As a child of suburbia, I have a special fondness for mall restaurants, the ultimate champion of which is California Pizza Kitchen. In particular, the chain’s BBQ Chicken Pizza looms large in my memory: sweeter than pizza probably should be, but savory too, with just enough cilantro sprinkled over the top to count as the inclusion of a vegetable. It was the meal I requested for at least one grade school birthday and shared with friends many times once I got my driver’s license and had the freedom to go anywhere (of course we picked…the mall).
This recipe is a vegetarian twist on the CPK fan favorite. All of the heavy hitters are the same: tangy barbecue sauce, melty cheese (a combo of mozzarella and smoked Gouda for richness and to double down on smoky flavor), and sweet red onion. But instead of chopped chicken breast, the meaty component is mushrooms (I like a mix of king trumpet, maitake, and oyster), which go crispy and tender in the oven in a way that chicken never could. With store-bought pizza dough and your favorite barbecue sauce on deck, it’s a recipe that comes together in minutes, no trip to the mall required. —Kendra Vaculin