Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Oregano Pizza

Oregano is the spice of life. – Henry J. Tillman

Up close and personal with oregano. Photo: cdtwigg, Flickr ccl
I grew herbs in the back yard this past year. Some thrived and some didn’t. For city growing the conditions weren’t the greatest. We seemed to have more rain than sun. Not ideal conditions.

The basil and tarragon were cranky, to say the least. Since both prefer the sunny climes of the Mediterranean I can see why. It certainly wasn’t the south of France in Halifax this summer.

Greek oregano (there are other kinds...). Photo: AreAllen, Fickr ccl
At the start of the Fall it appeared the weather had turned around somewhat. One of the herbs seems to just love the conditions – the oregano. So now I’m “blessed” with a ton of oregano that needs using. Some will be dried, but herbs are always best when used fresh. Hence this recipe.

Oregano is actually a member of the mint family although the taste is not at all similar. Sometimes oregano is called “wild mint.” Another herb in the mint family is marjoram. Oregano is a perennial in its native range of south west Eurasia and the Mediterranean. In colder areas it is treated as an annual.

For any excess, drying oregano is easy. Just snip, bundle and hang in a well ventilated spot. Within a few days your oregano will be dry enough to store in jars. Ensure that any herb you dry is “completely” dry before storing. Any moisture will encourage the growth of mould. Not only will it destroy your hard work, but it isn’t healthy either.

This recipe has quite a bit of fresh oregano. That is not a bad thing. Coupled with the other ingredients everything balances out in a tasty way. The wide range of ingredients also makes this pizza nutritionally balanced as well.

Spicy Chicken Oregano Pizza
Prep: depends on crust  |  Bake: 20 min  |  Serves 4-6
1 lb precooked chicken, sliced and cubed 
1 tbsp olive oil
225 g (1/2 lb) mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced 
1 cup corn kernels
3/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 tsp salt
1-2 to 1 cup plain pizza sauce, depending on pizza size and preference
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes* 
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped or more if you’re daring
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper 
1 cup mozzarella cheese, cubed (not grated) to 1/4 to 1/2 inch
1 pizza crust for a large pizza

An interesting combination of corn, peppers mushrooms, chicken...
Photo: avlxyz, Flickr ccl
A quick pizza crust recipe (ready to use in 45 min) can be found here. You can also purchase partially raised refrigerated crusts in Italian groceries. That would speed dinner up even more.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cube the chicken, slice the mushrooms, chop the onion and mince the garlic.

Add the olive oil to a sauté pan. Sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic until the onions and garlic are partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, corn, red pepper and salt. Set aside.

Press the crust into a pizza pan. Distribute the tomato sauce evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the sauce with the chilli flakes.

Arrange the chicken mixture over the sauce. Sprinkle it with the oregano and cracked black pepper.

Place the cubes in around the chicken filling. Cubed mozzarella allows the toppings to cook as opposed to being under a smothering coating which only steams as opposed to browning.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the bottom is nicely browned.

* If you're afraid of the chilli you could substitute plain sauce for Arrabiatta (a garlic-chilli-tomato-basil sauce from Rome).


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