, this little pizza is green goddess perfection.

The first time I tried this combo was on a whim and a tortilla crust.  I'd never made anything with avocados and artichokes, but it seemed the creamy, rich avocado would be either terrible or fabulous with the briny meatiness of the artichoke hearts.  Happily, it was the later.  Artichokes and avocados, allies of alliteration, are also allies on the plate.  The strong brininess is mellowed by a touch of creaminess, making for very happy little taste buds.  And since the artichokes have such a strong salty flavor, there is no need for extra lemon juice to brighten up the avocado.  A perfect pairing (more alliteration...huzzah!)

Yes, my pesto is in a shot glass.  The small surface area reduces the amount of browning.  That's some foodie smarts, right there.

Now I don't know about you, but I love uniformly colored pizzas.  White, red or green, they're such a pretty little diversion from the multi-colored splashes of most pies.  It's almost as if they have this regal air of sophistication, such as dressing entirely in white at a resort or all blue for Halloween (nothing says sophisticated like Papa Smurf).  So I was only too happy to embrace my favorite color and turn this into a little green goddess pizza.  Fresh chopped spinach adds an extra boost of vitamins and minerals while delicious basil pesto adds its amazing garlic flavor to the dish.  The end result has so much flavor from the artichokes and pesto that all you need is a little sprinkling of pepper to bring it all together - no extra seasonings required.

PS - Have you ever tried freezing pesto?  It works like a dream!  For about a year I've been making wrestling with half batches of pesto, which is surprisingly difficult.  In the smaller volume, I would spend so much time scraping the sides of our mini food processor and grumbling that I was hardly able to enjoy the end product.  When I saw someone's genius post on freezing pesto, I promptly kicked myself.  By freezing this fabulous spread, you have it on hand at all times for any pizza/sandwich/pasta that you might enjoy.  This recipe even shows you how to prevent that unattractive browning of the pesto, another helpful tip for those who want to keep that vibrant green color intact.  Even if yours can't been cool denture shapes like mine, you're bound to enjoy the end result.

As previously mentioned, this initial whim was created using a whole wheat tortilla as the crust.  I love using tortillas as quick, crunchy thin crusts when I don't have any dough on hand.  Plus, it's super cute to have little personal pizzas instead of a big ol' boy.  (Cute and sophisticated...we're going classy, folks.)  So upon recreating this scrumptious little pizza on a regular crust, I decided to honor my whim by sticking with little individual pizzas.  Good as this recipe was on the tortilla, it was even better on the whole wheat crust.  The bottom of the crust is super crispy since it's baked on a pre-heated pizza stone or pan while the top is still tender and chewy.  And like any good pesto pizza, the flavor seeps into the dough for a crust that is to die for.  In fact, I might use my other crust to make pesto flatbread....hmmmmm.......

Artichoke Avocado Pesto Pizza (2 individual pizzas or 1 12-inch pizza)

  • 1/2 recipe Easy Pizza Crust
  • 2 tbs Basil Pesto (or store bought)
  • 2/3 c spinach, chopped
  • 2/3 c artichoke hearts, drained
  • 4 oz (1 1/3 c) shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbs green onions, sliced into rounds
Place a pizza pan or pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.  Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with cornmeal and shape your dough into one large crust or two individual crusts (tin foil works too if you're out of parchment).  Spread each crust with one tablespoon of pesto, then sprinkle with the chopped spinach and artichoke hearts.  Top with shredded mozzarella.  

When the oven is hot, transfer the pizzas and the parchment paper directly onto the pre-heated pizza stone or pan.  Reduce the heat to 450 degrees and bake for 6-8 minutes, until cheese is golden brown and bubbling.  Remove the stone/pan from the oven.  Lay the sliced avocado on top of the cheese, then garnish with the toasted pine nuts and green onions.  Slice and serve hot.  

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