Friday, September 30, 2011

Whole Food Friday: Pizza, Pizza, Pizza ... Salad

Pizza is arguably one of America's favorite foods. You can eat it at a restaurant, have it delivered, buy it frozen, or even (gasp!) make your own.

For many people, making pizza is intimidating because it requires making a yeast dough. But you can make it a whole lot easier buy purchasing the dough already made.

I'm not one of those people who is afraid of yeast dough, but I decided to try the premade dough at Whole Foods anyway. I mean, if you're at the store shopping, you can't be at home making dough.

And then I needed toppings. Right by the pizza dough, I found fresh pizza sauce, basil pesto, and some handy little packs of toppings. I picked up some shredded cheese as well, then changed my mind and bought some fresh mozzarella.

By getting pretty much everything pre-prepped, home made pizza became a super-fast meal. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind prepping vegetables. I usually don't buy anything pre-cut. But I thought this would be an interesting experiment. And besides the time-saving component, there's also the portion component. You can buy a topping kit and not end up with bits and pieces of leftover components. For me, not a big deal because I'm always cooking and could find a use for leftovers. But someone else might not have a good use for all the odd bits and pieces that would be left.

If you've got the time to do the prep work, go for it. If you prefer to buy the individual ingredients, that's great, too. But if you're short on time ... well, I'm going to say that this is a whole lot better than buying a frozen meal or stopping at a fast-food drive-through. When I got home, getting this on the table was incredibly fast. And easy. Not a whole lot to think about.

But first, salad. 

One of the nice things about the remodel of the local whole foods is the bulk section, which now includes a number of different vinegars, oils, sweeteners, and other liquidy things. I picked up some peach balsamic vinegar there. If you can't find peach balsamic, then any white balsamic or white wine vinegar would do.

For the chopped nuts, I bought mixed nuts - you know, the type with cashews, almonds, hazelnuts ... you could use all one type of nut if you prefer. Or use bread crumbs. To do the chopping, you can use a small food processor, but be careful not to over-process. You want finely chopped nuts, not a nut butter. I chopped by hand. And it's perfectly fine if there are some slightly larger bits. They add some crunch.

Salad with Warm Nut-Crusted Goat Cheese

per salad:
1 small romaine heart (or half of a larger one)
1 small cooked beet, diced
1/4 cup shredded radicchio
2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
1/2-inch slice chevre
2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon peach balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
Several grinds white pepper

Assemble the salad - you can toss the ingredients (romaine, raddichio, beets, bell pepper) together, or arrange them on a plate, but either way make sure some of the colorful peppers and beets are on top of the greens.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet. Coat the slice of chevre with the chopped nuts. When the oil in the pan is hot, fry the chevre briefly on both sides. You're just looking to brown the nuts slightly and warm the chevre. Don't cook it too long, or it will be too soft.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining oil along with the vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. If you've got left over crumbs from the nuts, add them as well. Shake to combine. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

Place the warmed chevre on top of the greens and dress with the salad dressing. Serve while the chevre is still warm.

Savory Pizza - Two Ways

The pizza assembly and baking is pretty much the same, no matter what toppings you use. I made two different pizzas, one using the Italian topping kit (cooked Italian sausage, red bell peppers, thinly sliced red onions, and sliced mushrooms) and one using the Greek topping kit (feta cheese, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and black olives). If I was picking ingredients myself, I might have used kalamata olives instead of the black olives, but maybe not.

I prefer a fairly thin crust pizza with ample toppings, and I think that smaller pizzas are a lot easier to work with, particularly if you're trying to wrangle a pizza off of a peel and onto a baking stone. So, I used a 1-pound piece of dough to make two pizzas. Each one used most of the ingredients in the topping kits - I had a few red onions left, and I'll confess to nibbling some of the artichokes hearts before they made it onto the pizza.

