Move Over Mozzarella
Top pizza with cheeses from Spain, France and Norway
-Ronnie Campbell, President of The Burrell Group, Ltd., a specialty foods public relations firm
Mozzarella isn’t the only cheese that’s delicious on pizza. There are lots of great cheeses that work wonderfully on pizza and that pair beautifully with lots of topping ingredients.
Spanish cuisine, which is gaining momentum here in the States, provides a wealth of cheese and topping ideas. Spain’s sheep’s milk Manchego cheese (I recommend a three-month aged, produced by Garcia Baquero) melts beautifully and works up well to Serrano ham, pimiento and caramelized onions on pizza dough. Or, you can make a simple pizza with soft, fresh ricotta baked on Focaccia-style bread. Top it with paper thin slices of Manchego and a few ingredients from traditional paella like tomatoes, garlic and peppers. It’s also great with smoky paprika or saffron, grilled shrimp or chorizo, shredded pork or lamb.
France is a gastronomic playground and a source of infinite cheesy pizza possibilities. For instance, pair Boursin – a fresh, soft cow’s cream/milk cheese blended with herbs and made from an authentic French Gournay recipe – with Gruyere and caramelized Vidalia onions for a pizza that’s a take on French Onion Soup. Or, combine crumbled Boursin Pepper variety with a bit of Roquefort and thinly sliced smoked duck presented on baked puff pastry dough. You can serve it with some figs or cranberries!
Bet you’d never think of Norway as a “go-to” for tasty cuisine, but there’s a burgeoning culinary scene just waiting to be explored. Norwegian Jarlsberg, a cow’s milk cheese, has a mellow-nutty flavor and superior melt-ability, making it a perfect base for pizza. Pair with mushroom, tomato, arugula and season with fresh chive or tarragon. Or, combine Jarlsberg with fresh chevre and top with smoked salmon, crayfish or shrimp, thin sliced roasted potatoes and season with dill and capers. Serve on flatbread or thin-crusted pizza. Fondue pizza might combine Jarlsberg with a well-aged Gruyere or Fontina, sliced kielbasa or sausage, roasted garlic plus a touch of nutmeg and caraway.
Pizza is great for dessert too! A lovely dessert combination is fresh chevre with caramelized onions, pears and crispy honey walnuts baked on puff pastry or small pizza rounds.
Jarlsberg Norwegian Cheese Mushroom Pizza
Recipe courtesy of Norseland Cheese, www.norseland.com
1 ball fresh or frozen (thawed) pizza dough (or use prepared crust)
2 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups grated Jarlsberg cheese
Handful of clean baby arugula
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon or chives
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat pizza stone or large baking sheet.
On lightly floured surface sprinkled with cornmeal, roll dough out to about a 12- to 14-inch round. Brush with olive oil. Layer with tomato sauce, cheese, arugula, sliced mushrooms; sprinkle with tarragon or chives. Transfer to pizza stone or large flat baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned. Let stand on wire rack, 10 minutes.
Pear and Goat Cheese Dessert Pizza
Recipe courtesy of Woolwich Dairy, www.woolwichdairy.com
2 ounces dried pears (1 cup)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 pizza crusts, 7 inches in diameter
1 Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
4 ounces Woolwich Dairy www.woolwichdairy.com goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped toasted honey walnuts
Combine dried pears, water, apple juice and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Put the pears and all the liquid into a blender or a food processor. Add vinegar and blend until a coarsely chopped consistency. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spray baking sheet with a non-stick cooking spray. Place the pizza crusts on sheet and place them in the preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and spread 1/2 of the cooked pear mixture evenly over the top of each pizza, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges. Arrange the pear slices on top of the sauce.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the pear slices. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt; sprinkle each pizza with tablespoon of walnuts and bake for two minutes more. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Cut each pizza into six wedges and serve immediately.