On my never-ending quest to reinvent leftover food I was recently faced with a dilemma.
To be honest, the root of the problem can be traced back to me. I made two large pizzas for three people. What was I thinking?! All of the leftover pizza was portioned in sets of three slices, wrapped in foil, and placed in the refrigerator. And, there it sat, practically untouched, for three days.
It wasn’t bad pizza…at least I didn’t think it was bad. The problem was, there was too much of it and I shouldn’t have expected people to eat leftover pizza for days on end. If I was still in college, then yes, leftover pizza might be all you get. Be happy to have something to eat. Live with it.
So, I either had to eat all of the leftover pizza or figure out a way to reinvent it.
3 slices of leftover pizza (with various toppings)
Iceberg lettuce (one third of a head of lettuce, rough chopped)
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
¼ cup Dried Parmesan cheese
Vinegar and Oil dressing, to taste (I used store bought Italian dressing)
Slice the pizza toppings away from the crust with a knife. Allow the pizza topping to warm to room temperature.
Cut the thick crusty edge from the pizza and toast briefly in an oven.
Fill serving bowls with cold chopped iceberg lettuce.
Drizzle salad dressing on salad.
Rough chop the toppings and scatter them across the salads.
Add chopped Kalamata olives and top with parmesan cheese.
Serve the salad cold with warm breadsticks (formerly known as pizza crust).
I never order ham and pineapple pizza, when I go out for pizza, or when I order pizza for delivery. It seems like such a silly thing. I prefer a more classic pizza, I suppose. But, when life gives you ham and pineapple, it’s time to make Hawaiian pizza.
I came down with a cold the other day and I promptly crawled into bed. That’s my preferred remedy for nearly all illnesses. I dreamed about making a pizza. When I awoke, some hours later, I made that pizza. I recently picked up some garlic naan at my local Indian market and I knew it would be perfect for the occasion. Naan is an Asian flatbread, similar to pita, in case you are not familiar with it.
Naan is typically oval shaped, about 6” x 8”, which makes a perfect individual serving.
Prep time: 5 minutes. Bake time: 10 minutes.
1 naan flatbread
2 oz tomato paste
1 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 to 10 pepperoni slices
A dash of garlic salt
A dash of red pepper flakes
Smear the tomato paste on the naan. Add the sliced cheese and pepperoni.
Bake in a 375° oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts and begins to brown.
Remove from the oven and scatter a little garlic salt and red chili flakes on top.
If you have seen some of my previous posts you might remember Dinner #1: Spaghetti. For many years I relentlessly cranked out the same dishes (with some subtle variations) week after week. Getting kids to eat healthy food was a real trick.
Pizza was always Dinner #5. Friday, the last day of the work week, was a day when I knew I could really relax and spend some time in the kitchen.
I still come home Friday evenings and think, “how about pizza?”
This time, I made three pizzas. Hamburger with mushroom and onion, Pepperoni and Italian cold cuts with spinach, mushroom, and tomato.
A quick rundown of some of the ingredients and then straight to the pizza…
Capocollo and Calabrese. These Italian cold cuts are perfect for pizza and many grocery stores sell them packaged together, in 6 to 12 ounce portions. They are a little pricey by weight but I don’t spend more than $5.00 and they can make two large pizzas!
Pepperoni. Oh, no! I accidentally picked up turkey pepperoni at the store. I don’t like turkey pepperoni but, I put a char on it and pretended I was eating the real deal.
Mozzarella. I bought “fresh mozzarella” at the store on an impulse. It’s a step up from the brick of mozzarella but I’m not so sure that it’s worth the cost. Real, fresh mozzarella is a treasure. I want to make my own! Freshly grated Parmesan is always a good thing!
If you want to see how I make pizza dough, check it out here.
Portions are arbitrary when it comes to pizza. Put whatever you want on your pizza and use as much as you want, but use some common sense. My cautionary advice is, if you think you’re putting on too much cheese, you are. If you think your pizza toppings are excessive, they are. Simplicity is key to really good pizza.
This week’s confession is truly astounding, even for someone
like me, who has committed so many kitchen atrocities over time that I am sure
I will end up in Kitchen Hell, when it’s all said and done.
