In case you haven’t been able to tell, we’re pretty crazy about pizza here at Catz. We bake it and grill it, make it on pizza stones and pizza pans, serve it on peels and plates, and love new and different ideas for constructing it! One of our favorite sources of inspiration when it comes to crusty creativity is California Pizza Kitchen. CPK is a chain restaurant that strikes a unique note among national brands. Having visited many of their locations in a variety of cities, I would say that the company has a good grasp on what makes for an exemplary pizza-eating experience. The restaurants themselves are casual, elegant, and modern, with attentive staff and a very competitively priced menu. Want to have a date night on the cheap? Hit up CPK, split a pizza, and order water. Your bill will be about $12. With one exception, the service has always been fantastic – the fact that I can remember that one time is a testament to how consistently enjoyable the experience is.
Okay, given the above paragraph, I feel like I should clarify that I’m not a paid shill for CPK! No bonuses under the table for this food blogger. Point being, Chels and I often get inspired after visiting the pizza kitchen to either make up something new, or challenge ourselves to recreate the imaginative offerings we enjoyed. In this instance, we decided to try to make one of the first pizzas we ever enjoyed at CPK – the White Pizza. The White Pizza is primarily a celebration of white cheeses, but we normally order ours with the optional smoked applewood bacon, which lends the pie a bit of meaty substance and some smoky undertones. CPK obviously doesn’t give their recipes away, so all we had to go on was having eaten the pizza a number of times, and the brief description found on the menu. But, of course, in the end, our goal wasn’t to make an exact duplicate of the White Pizza – it was just to make something tasty.
We didn’t have any Pecorino Romano on hand, but I did have the remaining ingredients – freshly grated mozzarella, ricotta, grated parmesan, fresh baby spinach, bacon, and garlic bulbs. We keep a couple of balls of pizza dough in the freezer at any given time (or we try to – for that recipe, check out Chels’s previous post), which makes the preparation a pretty painless affair. Actually, the longest part of this recipe is roasting the garlic. Roasting garlic is incredibly simple, and makes the kitchen smell absolutely marvelous for the reminder of your cooking experience! Remove as much of the outer “paper” as you can from the garlic bulb, slice the top quarter inch or so off the top (you might need to make a few additional cuts to ensure that the tops of all the cloves are exposed – I strongly recommend a Santoku knife for clean, straight, cuts), place the bulbs in a muffin pan, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil, and roast in the oven for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. Voila, roasted garlic.
For the sautéed spinach, keep it simple, and do it while the garlic is roasting. Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, add a few cups of baby spinach, sprinkle with a bit of garlic salt, and move it around for a couple of minutes. Put a lid on the pan for a couple more minutes, and then remove it from the heat before it starts to burn. Voila, sautéed spinach.
For the pizza, I par-baked the crust on the pizza stone for about five minutes to let it firm up. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but my fear was that the mozzarella might make the pizza soggy, being such a moist cheese (I’ve had a bad experience…). Now, you don’t want to let the pizza stone get cool, so have all of your toppings ready to go before pulling the crust out after par-baking. Think of it like a pit stop – be quick! In order to have the spinach and bacon ready to go, throw them in a medium size bowl and sprinkle generously with grated parmesan. Stir the mixture together to ensure that the spinach and bacon are well coated with parmesan.
With the crust par-baked, cover with a cup to two cups shredded mozzarella (it’s basically your sauce), add the roasted garlic, sautéed spinach, and bacon. Finally, use a mellon baller or small spoon to scoop out the ricotta in little chunks and place them evenly all across the surface of the pizza. Quickly get the pizza back in the oven, and bake it for another seven to ten minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a pizza peel, cut, and serve!
- Sprinkle pizza stone generously with corn meal, and place in oven while it preheats to 400 degrees. Roll out pizza dough on cutting board and measure to approximately 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to pizza stone and par-bake for five minutes, or until crust is firm.
- While crust is par-baking, chop up bacon into one inch squares, and add to a medium bowl. Add spinach and parmesan cheese and mix to coat thoroughly. Squeeze roasted cloves of garlic out of bulb, and set aside.
- When par-baking is complete, remove pizza stone and crust from oven. Working quickly, top crust with mozzarella, and then layer roasted garlic cloves and bacon and spinach mixture. Top with small balls of ricotta cheese, evenly spaced across the surface of the pizza.
- Return to oven and bake for an additional 7-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.