Or should I say fridge-clearing? Either way, last night I realized on the (longer than usual, stupid traffic) drive home that we had been so caught up in the weekend’s festivities that we had a) not come up with a menu for the week and b) not gone shopping over the weekend. We had also c) not used up most of what we bought for last week, since we had so many places we had to be (and I got sick). I racked my brains, trying to come up with a suitable dinner plan.
I got home with two ideas in my head – burgers or spaghetti – both utilizing things we’d bought a few weeks ago. I was all set to use a (gasp) jarred spaghetti sauce Hubby had picked up when I hit on another idea that would be more flexible and healthier. And use nothing but what we already had. Pizza.
Now, I know pizza isn’t exactly considered a “health food”, but I think it’s gotten a bad rap for years. After all, not all pizza is covered in extra cheese. And nutritionist Paul Saltman gave a lecture in one of my classes years ago, swearing that pizza is one of the healthiest meals one can have, since if it’s got lots of veggies, it’s got all your food groups in one convenient package. And when Hubby and I make pizza, we love to pile on the veggies!
I wasn’t quite ready to think about eating yet, so we started slow. I mixed up a quick dough with whole wheat flour only (I used my standard bread recipe – 1 tbsp yeast, 2 tsp sugar, 2 1/2 cups warm but not hot water, add 2 tsp salt and enough flour to make it the texture you want – but halved it and made it sort of sticky… only because I felt like it) and popped three artichokes that we’d harvested about two weeks ago (they’d been living in the fridge) into boiling water with a couple of cloves of garlic and some dried parsley and basil. I also started to “melt” the onions.
Now I say “melting” the onions instead of “carmelizing” them because the latter process takes a good 45 minutes to an hour and truly should be done in a dutch oven so that the last good bit of cooking can happen in the oven… And I lack the patience to truly carmelize my onions. So I “melt” them on the stove with a little butter and a good bit of salt (to help draw water out of the onions).
My stove seems to have a gap between “Medium-Low” heat and “Extremely Low” – so a few of the bits of onion burned. But considering that I was in the living room playing a board game when much of the cooking was going on, I think it was a pretty decent trade off! 🙂
When the onions were mostly-done, and the dough had been rising and the artichokes cooking for about 45 minutes, I drained the artichokes, punched down the dough, and turned on the oven. Now, of course, I couldn’t find my stupid pizza stone (we found it later in the perfectly logical place next to the washing machine… don’t ask), so I had to cook my pizza on a cookie sheet (it’s not nearly as crisp). If I’d been able to find it, I’d have popped it in the oven at least 45 minutes prior to needing to bake my pizza. If you don’t have a pizza stone, GET one. They’re awesome (thanks Hannes for the wedding gift!).
While the artichokes were cooling and the dough was rising a second time, I took the onions out of the pan (and yes, if you were being smart, you’d drain them on a paper towel, but I just left them in the butter… oh well) and put in some eggplant. We don’t usually eat eggplant, but we had some in the fridge because I’ve been experimenting with it. It was a little soft, but seemed to be mostly good. I cut it into thin slices, using mostly the non-seedy pieces, and completely peeled the thing (the skin is really bitter) and tossed it with a little lemon juice. Then in the pan I added olive oil and garlic. I remembered after a few minutes what a sponge eggplant is (it was sucking up the olive oil like crazy instead of sauteeing in it) and decided to add a little more flavor to the party. I drizzled it with my trusty balsamic vinegar and cooked it until it was soft. Truthfully, I think that this was my favorite part of the finished pizza. The flavor was incredible!
I julienned some small sweet peppers that were on their last legs, tossing them with a little olive oil in the same sautee pan. Then I cut up the artichoke and some very thin asparagus and some basil and parsley (side note: if you want to store basil in the fridge, wrap it in a damp paper towel… I had two packages in there, one with the damp paper towel and one without, and without a doubt that’s the way to go). I had Hubby grate the leftover bits of cheese (sharp gouda and sharp cheddar) that were left in the fridge and mix them with the grated mozzarella that was left over from my homemade lasagna (all together there were about 1 1/2 cups of cheese, which sounds like a lot but really isn’t for a large pizza like this). Lastly, I made “sausage” out of ground turkey (from our freezer) mixed with dry parsley and basil, lemon pepper, and granulated garlic. I added panko breadcrumbs to try to keep as much moisture in as possible and rolled them into balls (next time, I’d flatten out a big piece and put it over the sauce, under the veggies, to try to have the veggies’ moisture seep into the meat… or I’d just use a ground meat that actually contains some fat). Oh, and the jarred pasta sauce? Fantastic as a pizza sauce (Barilla with sweet peppers, in case you’re wondering).
Soooo… I had all the ingredients laid out and ready to go. Now to start the pizza crust. I stretched it out as best I could and sort of smushed it out, trying not to stick it to the pan (I failed). I should have gone with a less sticky crust, but it still worked out okay. I par-baked it (at 450 for about 10 minutes) before putting on the toppings (and scraped it off the cookie sheet before it went in again).
I started with the sauce and then the herbs. Now, as I said above, I’d probably spread the “sausage” thinly over the sauce next time, but I’d never used ground turkey as a pizza topping before and I didn’t know how quickly it would dry out… Anyway, I added the onions next.
Gah, I’m getting hungry just looking at it! Next came the rest of the veggies, all spread out to try to get everything in each bite…
Lastly, I added the turkey “sausage.” I had a moment of panic that the pieces weren’t cooked (since I usually cook my meat before putting it on my pizza), but they turned out just fine (if a little dry). I know it looks like a LOT of sausage (I used about half a package) but it cooks down quite a bit.
Next came the cheese (about a cup and a half, which is NOT a lot of cheese for a large pizza like this), and despite my reservations about using sharp cheddar and gouda together with all the veggies, etc., they actually played really nicely together. I might add sharp cheese to all my pizzas now! And then it was time for a 450-degree oven for 15-20 minutes…
When it was bubbly and the sausage turned white, I took it out (even though I like my cheese a little more “done”, I was afraid the sausage would turn into little hockey pucks).
I put it on my pizza stone to cool and be cut (since I wouldn’t want to cut on my cookie sheet). At least I got some use out of the stone last night!
All that there was left to do was to serve it. We ate it with a salad made from leftover tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet corn (we left out the beautiful green beans that the neighbor brought over – boo!!) and a nice sweet fizzy Italian wine. It was a totally incredible meal out of just what we had lying around the house!!!