Slice some lemons for smoky pizza’s centerpiece

A lean produce bin in my kitchen sent a friend scurrying in search of the centerpiece for his own birthday feast.

If we could only track down some morels, I reasoned, that would make a fine pizza topping, along with a few slender spears of garden-fresh asparagus and some succulent, springtime chives. Because neither of us could make it to the area’s farmers markets in time, I waved him off and took a different direction, inspired by the fennel bulbs finally sizing up in the garden.

Had I wanted to venture way out on a limb, I could have composed our celebratory pizza with the one produce item I had aplenty: lemons. This pizza recipe caught my eye a few weeks back for the simple reason that lemons are one of the few ingredients that I’ve never tossed onto pizza dough. Despite the rhapsodies of Chicago Tribune writer Leah Eskin, I probably would have discounted it had I not just discovered the wonder of roasted lemons for myself a few weeks prior.

Planning to cook a whole, bone-in, skin-on turkey breast in my pellet smoker, I dry-brined the meat earlier that day and left it to repose under some thinly sliced lemons. Rather than discarding the fruit, I transferred it to the smoker, set at 250 F.

After a couple of hours in the smoker, the meat — and the lemons — were done to perfection. The former was tender and juicy with just-crisped skin. The lemons were deeply caramelized and dried to a consistency of gourmet fruit leather. I ate them all before the turkey was even carved.

With smoked mozzarella, this pizza also hits that deeply savory note. It’s a fitting use for homemade pesto, which I’m fortunate enough to still have in my freezer.

Tribune News Service photo

Smoky Lemon Pizza

1 pound prepared pizza dough

Cornmeal, as needed

1/4 cup prepared pesto

6 ounces shredded smoked mozzarella

1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

Kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

Heat: Set a pizza stone (or upside-down baking sheet) on lowest oven rack. Heat oven to 500 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to an 11-inch circle. Let rest for 15 minutes. Generously dust a pizza peel (or backside of a baking sheet) with the cornmeal. Gently set dough round on cornmeal.

Spread the pesto over dough, leaving bare about ½ inch at perimeter. Sprinkle with the cheese. Scatter on the lemon slices. Season lightly with the salt. Drizzle with the honey. Sprinkle with the red-pepper flakes.

It’s not hard to slide pizza off peel (or pan) and onto heated baking stone, but it takes determination. Open oven door. Lower peel to about level with stone, at a slight downward angle. Forcefully shove peel toward stone, then quickly retract it, letting pizza slide onto stone.

Let pizza bake until cheese has melted and begun to turn golden, for about 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 1 (11-inch) pizza.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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