All kidding aside, this was truly a remarkable faux
pas. I’m the sort of person that likes
to be the smartest kid in the class and, if it’s obvious that I am not the
smartest, I like to the one that says the most clever things. Earlier this week I confused Masala with
For those of you who might be scratching your heads,
wondering what the difference is between the two, I’ll tell you. The difference is “R”. (See
what I mean about trying to make up for a lack of intellect by attempting to be
Masala is a mixture
of many spices. It’s a term used by
people from India and Pakistan, among other places. It is not just one particular spice mix. The mix can contain any number of
spices. Masala is the flavor foundation
for many dishes.
Marsala is a
sweet, fortified Italian dessert wine, often used for cooking.
An innocent mistake, for sure. And, if that was where my story ended, I
could have laughed it off and gone on with my life with nobody being the wiser.
Several months ago, while visiting my favorite Indian spice
market, I struck up a conversation with the proprietor, as I usually do. He is always willing to stop and talk with me
and he has been a tremendous guide, while I attempt to unravel Indian
cuisine. On this occasion, I told him
that I was considering making a masala pizza, at least that is what he probably
heard. I actually said Marsala, because I was thinking about making
a chicken Marsala pizza. That was the
moment I ran off the rails.
You see, I have made chicken Marsala before and I have made
many dishes with masala, although I’ve never really thought about calling the
spice mixture, masala. I must have had a
bizarre synaptic short-circuit which caused me to switch masala with
Marsala. The proprietor, being the
gentleman that he is, just stared at me when I suggested the masala pizza. He gave me a sort of quizzical, pitiful look.
Well, months later, here I am ready to make the pizza. I wanted to try a test run with the chicken
Marsala, before moving on to the pizza.
I went back to the Indian market to pick up some items for other dishes
and when I saw the proprietor, I told him that I was really going to make the
masala pizza, but I what I actually said was, “Marsala”. I told him that I was deliberating on how to
approach the pizza. I didn’t want to use
traditional Italian marinara and mozzarella because I didn’t think they would
pair well with the Marsala sauce. I
asked him if he had a suggestion for a creamy sauce that I could make, instead
of using Mozzarella. After a moment, he
suggested coconut milk and followed that with suggesting tapioca starch to
thicken the coconut milk.
Coconut milk? I’ve
taken some interesting turns while creating new food but coconut milk didn’t
seem like a very good idea for pizza but, I told him that I would give it a
As I left the store and headed to the wine store, to pick up
some Marsala wine, it suddenly dawned on me that I had been utterly
confused. You see, the proprietor of the
spice market speaks perfectly. Despite
the tell-tale Indian accent, his diction and vocabulary is precise and
clear. He speaks better English than
most people I encounter, on any given day.
“Masala”, was what he was saying, and he made sure to say
masala each time after I said “Marsala” to him.
The nerve cells in my brain finally made the jump. I had been enlightened! I also suffered from incredible embarrassment.
As I drove to the wine store I convinced myself that the
only way to redeem myself was to perform an act of penance. I would make two pizzas. One would be inspired by masala and the other would be inspired by Marsala.
One final interesting event rounded out the day and
convinced me that fate is a very real thing.
I was checking out some other blogs and I came across this blog, https://ishitasood.com/
. It’s tagline reads, “The Biggest and Only Indian Blog on Italy”. Ishita is the author and she has produced
some very interesting posts. One post in
particular struck a chord with me… https://ishitasood.com/confessions-of-a-passionate-blogger/
In the blog she offers some words of encouragement,
including the following: “It is okay to be vulnerable.”
And that was exactly what I needed to hear. It is what I needed to remember. I am an imperfect human and so is everybody
I will work on these recipes with an open heart and an open
Recently, I was expecting dinner guests and I didn’t have a
plan for the meal. This happens every
now and then and, when it does, I usually resort to something I can practically
do in my sleep. Maybe tacos. Maybe spaghetti. No, let’s do pizza again.
I know what my family likes on their pizzas so I normally
just make them according to what I know to be their taste preferences. If I’m making two pizzas, I might make one
with half pepperoni and the other half pepperoni and Italian sausage. The other pizza might be an “everything pizza”,
meaning all of the veggies and assorted meats.
I might slip some anchovies in on the other half of the “everything
pizza”, but I have to make sure to put up warning cones around that half of the
pizza and announce, “this side has anchovy!”
It never fails, someone always inadvertently gets a slice with
some anchovy. Life is unfair sometimes.
But, this time I didn’t know what all of the guests like on
their pizza…or even if they liked pizza at all, for that matter. So I thought, why not lay out all of the
toppings and allow the guests to dress their own pizza.
