recipes and tips for better living

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Oh mama Mia - I Can't-a Eat-a Pizza!": finding healthy success in Pizza di Insalata

How many of you have sworn off pizza due to the fat, the obscene amount of cheese, and the swamps of grease that take 10 paper napkins to wick off the oil which inevitably scalds your mouth and slides down your palms?? Well, scoff no more fine friends and welcome pizza back into your life!

I'm not talking about Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns, or the like; i'm talking home - made, easy, healthy and fresh SALAD PIZZA (or as the Italians say: Pizza di Insalata)! So what is this you might ask - this salad pizza? it's just how it sounds; it's salad... it's on a pizza crust....and Ooh my, is it heavenly!!! You can make this easily if you buy ready-made pizza crust. You'll just have to bake the crust following the directions on the package. Or if you're extremely lazy (and i'm not judging by saying that) you can buy crusts that are already made - and already baked!!!! I chose to try 'bob's red mill' gluten free pizza crust'. While the process of making salad pizza with ready made crust is quick , making your own dough does require busting out the mixer, getting your hands dirty, and even waiting a little time for the dough to rise. The up side to this process is that you can make the crust to your specs. I even substituted the 2 eggs called for in the dough recipe for 2 tbsp flax meal combined with 6 tbsp water; a great way to boost the fiber and keep it vegetarian!! So here's what you do for a fresh tomato basil pizza di insalata:

Make the dough per the directions. If you buy dough that is completely cooked already, heat the oven and let's pop it in for 5 min, BEFORE YOU DO:

(for a 12 inch salad pizza)

Sprinkle the crust with Italian seasonings
cut 5 small mozzarella rounds in half. Scatter these 10 halves around the base of your pizza crust.
bake now for 5 minutes to melt the cheese (or do this in the last 5 minutes of baking the crust if you are making yours from scratch, rather than using crust already prepared and baked) - you are welcome to omit this step if you prefer not to use cheese at all, or if you are making a different salad topping that wouldn't require cheese. Another spread such as pesto could be used as a base to coat the crust as well. (see pesto recipe in blog below: I'm seeing green, Shrooms!)
When the crust is finished, pull it out of the oven and allow to cool almost completely.

Meanwhile - let's make our salad. So the beauty is that you can really use any salad you like - just make sure you're toppings and greens are as dry as possible and go WAY easy on the dressing as it will contribute to soggy crust syndrome - and no one likes a soggy crust.

For this recipe (tomato basil pizza di insalata):

Finely chop 5 med-lg roma tomatoes, ripe but slightly firm - should equal about 2 cups chopped. Put into a colander and allow excess liquid to strain out. Discard excess juice.
Pack basil leaves extremely tightly into a 1 cup measuring cup - rinse and dry (salad spinner helpful). Stack leaves in groups and slice cross ways into thin strips.
Combine these two ingredients into a salad bowl and just before serving toss to dress lightly with dressing recipe below
You'll also need to pack baby spinach leaves loosely into a 1 cup measuring cup (keep them as whole leaves) - rinse, dry, remove any excess stem, and set aside.
measure out 1/4 cup of crumbled mediterranean feta cheese, set aside.

Dressing Recipe:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

To assemble your pizza:

Allow the crust to cool a bit and dress the salad. Place the spinach leaves around the base of the pizza crust. Scoop your salad mixture on top of the spinach, top with the 1/4 cup of feta, and serve immediately (the tomatoes are wet, and therefore if it sits the crust will start to absorb the moisture.) Watch your salad pizza quickly disappear (but make sure you get a slice before it's gone!)

Here's another fresh idea: A Salad Pizza Party.

Make (or unwrap ready made) 3 or 4 crusts (consider offering a few different crust options). Make 3 or 4 large salads. Be creative - maybe even trying something summery and fruity like:

2 peeled and sliced oranges
1 large sliced avocado
julienned strips of jicama or sliced fennel (optional)
1 small thinly sliced jalapeno
thinly sliced red onion (mandoline helpful)
handful of cilantro chopped
Spinach leaves (either tossed with dressing, or left dry and placed on crust to use as a shield to protect moisture from seeping into crust)
Dress salad with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper

Have all the crusts on the serving tables along side the salad options. Allow your guest to custom cater their salad pizza. Slice a piece of crust and top with the salad of their choice. Seconds and thirds might become a new adventure trying on a different salad or a different crust if you've offered options (gluten free, cornmeal crust, whole wheat, etc) Remind your guests: Fork, knife, napkin and manners optional, but appreciated. Dig in and enjoy the freshest, healthiest, and yummiest salad pizza EVA! :)
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