April 28, 2007

Pizza...Obsession or Healthy Devotion?

So many of the meals we try to make at home come from our desire to imitate delicious restaurant dishes. Eating at fantastic restaurants is fundamental to our understanding and high expectations for the food we eat. When you know how good something can be, how can you go home and eat cereal? Even when that profound experience I'm referring to includes pizza? Oui.

Although everyone says Washington, DC isn’t a pizza town, I have had some pretty good pizza here, although I have found a lack of authenticity. I desperately miss the thin and crispy Italian-style pizza found in Paris, with toppings like Parma ham and arugula, or chorizo with a cracked egg on top, but I am enough of a pizza lover that I’ll take it deep-dished, stuffed, chewy or crispy, as long as it’s done well.

Pizza Parma from Pizzeria Carmine in Paris

So far, there have been a few interesting pizzas that have left an impression on me. The first was at Rustico, in Alexandria, where they have a huge brick oven and generally create good quality thin crust pizzas. I remember loving their chicken, bacon and apple version. Next, we had some really yummy grilled flatbread topped with butternut squash, onions, spinach and feta during happy hour at Old Ebbitt’s downtown. So, it is with these two variations that I offer you the following ideas for some amazingly different and delicious pizza.

First, an easy pizza sauce. This makes much more than you need for one pizza, but I divide it into smaller freezer bags or containers and freeze it for the next time we make pizza. Thaw in the microwave before using. I’m not kidding around with the San Marzano tomatoes, either; their texture is much better than other brands of crushed tomatoes. Pizza making is serious business, right? One of these days, we’re going to get back into making our own pizza dough, which we used to love doing. But, when there isn’t time for that, we love the fresh dough you can buy at Whole Foods and form yourself.

Easy Pizza Sauce

1 28-oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried crushed chili flakes, or to taste
½ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

Combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl until well mixed. No need to cook it! Makes enough for maybe 4 large pizzas.

Chicken, Bacon and Apple Pizza with White Cheddar

1 cup leftover roast chicken
3 slices bacon, diced
1 granny smith or gala apple, diced or thinly sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced
Easy pizza sauce
½ cup grated white cheddar
1 small ball fresh mozzarella
Dried oregano
Your favorite pizza crust

Sauté the bacon in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Wipe out the pan and add a little olive oil. Sauté the onion and apple until slightly softened.

Form the pizza crust as thick or thin as you wish, on a pizza peel, if you have one, or a baking sheet if you don’t. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it in a very hot oven, at least 450 degrees. If using a baking sheet, 425 may be sufficient.

Top the crust with as much sauce as you like, some shredded chicken, some bacon pieces and the apple and onion mixture. Sprinkle with some cheddar, slices of fresh mozzarella, and dried oregano. Bake for 10 minutes, or so, until the crust is crispy and cheese melted.

Pizza with Butternut Squash, Sage and Caramelized Onions

A white pizza that makes an equally divine appetizer when entertaining, or dinner when simply hungry.

¼ whole butternut squash, peeled and diced
6-8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ large yellow onion, thinly sliced
Fresh mozzarella
½ cup aged parmesan, or asiago cheese

Caramelize the onions by heating some olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes to sweat the onions until very soft. Season with salt and pepper and turn the heat up to medium high. Sauté, stirring every few minutes, until onions are browned and caramel colored. Remove from heat.

Toss the diced butternut squash pieces with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread on a small baking sheet. Roast at 375 for 15 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.

Brush your pizza crust with some olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic. Top with the cheeses, caramelized onions, sage leaves and diced butternut squash. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting and serving.


Katie said...

I tend to make pizza in the fall and just use thinly sliced garden tomatoes rather than sauce.
I love pizza with an egg in the middle...and my second favorite is tuna.
Definitely a health devotion!
The squash and sage is on my list to try for next fall - it looks wonderful

Midwestern Progressive said...

Quick question: What kind of pizza crust do you use? My wife and I have never bought prepared pizza crusts, we've always made it from scratch, but that's a big job, and we'd like to find a reliable prepared one.

We'd never use a "boboli" or something like that....

Melissa said...

All those 'pies' look great! I might have to look up the place you mentioned in Paris!

Megan said...

Katie - I hope you enjoy the squash and sage combo! I agree, the cracked egg on top is SO good.

Midwestern Progressive - One of these days I'm going to get back to making my own, too, but we are currently without a pizza stone, which is essential. Right now, the fresh dough sold at whole foods is great. I bet Trader Joe's or somewhere like that might sell fresh dough - or your local pizzeria? I don't like boboli either, but there is a different brand (sort of in the same vain) that we think is passable. Some days a pizza on a nice baguette sliced in half lengthwise is still better than a boboli.

Melissa - Go eat at Pizzeria Carmine tonight! You'll love it. It's near Pigalle, down the street from the Champion.

Tina said...

Megan- I feel inspired by your recipes! As you know I am a pizza-lover myself. I knew immediately the photo was Carmine's Parma. I could spot that beauty a mile away.

For those interested the exact address is:
61 rue des Martyrs
75009 Paris
Metro: Pigalle or Anvers on the Line 2
Phone: 01 48 78 28 01
Opened Wednesday- Saturdays

Mmmm! Bon appetit!

Lisa said...

Oh, your pizza with squash and sage looks divine, as does the Pizza Parma from Paris. Wish I could bop down the rue and get one...

Betty C. said...

These pizzas all look great -- but most of the pizzas I've had in France have been quite standard -- not bad, just basic. The one you show looks fantastic!