I prepared the vegetables and meats and cheese and I even
put out a container or marinara, so that they could add as much as they wanted.
It turned out that the dinner party fizzled out and it was
just my wife and I. We wound up making
nearly identical pizzas…go figure.
I still think this is a pretty neat idea for a party. It allows people to congregate in the kitchen, which seems to occur naturally, anyway. And, it gives everyone the illusion of being able to control their own destiny. I like that.
“Great pizza and bad pizza have one thing in common…they are both unforgettable.”
Suffice it to say that I am a big fan of pizza. Any pizza can be a great pizza if it is made with
passion and bravado. New York, Chicago,
Des Moines…it doesn’t matter which particular city or which style you prefer,
pizza has become our Great Unifier. Even
when we argue about which type of pizza is the best, we are really acknowledging
the existence of all forms of pizza. The
love of pizza embraces every culture, every race, every nation. Pizza knows no boundaries. Pizza brings us all together and we owe pizza
a debt of gratitude. Make pizza, not
Being a humble, home cook, I don’t have a wood-fire brick oven,
I don’t make my dough with semolina flour and I don’t use buffalo mozzarella. But, that doesn’t prevent me from producing
some satisfying pizza pies. I try to include
at least one ingredient that elevates a common pizza to the next level and I
put my heart and soul into each and every one.
Today’s pizza experience is somewhat typical for me. By that, I mean that I used some ingredients that I have not used before and I employed some techniques that I did not see coming, until inspiration struck me. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely make a recipe the same way twice and pizza fits my philosophy perfectly.
We’re making two pizzas.
I usually use tomato sauce from a jar, and I’m not ashamed
to admit it. There are some really good
sauces available and I use an inexpensive brand, flavored with basil and
garlic. But, now that I have fresh
tomatoes from the garden, I am making my own sauce.
Ingredients for the pizza sauce:
2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
4 smashed garlic cloves
¼ tsp red chili flakes
Directions for sauce:
Cook the tomatoes, garlic and chili flakes in a large skillet until tomatoes are completely softened. Strain the solids and reserve the sauce. Reduce the sauce by half. Set aside.
Prepare pizza dough. See
my recent post on pizza dough here:
Spread tomato sauce on cooked pizza dough. Lay tomato slices around the outer edge of the pizza. Sprinkle olives across the pizza. Drape the speck capriciously across the pizza, gently. Allow the cured meat to rise and fall…resist the urge to press it down. Distribute the mushrooms and scatter strips of mozzarella across the pizza and finish with the julienne onion and Parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Use a blowtorch to blister the mozzarella. Toss fresh arugula on top. Cut and serve.
Ingredients for the toppings:
1 cup tomato sauce
3 oz pepperoni slices
6 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
Directions for making
Spread tomato sauce on cooked pizza dough. Scatter strips of mozzarella across the pizza. Top with pepperoni. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Use a blowtorch to char the pepperoni. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cut and serve.
The homemade tomato sauce makes both pizzas special. It is a straightforward sauce…sweet and simple.
The speck and arugula was my favorite of the two pizzas but both
pizzas benefited by the blowtorch.
Since speck is a dry, cured meat I layered the mozzarella on top, to keep the speck from becoming too dry. Blistering the mozzarella with the blowtorch made the mozzarella sizzle and gave it a special saltiness.
For the pepperoni pizza, I laid the pepperoni on top of the mozzarella,
giving me an opportunity to put a char on the pepperoni with the blowtorch,
which made it as crispy as a brick-oven could produce.
Now, go make some pizza but, for goodness sake, make it good!
I thought I was going to submit a post about how I make pizza
but I became overwhelmed. And then, it
occurred to me that when I make pizza I am really doing two things. First, I make the dough and then I make the
pizza. As a result, I felt the need to
break this topic up into two parts. So, this
post is about making pizza dough and I will make a separate post about dressing
up the pizza.
I usually approach cooking with a sense of whimsy, as if whatever
will happen, will happen. But making
dough is a different thing for me. I am
not a baker. I’m just a home cook that
wants to make something tasty for my family.
So, when I step into a baker’s shoes, I get a little bit nervous.
When I make dough I become serious. If you have ever seen a Marx Brothers movie
you might recall how the clown of the troupe, Harpo becomes very serious when
he sits down, to play the harp.
