For some reason, when I was a kid, I didn't really like pizza. Maybe it's because (as my friends will tell you) I have a contrarian streak and a kid's favorite food is supposed to be pizza. Or maybe it's because the pizzas one eats as a kid -- pepperoni, cheese, mushroom and olive if you're really adventurous -- just aren't that exciting.
There is one thing that I liked about pizza, though -- making it with my mom. Because we lived in the country and very small towns, where delivery pizza was not available (and because people just made more homemade stuff then), my mom often made pizza from scratch. I remember carefully arranging mushrooms and pepper strips so that they were evenly distributed on the homemade crust. Mom always made our pizza in big rectangles on a cookie sheet, and round pizza seemed very exotic to me.
Lately, as I've been trying to create a more "from-scratch" relationship with food, pizza seemed a bit daunting. However, Mom declared "Making pizza crust is easy!" So I thought I would give it a whirl.
I used this easy recipe from Allrecipes.com, and found that, yes, indeed, mom was right. Making pizza dough IS easy. Best of all, this recipe makes enough for two medium pizzas. You can divide it in half and freeze one half. Then you just bring the dough to room temperature and prepare as directed.
One of the best things about pizza is that, if you're venturing into meatless eating, vegetarian pizza options won't make you (or your kids!) feel like you're giving anything up. There are a variety of delicious variations:
When I was teaching, cheese pizza was the favorite of almost all kids. For an early foray into meatless eating with children (or skeptical adults), why not try the traditional red sauce and mozzarella?
For more sophisticated palates, there's nothing better than basil, fresh tomato, and goat cheese. On the version you see below, I also added portobello mushroom slivers and red onion. I recommend putting on the basil right after the sauce, then covering it with the other ingredients -- otherwise it will get dried out in the oven.
The stuffed pizza you see below looks decadent, but it's actually a variation of a Weight Watchers recipe. Divide your pizza dough in half and roll out one half. Fill with your favorite toppings (this is a package of frozen spinach, part-skim ricotta, feta, and sauteed scallions). Then roll out the second half of your dough and lay it over the top. Crimp the edges together, cut a few holes in the top crust to let steam escape and bake. You will bake a little longer than a flat pizza -- until the filling is bubbling.
I served the stuffed pizza with a tomato-olive quick relish. Chop up a bunch of grape or cherry tomatoes and discard the seeds and liquid. Also chop 3-4 olives -- Greek mix or kalamata. Mix in a bowl with about a teaspoon of olive oil and one-half to one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Put it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors meld. Then, spoon it over your pizza.
My friend Melanie loves the pear-gorgonzola pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. You can make your own pear pizza. Use a thin layer of white sauce or just brush the crust with olive oil (For a quick version, you can use the CPK Frozen White Pizza -- but that's no fun and not as sustainable). Add thinly sliced pear, toasted almonds or hazelnuts, and a light sprinkle of cheese. After the pizza is baked, top with a salad made of arugula tossed with olive oil and gorgonzola (or substitute goat cheese for a milder flavor)
Any pizza is great topped with a fresh salad of arugula or herbs (after baking). You can make Thai Pizza with the peanut sauce I wrote about on a previous Meatless Monday. Barbecue sauce, red onions, and cheese is an all-American version. And if you can't give up your meat, try Field Roast meatless sausages instead (I swear, they pay me no money).
For the future, I've been eying the Shaved Asparagus Pizza that smitten kitchen wrote about last week. I've also come across several recipes for caramelized onion and fig pizzas that sound delicious.
What do you like on your pie?
* Meatless Monday is a movement to increase awareness of sustainable, meat-free eating, by eating meatless meals on Mondays. So alliterative!