In the land of jamón and boquerones, escalivada is a welcome treat to any hungry vegan. It’s a simple Spanish dish of smoky grilled eggplant and bell peppers, often served with tomato, drowned in olive oil and served with bread. It’s straightforward, unpretentious and absolutely delicious, so why not put it all together on a pizza?
This version stays pretty close to the traditional dish. The key to making this one as well as any escalivada is the grill. I’ve provided alternative cooking methods but it’s so completely worth it to bust out the grill. I cannot emphasize that enough. The smoky, charred tastes you get from the grill and especially from a charcoal grill really become the backbone to this dish. Bell peppers and eggplant are great but super smoky grilled peppers and eggplant are on another level. I like to use baby eggplants for this one because the skin is tender enough to leave on, which helps with grilling. But a regular sized eggplant works great too. One last suggestion: don’t hold back on the olive oil when you’re serving this pizza. Traditional escalivada is often served completely submerged in olive oil, which you’re to sop up with the bread. I like to give this pizza an extra glug or two of olive oil to make sure that bright, fruity flavor makes it into the otherwise smoky mix.
Makes 1 12-14-inch pizza
-10-12 oz. pizza dough
-1 small eggplant or several baby eggplants
-2 bell peppers
-½ cup perfect pizza sauce or other tomato-based pizza sauce
1. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven and preheat to it’s maximum temperature.
2. Heat your grill to high. Place whole bell peppers on the grill and cook until their skin is burnt and completely blackened, rotating as needed. This can take upwards of 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can roast your peppers over a low-medium open flame on the stove. Just take a piece of aluminum foil and surround your burner to catch any drippings. Rotate peppers until an even amount of char is achieved. When peppers are blackened, remove them from the grill or stovetop and place in a covered container for 15 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel and discard burnt skin and seeds. Slice into long strips and set aside.
3. While the peppers roast, prepare the eggplant. If using a regular sized eggplant, I recommend peeling it. If you’re using baby eggplants with softer skin you can get away without peeling. Slice eggplant in ¼ inch slabs lengthwise. In a large bowl, toss eggplant pieces with a good pinch of salt and allow them to sweat for 5-10 minutes. Discard any liquid from the bowl and then toss again with a big glug of olive oil. Add eggplant slices to your hot grill and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes or until they soften and get nice black grill marks. Set aside to cool. Alternatively, you can fry your eggplant slices in a frying pan on medium heat with several tbsps of olive oil, also cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side.
4. When you’re ready to assemble, stretch out the chilled pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a pizza peel that’s been lightly dusted with semolina or all-purpose flour.
5. Working quickly, spoon on the sauce and spread evenly. Add the roasted pepper strips, the eggplant slices and then top with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Put the pizza in the oven directly on the pizza stone or sheet pan. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until crust starts to brown. Carefully remove and place on a cooling rack. After a minute or so, top with a handful of fresh parsley and another drizzle of olive oil. Don’t skimp on the oil! Serve immediately.