That’s how I imagine I look as I start to make pizza
But, I don’t stay that way for very long. At some point, during the process I begin to
relax. Maybe it happens when I start
kneading the dough. The sensation of the
soft, pliable dough under my palms and fingers gives me satisfaction and I feel
like a kid again. Maybe that’s why I
used to bring my young kids into the kitchen when I made pizza. They would stand on a chair, next to me, and knead
the dough on the counter top and then they would help me roll it out into a
wide circle and they would “paint” the pizza dough with tomato sauce, smearing
the sauce with a large spoon grasped by their tiny hands.
Pizza needs to be fun.
Making pizza should be a celebration.
Maybe that’s what Harpo Marx felt when he spent time with
This recipe will make 2 large, 14” thin crust pizzas
Ingredients for the
3 cups all-purpose flour (you will need additional flour throughout
1 packet of Instant
1 ¼ cup warm water
2 Tbs olive oil
Note: I use Instant
Dry Yeast, which can be added directly to the flour, rather than Active Dry Yeast, which is added to
warm water. Either way is fine, but I
have found the Instant Dry Yeast method to be the easiest and most
Whisk the flour and yeast together in a bowl. Set aside.
Heat the water to about 100°. You can do this in a microwave oven or just
use very hot tap water.
In a separate large mixing bowl, add the water and add about ½ cup of the flour mixture. Whisk until smooth.
Gradually add more flour and mix with a spatula. Keep adding flour and mixing until all 3 cups of the flour has been added. At this point, you might want to mix by hand. Keep adding flour in small amounts and mix by hand until the dough forms a ball and does not stick to your hands. The additional flour needed might be anywhere between ¾ cup to 1 cup…you will know when the dough is ready to knead when the dough ball becomes easy to pick up and rolls around in your hands, without sticking. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and dust your hands with a little bit of flour. Knead for about two minutes. You should feel the dough becoming more pliable and supple.
Put the dough ball back into the mixing bowl and cover tightly with
aluminum foil. Some people suggest
covering with a damp towel but I prefer sealing it with the foil.
Put the bowl in a proofing cabinet and allow the dough to rise for
at least a half hour. Oh, what’s that?
You don’t have a proofing cabinet?
Well, neither do I. In warmer
months, I put the bowl on the seat of my pickup truck and roll up the windows. It works perfectly. The dough should double in size within a half
hour to an hour.
made pizza today the outside temperature was 91° with 64% humidity (heat index
at 105°), which is perfect for dough that needs to rise but is miserable for
anyone wanting to mow their lawn…which is why I chose to make pizza today,
instead of mowing the lawn!
cooler months, I set the bowl on my stove top and set the oven at 250°
I prepare the pizza
toppings while the dough rises but I will skip that part for now…
When the dough has risen, heat the oven to 400°.
At this point, I
should mention that I use a standard, conventional oven. In fact, my oven broiler stopped working over
a year ago but the rest of the oven works just fine. Since I don’t have a pizza oven, or any other
fancy trappings, I use a two-bake method for the pizza dough. I bake the dough first and then add toppings
and bake again, to finish. I use
insulated aluminum cookie sheets…no fancy pizza stones, or perforated pizza
pans for me!
Divide the dough in half and turn out one of the halves onto
a lightly floured surface. It’s time to
get a feel for the dough again. Roll the
dough and knead it. The dough will
probably be a little sticky. Add some
flour and knead. Bring the dough back to
a silky and pliable consistency. It should
be easy to handle and feel sturdy, but not dense, or hard.
Pat the dough down into a disc, with your hands. Press the dough out and widen it. Add a little more flour to the work surface
and flip the disc over. Press it again
with your hands. When you feel that the
dough is ready, roll it out with a rolling pin.
If the dough falls apart or if you feel that something isn’t right, don’t
worry. Pick it up and start again. Roll the dough out enough so that it is just a
bit larger than your baking sheet. (I have done this up to three times, just to
get it right). Gently fold the dough
over in half and pick it up and place it on the backing sheet. Unfold the dough onto the sheet and center it
as best as you can. It’s tricky work, to
Curl the edges of the dough with your fingers. It’s not necessary but I like to have a definable
Repeat the process with the other half of the dough and
then, place both cookie sheets in the hot oven.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Take
the pizza crusts out and flip them over.
Brush a little olive oil on the back side of the pizza crust and bake
for a few more minutes. This will give
you a nice, crisp crust.