Sausage, Mushroom, Onion, and Red Pepper Pizza

1/2 pound pizza dough (half of one portion of the Whole Foods dough)
Pizza Sauce - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Italian pizza topper kit
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Cormeal

Preheat your oven to 550 degrees (or as high as it will go) will a pizza stone on the rack. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a cast iron griddle, a large cast iron frying pan turned upside down, or a standard baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball, then flatten the ball into a disk shape. With a rolling pin (or, if you don't have a rolling pin, a clean, empty wine bottle will do) roll the dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel (or, if you don't have one, sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of a baking sheet.) You're going to use this to transfer the pizza to the stone, and the cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking.

Transfer the dough to your cornmeal-sprinkled peel. Add a thin layer of sauce - not too much or the pizza will be soggy and gummy. Add the toppings, as desired. I used the whole kit for my small pizza, except for some onions. (If you don't have the kit, figure about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, loosely filled, for each item.) Top with slices of cheese, as desired.

Give the pizza a few shakes to make sure it's moving freely on the peel, then transfer it to your preheated pizza stone in the oven. Bake until it's nice browned, about 8 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, slice, and serve.

Roasted Pepper, Olive, Feta, and Artichoke Pizza

1/2 pound pizza dough (half of one portion of the Whole Foods dough)
Pesto - 1/4 cup, or to taste
Greek pizza topper kit
Olive oil
Cormeal

Preheat your oven to 550 degrees (or as high as it will go) will a pizza stone on the rack. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a cast iron griddle, a large cast iron frying pan turned upside down, or a standard baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball, then flatten the ball into a disk shape. With a rolling pin (or, if you don't have a rolling pin, a clean, empty wine bottle will do) roll the dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel (or, if you don't have one, sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of a baking sheet.) You're going to use this to transfer the pizza to the stone, and the cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking.

Transfer the dough to your cornmeal-sprinkled peel. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then add your toppings. I used the whole kit for my small pizza, except for a sample of the artichoke hearts that I accidentally ate. (If you don't have the kit, figure about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, loosely filled, for each item.) Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Give the pizza a few shakes to make sure it's moving freely on the peel, then transfer it to your preheated pizza stone in the oven. Bake until it's nice browned, about 8 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, add some dollops of the pesto, slice, and serve.

Dessert Pizza

Since I was buying pizza crust dough, I decided to make some dessert pizzas. I used the whole grain crust for mine, but you could use the regular dough, if you prefer. For this, I used Ave Agave raspberry fruit spread, but you could use your favorite jam or jelly.

1 pound whole grain pizza dough
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 large nectarines
Ave Agave raspberry fruit spread
Cornmeal

Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Slice the nectarines into thin wedges.

Preheat your oven to 550 degrees (or as high as it will go) will a pizza stone on the rack. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a cast iron griddle, a large cast iron frying pan turned upside down, or a standard baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, then flatten the balls into a disk shape. With a rolling pin (or, if you don't have a rolling pin, a clean, empty wine bottle will do) roll the dough into circles about 10 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel (or, if you don't have one, sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of a baking sheet.) You're going to use this to transfer the pizza to the stone, and the cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking.

Transfer one piece of dough to your cornmeal-sprinkled peel. Stir and smash the cream cheese to soften it, then spread half of it onto the dough. Arrange half of the nectarines on top of the cheese, then dollop some of the fruit spread on top of the nectarines - as much as you like.

Give the pizza a few shakes to make sure it's moving freely on the peel, then transfer it to your preheated pizza stone in the oven. Bake until it's nice browned, about 8 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, slice, and serve.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.


This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

3 comments:

Kirsten@My German Kitchen...in the Rockies said...

Would you think about delivering all of the above around 6.00 pm to my house, please? What a perfect Friday night dinner!
May I need to stop for some dough on the way home. You made me really hungry.

Kalyan said...

Just mouthwatering...looks so easy to prepare and delicious!

MC said...

Please put me on the delivery list as well. These pizzas look scrumptious!

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