Warning: This is not a seasonal post.
It’s not seasonal because it addresses a problem that none of you, unless you are Australian and/or in that hemisphere, should be having at the moment. But store it away. Tuck it into your mental file. You, too, may run into the very same problem that I did, and now? That problem IS SOLVED.
Here’s what happened: Somewhere, back in the dark days of mid- to late Spring, I got home from work on a night when I planned to make homemade pizza. My plan involved using some leftover tomato sauce that I swore was in the freezer, but I arrived home to realize that, indeed, I had used up the sauce for some other purpose. This is the culinary equivalent of spending your tax refund 15 times before it actually arrives in your checking account, not that I would know anything about that.
It was not tomato season AT ALL, so I had none in the house. (See? This is where the whole seasonal thing comes in. Right now, you could TOTALLY do this with those great, summer tomatoes.) Loathe to go back out, I put my ingenuity to the test, and realized I had a couple of red bell peppers in the crisper.
Now, let’s be honest—bell peppers aren’t really seasonal at that time of year, either, but they hold up a lot better in the grocery store, and they taste a lot better than out of season tomatoes. Yes, I know they’re on the Dirty Dozen Plus list put out every year by the Environmental Working Group. Yes, I know they’re covered in pesticide residue. But if the option is to order pizza from a joint where they throw a bunch of preservatives in their product, or make homemade pizza at home with the red bell pepper, I’m going with the pesticide-laden pepper. At least I’m not also microwaving it in a plastic container while licking a BPA-laden receipt. A girl has to have boundaries.
So, into the food processor went the raw (You could roast them first, but I didn’t want to take the time…) red peppers, with just a little bit of water (maybe ⅛ cup) to smooth the processing. A few seconds of whirr later, I had a lovely red pepper puree that I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a spice blend that The Unicorn brought back from Turkey, so I can’t tell you where to buy it, but honestly, any Italian or Mediterranean spice blend would work equally well in this case. Just think about what your other toppings will be and act accordingly. (If you have specific questions about what spice blend to use, ask me in the comments and I’ll be happy to advise.) Make it taste good.
A note in case you’re ready for action RIGHT NOW with tomatoes in the house: You can absolutely make a fresh tomato puree if you have great tomatoes on hand, but just leave out the water, which is totally unnecessary in that case. If you hate tomato skins, go ahead and blanch them in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge them into ice water for 30 seconds, then peel them before the puree, but honestly, tomato skin isn’t going to kill you, and that’s a giant waste of water. It’s your planet, too, after all.
I simmered the puree on the stove until it was hot and bubbly, but honestly, that was probably an unnecessary step—after all, it was going to get plenty hot on the pizza crust as it baked. Still, it made me feel like I was making a sauce, rather than just slapping baby food (OK, OK, I know, the pesticides…it’s a metaphor! No babies were poisoned in the development of this blog post!) on my pie.
A side note on the crust: Many people have a favorite crust recipe, and I’m no exception. I’ve been using Megan of Chez Mégane’s fast pizza dough recipe for years, and I swear by it. If you don’t have a go-to option, but have a food processor or a stand mixer, try this recipe. It has completely broken me of the habit of ever buying pre-made dough or those freakish Boboli shells. (Yes, I used to be a total Boboli-girl. Bah humbug.)
So. Crust, then a topping of sauce, then a bit of a bake, then further toppings. Keep in mind: red peppers are way sweeter than tomatoes, so plan your toppings accordingly—this is a great sauce to use with some bitter greens and sausage, or anything else that doesn’t lean toward the sweet side of things. Balance, folks. Moderation in all things.
The Unicorn declared the pepper treatment a success, and so did I. Do I prefer it to tomatoes? No. But when ‘tis not the season and I’ve got nothing canned on hand, it’ll do in a pinch.