WHEN IS A CHEESE and tomato sandwich not a sandwich? When it’s a pizza.
Start with a round of bread dough and put things on it — including imagination — bake it and you have an Italian meal to boast about. What you put on is up to you. Tomato sauce is traditional, but optional. Pick and choose local foods for a pie with Florida flair.
Back in the Great White North, Sicilian pizza was served as a snack after dinner at weddings … and before the rest of the food at midnight. Squares of thick bread were topped with tomato sauce … that’s all there was to it.
Thanks to prepared dough from a can or a supermarket bakery counter, pizza is a breeze at home. You can even buy the dough rolled out, ready to top.
Let’s go traditional. Slather the dough with thick tomato sauce. Then sprinkle with a pile of grated mozzarella cheese. You don’t need the expensive stuff. In my book, more is better than expensive. Just look at the stretch.
The fun of pizza is that the kids can help decide what goes on it and what it looks like. Top the cheese with rounds of Florida tomatoes. A slice for each piece of pizza works. Green and red peppers can go on next, with onions if you like. Chop them just big enough to be recognizable. Small pieces cook faster than big pieces. Mushrooms are the next addition, if diners like them.
Zucchini and yellow squash can make your pizza watery, so I recommend sauteeing them to get some of the water out. The same goes for eggplant.
Hard Florida vegetables, broccoli and carrots for instance, can be a chore to chew if they go on too big and too raw. A quick trip through the microwave softens them.
Spinach and other leafy greens and herbs don’t need long to wilt, so they go on for the last few minutes.
Pizzas don’t bake long enough to cook meats so meats should be added soon before the pie comes out of the oven and cook just long enough to melt the fat, as in pepperoni and ready-to-eat sausage.
Now, let’s say friends are coming over to watch a game. Said friends like chicken wings. No problem. Cook a crust or two on the grill, then add tomato sauce and cheese, if you like, and top that with shredded cooked chicken thighs. Scatter blue cheese crumbles on top, and then scatter chopped Florida carrot and celery on that. Splash on hot sauce and after a quick rest on a hot grill, you have Buffalo Wings Pizza.
For a pie with Mexican flair, take everything you would put on nachos — chili, pico, cheeses, beans, olives, and herbs — and use them to garnish a pizza crust. Vegetarians will be happy with a base of refried beans, then cheese, other beans, pico, sliced avocados, peppers, and chopped cilantro.
Now, how about dessert? Bake a big cookie on a pizza pan. Let it cool a bit and slather on some of Nutella, peanut butter, honey, jelly, chopped peanuts, sunflower seeds, and sliced Florida strawberries, oranges, and blueberries.
by TRENT ROWE
Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Ag News magazine.