Remember Iain? Of course you do. Well, this week, I made a pizza for his blog project. I know Wisconsin would be the easiest pie for me to tackle, but according to those who live up there, stuff just isn’t ready. I still have to wait a little bit for ramps, asparagus, berries of all kinds. It’s okay. I just didn’t want to make a turnip pizza.

anyway, I thought about what pizza I’d really like to make. With Iain’s completion of Pennsylvania, I decided to do a little companion puzzle piece. A little bit of Googling pointed me to New Jersey’s favorite foods.

Maybe I’m one of the only people to realize this, or maybe I just remembered because Zach Braff wouldn’t shut up about New Jersey for a few years and probably mentioned it, but New Jersey is the nation’s leading supplier of eggplant. Also known as the Garden State, New Jersey is the birthplace of the Tomato Pie, with Trenton staking the earliest claim to the recipe.

Tomato pie is a pizza with the toppings in reverse. Crust-Cheese-Topping-Sauce. It ends up looking like a stuffed pizza. The tricky part for this pizza is that the Trenton style of tomato pie is thin crust. There’s no place to hide the sauce. Just goes right on top with no retaining wall on the sides.

***

I needed things. I knew I had, in the fridge, my basil pesto from last week. That was going to be the base. Brushed on as a thin layer directly between the crust and cheese layer, it was my way of saying to New Jersey that even though people may only remember them for being dirty and giving the world the idea that only greasy, fried Italian things come from the shore, that underneath it all, there’s a tiny patch of green that I know is there, and it makes everything alright.

I picked up the following- Provolone (mozzarella uses the same curd as what becomes provolone. Plus, sliced thin, it’s easy enough to place in an even layer on the pizza), tomatoes for sauce, onions, garlic, and baby eggplant. I thought about getting a large one, but these were about the size of a juice glass, and we only had to have enough for one pizza. Also, parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

Conspicuously cut to not show a label, but I really made the Pesto. Really.

So, I came home to my standby pizza dough rising in the oven. I sliced the eggplant into 1/2″ thick rounds, breaded them in parmesan breadcrumbs and egg, and fried them. Setting them aside, I made the sauce. Onion and garlic, sweat in olive oil for five minutes. I added some leftover capers from a few nights before, and a can of seasoned tomatoes, just because it doesn’t have to be great. Just sauce.

Sauce cooked down, reduced until it was pretty chunky with little excess liquid. That’s when I hit it with the immersion blender. After blending, it thickened and reduced pretty quickly. Instead of a runny sauce, I had one that I could dollop onto a pizza. The consistency was great, and the sauce was not going to run anywhere.

I rolled the crust out, and pinched my way to a vaguely jellybean-shaped crust. I took all the pesto and spread it across the crust, layered the provolone, and put the eggplant parm on top. Two small eggplant yielded about 16 small slices, which fit the pie perfectly all the way down from Hackensack to Cape May.

Adding the sauce, I used the eggplant as a natural barrier for spills, and it seemed to work out fine. By the time it was sauced, the makeshift marinara had thickened up to a paste.  It worked so well. With a flourish of grated cheese, it went in the oven for 25 minutes at 425.

It turned out perfectly. As it was in the oven, I got a call from my lady friend, who said that she was bringing guests over, and she hoped that there was enough food. I looked at the pizza, which while filling seemed deceptively small in surface area, and immediately grabbed the other dough ball in the fridge. The oven was still on, so I didn’t have to worry about anything but making enough food to feed everyone.

Pizza number two, the other one, was what I had in the fridge. Orange peppers, capers, kalamata olives, a little sauce, feta, more provolone, roasted garlic. Into the oven it went, and I was happy when it came out and everyone was able to enjoy more than a couple slices of pizza.

I enjoyed both pizzas, but the Jersey Pizza held a special place in my heart. I did it to help out a friend, to feed my household, and to utilize the fresh bounty of a state not normally associated with freshness. Here’s my pizza. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed making and eating it.

New Jersey-Now available in Pizza!

Don’t forget to check out the 50 State Pizza Project at: http://www.the-muffin-man.com

You’ll be very happy you did.

Advertisements