Switch up your same-old routine with a preserved lemon and mozzarella pizza that's sophisticated yet simple, delicate yet decadent.
Growing up, the closest I ever got to preserved lemons was the quart-size Mason jar of plastic lemons that my mom kept on the kitchen counter as decoration. It wasn't until I became a cookbook editor that I discovered they were a real culinary ingredient, and it wasn't until just last week that I finally tasted them for myself . . . on a pizza, no less.
A friend and I were checking out a new-ish Italian restaurant in South Philly, known for their giant wood-fired oven and exceptional pizzas (among other things). When I saw that one of their seasonal offerings involved preserved lemon, I figured the stars had finally aligned.
To what would have otherwise been a traditional white pizza, the preserved lemons—scattered over melted clouds of buffalo mozzarella—added a distinct lemony scent and savory tang. It seems that the preserving process dials down the pucker of the fruit while deepening the flavor and somehow retaining the fresh citrus aroma.
For my version of this ingenious pizza, I brushed the dough all over with garlic oil and topped it with grated fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced preserved lemon, and a few grinds of black pepper. Then, when it came out of the oven all bubbly and hot, I scattered a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh basil over top.
I bought my preserved lemons at a gourmet grocery store, since making them myself would have taken at least 3 weeks. However, if you're feeling so inclined, here is a ridiculously easy recipe for preserved lemons, from Marisa at Food in Jars.
Winter Bright Preserved Lemon and Mozzarella Pizza
- Cutting board and knife
- Rolling pin (optional)
- Large rimmed baking sheet or baking stone/steel
- Pizza peel (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 preserved lemon, rinsed, patted dry, and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (if using a baking sheet) or as high as it will go (if using a baking stone/steel; place the stone/steel in the bottom third of the oven before you start preheating). Let the oven preheat for at least 30 minutes. Then, if you’re using a baking stone or steel, switch the oven to Broil on high.
- Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and let it sizzle for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
- Stretch or roll out your dough to a 12- to 14-inch circle, then transfer it to an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet or a lightly floured pizza peel (if using a baking stone/steel).
- Brush the garlic oil all over the dough, making sure to get the edges. (You probably won't need all of the oil; just brush it on until all the dough is lightly coated.) Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the oiled dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around, and then arrange the lemon slices on top of the mozzarella. Grind some black pepper over all.
- Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese has browned in spots—8 to 10 minutes on the baking sheet, 6 to 8 minutes on the baking stone/steel.
- Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh basil; slice and serve.