Summertime Pizza Sizzle
know how easy it is to get stuck making the same pizzas over and over again. Maybe your customers love all of the options on your menu or maybe you’re just too tired to try to think up new ones. Whatever the reason, there is no harm in keeping a consistent menu. That being said, it is always fun to add new items or change up old ones. With a plethora of fresh produce to pick from, summer is the perfect time to try out new ideas. There are many different ways to incorporate summer pizzas, from doing daily or weekly specials or simply picking a few to run all summer long. You can choose to go straight farm to pie or order a few seasonal items from your main distributor.
Everyone has ingredients that they gravitate towards, and if you look at my current menu you will know right away that chilies are one of my favorites. In this regard, I am very lucky to live in Colorado where hot peppers grow in abundance during the summer. One of my favorite varietals are Hatch Green Chiles. While they are a signature crop of our neighboring state, New Mexico, they also grow well in my region. They range in levels of heat from mild to super hot. There are many different methods to cook them, but I would argue the ideal way is when they are flame roasted. For those unfamiliar with a flame roaster, it’s a big rotisserie with a metal grate that rotates the chilies over an open flame. The chilies roast slowly, charring the skins, cooking the flesh of the chilies and eliciting one of the best smells of summer.
Once they’ve been roasted you simply peel the skin off and give them a rough chop. This method of cooking the chilies gives them an upfront charred sweetness with just the right amount of tingling heat on your tongue. Unlike jalapeños, which I think of as more of an accompanying ingredient, Hatch green chiles are the star of the pizza. I like them on a white pie, paired with either a bold cheese or meat and finished with fresh herbs. A few ideas for Hatch Green Chile pies:
- Hatch green chiles, pancetta, cotija, mozzarella, cilantro
- Hatch green chiles, Manchego, mozzarella, basil
- Hatch green chiles, sausage, fresh mozzarella, fresh oregano
- Hatch green chiles, rainbow chard, fontina, cracked egg, thyme
- Hatch green chiles, summer corn, mozzarella, goat cheese, roasted sweet onion and garlic, finished with a heavy hand of basil and shaved pecorino.
I know it’s an obvious choice, but tomatoes are also one of my top summer ingredients to work with. While you can get tomatoes year round, I don’t think that you should. They have a pretty short growing season of about 90 days, in late summer. As with any high-quality item, I always veer towards simple being best. If you have a fantastic product there is no need to weigh it down with extra ingredients. Instead let its natural flavors shine through. There are endless combinations for using tomatoes on pizza, but a few of my favorites are:
- Sliced heirloom tomatoes, burrata, oregano, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Diced Early Girl Tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, prosciutto or speck
- Sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, anchovies, roasted garlic, breadcrumbs, finished with Sicilian oregano.
You don’t have to stop with tomatoes on pizza either. They are great as a side dish or as a salad. The best tomato salad, and possibly one of the best salads I’ve had period, was at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Tony makes an Early Girl tomato salad when they are at their peak. It’s a very simple dish with not many other ingredients besides the tomatoes, sea salt and good extra virgin olive oil. But if you’ve ever had an Early Girl tomato in its prime, you know that the concentrated, juicy sweetness is hard to rival. That and the Tony magic. Of course, you can go the traditional route with a Caprese salad or mix the tomatoes with other summer produce like fresh corn and basil, or add it to greens like arugula or spinach.
Greens are a category in themselves for pizza toppings. I know a lot of people tend to shy away from them or think that they need to cook them down before putting them on their pizzas, but I would whole heartily disagree. I pile them on raw, top them with cheese, drizzle on a little garlic oil and then bake off the pizza. They cook down beautifully and taste even better. Summer greens can act as a base or as the main ingredient. They are also fantastic used on other parts of your menu. The obvious being salads, but you can also make them into side dishes. A few ideas to get you started are: braised chard with garlic and pancetta, crispy corn and dandelion greens fritters, and fried kale chips.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can also make salad pizzas. Just like when making the heartier greens into actual salads, the trick to making them less tough is that you have to be sure to massage the dressing in. Yes, massage your greens, it makes all the difference in the world on taste and texture. You can go from having a bitter, tough kale salad to one of the best items on your menu. Feel free to sub out your normal romaine to make a baby kale Caesar or combine summer berries, goat cheese, chives and spinach for a fresh summer salad. Then bake off a pizza crust topped with just mozzarella or a few bolder cheeses like gorgonzola, Asiago or Gruyere. Top it with your beautiful summer salad, serve with a crisp glass of Prosecco and you have the perfect summer meal.
With an abundance of fresh produce to choose from it’s hard to just pick a few favorite summer pizza ingredients. Stick with some safe bets, like tomatoes or corn, to start and then add in a few wild cards.
Hatch Green Chile Pie
This pizza is heavy on the chilies with salty pancetta to cut through the heat, corn to sweeten the pie and Cotija cheese to smooth everything out.
Get the Hatch Green Chile Pie recipe.
Audrey Kelly owns Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage in Boulder, Colorado.