One of Berkeley’s most beloved institutions is The Cheese Board, an amazing cheese shop and bakery that puts out the most interesting and delicious pizza you could imagine. Each day one of the members of their co-op decides on the pizza flavor and toppings; sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good. Spring isn’t spring without a trek to the Northside for some pizza and wine, which you can enjoy in the grass median of Shattuck Avenue, listening to a jazz band playing and the cars gliding by.
This is, of course, one of the things we miss so much about the Bay, and I have been working on recreating it in our kitchen:) Since Eric gave me The Cheese Board Cookbook for my birthday, I have used it at least once a week (I am slowly working my way through their scone repertoire, and I haven’t even gotten to the breads and cheese plate sections!). This is the first pizza I made from the book, and it did not disappoint; it was full of rich and deep flavor. I make pizza all the time (okay, often: it’s one of my go-to dinner ideas), but this is something special. I am going to tell you, this pizza is a bit of a labor of love (perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to put it on the blog!), but if you’ve got the time, it is so worth it.
You start with your pizza dough, which I’ve taken to making in the food processor these days, and then the real magic begins: you infuse olive oil with garlic for brushing over the top, and you get to work on the sun-dried tomato pesto. Oh yes. Sun-dried tomato pesto.
Then there are veggies to slice (an excellent occasion to use your shiny new mandoline, a wedding present from a sweet and lovely friend), and layers and layers of cheese to grate. Oh yes. Layers and layers of cheese.
While you are working on that, you let some chopped onions soak up the pesto. This whole pizza is about infusion. Beautiful delicious infusion.
Finally everything comes together: cheese, pesto, veggies, and more cheese. It looks so lovely on our new pizza peel: if it only it were easier to get onto the stone! Thankfully my husband is basically a black belt in this operation, and he has saved many a pizza from the dreaded depths of the oven. No matter how much cornmeal I put under the pizza dough, I always require his services!
It doesn’t take long at all to bake–pizza always gratifies those of us in need of instant gratification:) Hope you enjoy a taste of Berkeley!
Zucchini and Feta Cheese Pizza with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works
Makes Three 10-inch pizzas
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 batch of pizza dough (This is my standy recipe, but you can use your own)
Yellow cornmeal or flour for sprinkling
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 c (1 lb) shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 small green zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
4 oz. Feta, crumbled (about 1 c)
1/2 c loosely-packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
-Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak for 20-30 minutes, or until hydrated.
-Preheat oven to 450 F (or higher, if your oven will let you; ours goes as high as 550). If using a baking stone, preheat it in the oven for 45 minutes, while you are prepping the pizza.
-In a small bowl, combine half of the garlic with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
-To shape the pizzas, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (I use our pizza peel) and divide it into 3 pieces (I only make 2 pizzas from this recipe, but then, I’m a rebel). Gently form each piece into a loose round and cover with a floured kitchen towel (not terry-cloth, though, because it will get fuzz on the dough). Let rest for 20 minutes. Set aside and dust the pizza peel (or other surface) with cornmeal. Shape each round into a 10″ disk (or slightly larger if you are only making 2 pies).
-Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, 1/4 c of the reserved liquid, the remaining garlic, the remaining olive oil, the black pepper, the red pepper flakes, and salt. Puree until smooth and thick, adding more of the reserved liquid as needed. Toss the onion with the pesto.
-Line up the pizzas for assembly. Scatter half of the Mozzarella over them, leaving a 1/4″ rim. Scatter the onion and pesto mixture over the cheese. Place the sliced zucchini and squash over the pesto so that the pizzas are evenly and entirely covered. Spread the remaining Mozzarella on top of the squash. Sprinkle the Feta on top.
-Bake each pizza (whether on a stone or on a baking sheet) for 15-18 minutes.
-Immediately after removing each pizza from the oven, brush the garlic oil onto the rim. Garnish with parsley.