When it comes to Pizza, it doesn’t get much more personal than that. It’s one of America’s true comfort foods and our preferences vary wildly depending on where we grew up, our food influences and individual preferences.
As far as I’m concerned it breaks into two major considerations: crust and toppings. I went for years selectively pigging out only on toppings and skipping the crust. No thanks, on that flavorless cardboard; I’ll just eat more of the greasy good stuff.
And so, it’s my great pleasure to announce a yummy, healthy pizza built on a yeasty homemade crust worth eating that's prepared in less than 30 minutes! Here’s my pizza solution for a quick snack or a pamper-yourself-dinner that will work equally well mid week as on the weekends.
Thanks to our secret ingredient, cornmeal, we have a pizza that meets all of my criteria: 1) a devourable crust, thin, yeasty, chewy and crunchy, and 2) flavorful toppings that do not make a soggy mess, impossible to pick up. No forks necessary!
Here, the toppings begin with a garlicy spinach base. Consider this a starting point, it’s all about preference and mood. If you wish, forget the spinach altogether and simply replace it with lovely fresh tomatoes. Unless I am craving a heavy dose of protein or a sausage of some sort, I find a vegetable combination that includes mushrooms satisfying, flavorful and filling.
A footnote on preparing the pizza crust ahead: If fussing with pizza dough at the last minute is inconvenient, pre-bake the crust. Prepare per instructions, preheating oven to 400 degrees and bake only to set dough but not color it, about 7 minutes. Set it aside until needed. This makes the final assembly simply a matter of adding the toppings and baking.
Quick Cornmeal Pizza CrustA very malleable dough, that can be rolled as thin as desired. The cornmeal gives extra flavor, body and texture. Inspired by Lean Italian Meatless Meals, by Anne Casale
2 ½ cups flour, approx.
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 package quick rise yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup hot water
In food processor: Place 2 cup flour, cornmeal, yeast, sugar, salt into processor bowl. With machine running, gradually add olive oil and hot tap water in feed tube. Run machine til dough forms a ball and is briefly kneaded, pulsing if necessary, about 50 seconds. It should be slightly sticky. If too wet, add reserved 1/2 cup flour, 1Tbsp. flour at a time, and process for 5 second after each addition until dough reaches desired consistency.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead til smooth and satiny, about 2 minutes. Shape into a ball and dust lightly with flour. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape, top and bake as desired. Makes enough for 2 pizzas.
Note: To pre-bake crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, bake in lower portion of oven until set, but not colored, approx. 7 minutes. Set aside until ready to add toppings. Or follow directions for Pizza to roll and finish.
Spinach and Veggie PizzaA healthy and delicious solution for a pizza craving: from scratch and ready in less than 30 minutes. Suitable for snack, lunch, dinner or cut into hors d’oeuvres portions - highly portable.
9 ounces pkg. fresh spinach leaves, or 1 bunch cleaned and trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, slivers or minced, divided
1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Assorted Veggies on hand such as:
1 onion, slivers
2 jalapeno peppers, seed and slice
8 mushrooms, sliced, 1 cup or more
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
3/4 cup Muenster, and/or combo mozzarella, Swiss, jack, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 recipe Quick Cornmeal Pizza dough
1 round or large baking sheet
spray for pan, cornmeal for dusting
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray pan and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Prepare the dough per instructions and let rest about 10 minutes on floured surface. (You will only need about ½ a recipe.) Note: the crust can be prepared ahead, bake at 400 degrees just to set dough, but not colored, about 7 minutes. Set aside until needed. Increase temp to 450 for final baking.
Prepare the Spinach Base: In microwave, nuke the spinach 2-4 minutes or until slightly wilted. Drain in colander to cool and squeeze dry. In sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil, add 1 clove garlic, the red pepper flakes, the fennel and toss until aromatic, add the spinach, and the salt. Heat to combine flavors, and set aside to cool.
Roll dough thinly on floured surface. Lay the dough in pan of choice, using fingers spread evenly to form a rim. Drizzle the dough with about 1 Tbsp. olive oil and evenly combine and spread with remaining garlic... Distribute the Spinach Base, then the other veggies, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Top with cheeses and finish with a light dusting of oregano.
Bake in lower portion of oven for 11 - 17 minutes until bubbly, browned and crisp. Let cool briefly before cutting.