Growing up, my sister had a crush on Michelangelo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle who always wanted to eat pizza. I think he had the orange bandanna. Today, she works at an upscale Italian restaurant that neither of us can afford to patronize. I had a crush on Leonardo, the nerdly know-it-all with the blue bandana and the plans. Today, I teach English to 9th graders.
But even Leonardo and myself are often seduced by the idea of eating pizza. The luxury of the convenience of the thing. Frozen or delivery- life barely even has to pause, and you get to be fed. And I always seem to be enjoying generosity in the form of windfalls of pizza. Like Juan, the guy at Cricket who spent an hour conditioning me to the intricacies of a smart phone. I was hostile in the face of technology, as per usual, until a delivery man marched passed me and presented Juan with a pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza. Juan offered me the first slice, and now I have a phone that I can point at the night sky and it will tell me what constellations I’m looking at.
Without fail, the pizza thought process goes like this:
- I decide I want pizza.
- I remember how horrible most convenient pizza tastes. Delivery or frozen. Sometimes I don’t have to remember, because I get a whiff of the cardboard horror the cafeteria serves at least once a week.
- I realize once again that I am a snob about food. But this will not stop me from making fun of food snobs.
- Hey, maybe I should go to one of those fancified Italian places? With the rapini and the imported fiore di latte mozzarella?
- Nope, I want the convenience more than I want the rapini.
- I will MAKE MY OWN pizza-like construction!
Pizza at Home: A Strategy
The things I actually used in the pizza in the photo that I made for myself last week will be in bold. The items I have used in the past instead are listed alongside. Only the delicious items are mentioned.
Before baking ingredients:
- Palestinian flat bread from a Mediterranean bakery, naan, pita, focaccia bread sliced open
- Armenian string cheese, fresh mozzarella, feta, brie, the sharpest cheddar
- Chopped campari tomatoes, sliced roma tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes
- Chopped oyster mushrooms, seafood mushrooms, button mushrooms, portobello mushrooms
- Red pepper flakes, coarsely-ground black pepper, salt, dried thyme or oregano
- Olive Oil
- Green peppers, grated carrots, marinated artichoke hearts, pine nuts, and/or an egg
After baking ingredients:
- Pea sprouts, arugula, watercress, spinach, baby kale, shredded green leaf lettuce, fresh basil, avocado
- Drizzle of olive oil, lemon, balsamic vinegar, some other favorite vinegar
Preheat the oven to the sweet spot: somewhere between 375 degrees and 400 degrees. Arrange your ingredients on your flatbread. I usually start with the cheese, and build up from there. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the pepper, salt, herbs, and put on flat cookie sheet-type baking pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. When the cheese has been melted, and the tomatoes have gotten hot enough to turn sweeter, take the pizza out and decorate with your fresh leaves or avocado. Sprinkle with some more olive oil if you like, or add an acid of your choice.
I call this a strategy, because it’s more like an idea than a recipe. It’s more of a form than a formula, if you catch my drift.
Suggested wine pairing: a glass from the bottle of already-opened Piedmont Nebbiolo that I had in my fridge. Literally, whatever you have on hand. But if you want to sex the whole thing up, I really do recommend that Nebbiolo.