* The HH loved this so much, he thought it needed a more jazzy name. So he came up with “Pesto Fiesta Pizza.” Olé!
One of the things I decided to do this summer was grow a garden, for the very first time. Maybe it was the influence of the previous tenants, who had one of the most beautiful back yard gardens I’ve ever seen (shame they uprooted everything and took it with them to their new abode when they left!). Maybe it was the billowing mint going forth and multiplying (seemingly by the hour) at the side of our house; maybe it was the current food prices, rising rapidly and steadily like water round a sinking ship. Whatever the reason, I felt inspired to grow my own produce this year.
During one of my weekly shopping trips to the local organic market last May, I bought–ta da!–TWO seedlings: one tomato, and one jalapeno pepper. I felt a little frisson of pride as I hugged the green plastic pots and carried then back to the car. I couldn’t help but smile as I dug little holes in the clay that is our back yard, popped in the root balls I’d loosened from the pots, and propped up the little sprouts of life with even more dirt. And then, I waited.
Miraculously, nature (most notably the superabunance of rain we had this season) took over. It was like one of those segments on National Geographic TV filmed with time-lapse photography: in what seemed like hours, the plants slithered and twisted and grew like crazy, overtaking the small boxed-in area in which they’d been planted. The formerly wee tomato plant with its half dozen yellow blossoms expanded in all directions and ended up yielding something like 41 fruits. The jalapeno plant, too, proliferated, creeping both sideways and skyward and sweeping the earth below it, little white flowers dotting the branches before they sprouted miniature green peppers. The peppers themselves, however, continued to stretch lengthwise and formed long, apple-green veggies that resembled nothing like the jalapenos I’ve ever seen. And THEN, they turned a brilliant, stop-sign red. Are these actually jalapenos? Perhaps the orignal seedling was mislabeled. Anyone out there have any idea what I actually grew? Here’s a photo:
Anyway, the first time I tried to cook with these mysterious darlings, I plucked a couple of green ones and chopped ’em up the way I would regular jalapenos. WHOOOO–Big mistake. WHOAH, AGGHHH, WHOOSH, PANT, PANT, DROOL, TINGLE. . . SWEAT BREAKING OUT ON MY BROW—Whoah, Mama, those babies were HOT. And, as someone who loves spicy foods (I generally can eat raw slices of jalapeno without a problem), let me tell you, these are no ordinary peppers. Yowsah!!
And so, I am now cooking with these fiery rascals, using them much as I would jalapenos (though adjusting for the extreme heat). I actively sought out any and all recipes that call for hot peppers, as the count is up to about four dozen of the little monsters, and more are clearly on the way. I’ve been cooking everything I can think of, from curries to chocolate cookies to candied varieties (thanks, Diann!), and now–pesto.
This pizza was enormously successful and beyond delicious. It left a pleasant, buzzing tingle on the tongue without chafing. It’s also bursting with protein (beware: not a low-fat meal!) and is probably satisfying for that very reason; the HH remarked, “This doesn’t even NEED cheese.” In tossing the pesto together, I took my cue from Nava Atlas’s Very Green Veggie Pesto mixture, then ad-libbed elements of 2 other jalapeno pesto recipes I found on the web, to create this final version. In the end, it seems, the sum is much greater than its peppers.
It may appear as if there’s too much pesto for a single (12 inch) pizza; this is as it should be. I used the entire mixture on one pizza, creating a soft, cushy mattress of green on which I lay the additional accoutrements (in the way of sundried tomato, fresh tomato–from my garden!!, broccoli, red onion, and chopped garlic). If you prefer a thinner base and heavier toppings, then use about 2/3 of the pesto and save the rest to toss over pasta or even steamed cauliflower, as I did. The HH and I decided, in fact, that this pizza would still be superb with nothing other than the pesto and a few stray shards of sliced sundried tomato. I used my standby thin-crust spelt recipe, but use whatever crust you fancy.
“Mum, you know we can’t eat jalapenos, but how about some of those crust edges? After all, we need more food if we’re going to proliferate, too.”
Pesto Fiesta Pizza (Jalapeno Pesto Pizza)
A perfect combination of smooth, spice, and protein-rich seeds and beans. A great way to incorporate some extra minerals and protein in your pizza topping!
1 recipe thin pizza crust (or use your favorite)
2 jalapeno peppers (or other hot peppers), roughly chopped, with seeds (or remove seeds for less heat)
1/2 cup cooked edamame
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 leaves kale (stems removed), roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. light miso
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
up to 2 Tbsp. water, if necessary
Toppings of choice (we used red onion, sundried tomato, broccoli, chopped garlic, and fresh tomato slices)
Preheat oven to 400F ( C). Prepare pizza dough and either press or roll out to fit into pan. Dock the crust by pricking with the tines of a fork over the bottom.
Bake for 15 minutes, until it begins to puff up a bit and the top is dry.
Meanwhile, prepare the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, whir together the jalapenos, edamame, pumpkin seeds, pinenuts, and garlic until almost smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except for toppings and process until you have a relatively smooth paste (though there should still be some grainy texture to it). Taste and adjust the seasoning. The pesto should be fairly thick.
Spread the pesto over the partially baked pizza crust in the pan, and cover with your choice of toppings. Return pizza to the oven and bake an additional 25-35 minutes, until the edges are golden and the garlic and onions in the topping are beginning to brown. Cut into 8 slices and eat immediately. Serves 4.