Another installment of the Take Out Series, this time for the clear crowd favorite: pizza.
Favorite American take-out or delivery meal of all time? Pizza, hands down. The not-so-funny thing is, pizza as a concept is a great idea (grain, veggies, protein), but as a reality is usually a disaster. Most ordered pizza is made from flour leached of its goodness, with toppings full of high fructose corn syrup, extra sodium, and artificial add-ins, not to mention rancid oils. The result is somehow alluring and addictive, but leaves much to be desired, both in the taste and health categories. The good news? You really can make easy and healthy pizza at home, simply and satisfyingly, and it doesn’t have to come frozen out of a box. Let’s face it; in the amount of time you wait for a pizza to arrive, you could have stopped on your way home for a few convenience ingredients and be well on your way to a happier ending.
Of course, there are two rules to taking pizza from junk food status to Devon-approved family dinner. 1) Accompany pizza with something. Like a salad. Or antipasta. Or a handful of whatever fresh veggies you had in the fridge, trimmed and popped in your mouth. 2) Choose your toppings wisely. First, that means choosing your sauce and cheese and bread wisely, but you already know that, so I mean those other things, like meat and veggies. The pizza topping category is full of healthful options, like raw or roasted veggies, garlic, basil, even spinach, not to mention olives (natural) and meats in moderation (bought nitrate-free, etc, of course). Our last pizza night included a sopressatta and fig pizza with red pepper flakes. It was really good.
We’re going to start with two pizza options that are exceedingly simple, but different from the norm. If you are not trying to reproduce your pizza parlor’s pizza, it’s likely you won’t be judged by it’s standard, right? If you want an easy, cheating deep-dish ‘za (my daughter’s all-time fave and the one we use the most), see my recipe here.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Slice a demi-baguette in half, lengthwise (like hot-dog-bun styke). Toast in the oven or in a toaster oven until just crisping up.
- Place halves, cut-side up, on a baking pan. Brush with virgin olive oil.
- Spread with about 1 cup premium canned pizza sauce (or a favorite marinara, but result will be slightly wetter), and then sprinkle with a generous cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese (and optional parmesan). Top with sliced or diced pepperoni, if desired, or other pizza toppings of choice. (Meats should be pre-cooked, and so should most veggies (or you’re going to end up with watery pizza).)
- Bake for about 10 minutes, until cheese is browning and pizza is hot.
These are ideal for lunch. Heck, the kids even like to have the ingredients in their lunch bags to they can microwave them themselves. Not my perfect pizza, but I’m at home with the convection oven.
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425F.
- Set out 4 pitas (preferably whole wheat) on a baking sheet or baking stone.
- Brush pitas with virgin olive oil, then spread with about 1 cup premium jarred pizza sauce (or marinara, but results will be wetter). Sprinkle with 1 heaping cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese and then any pizza topping you would desire or have on hand. In my opinion, most pizza toppings need to be pre-cooked so that they do not weep on your pizza.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and pizza is hot throughout.
Perhaps wings are not the healthiest pizza night offering, but when you end up cutting all those carbs with a protein kick-in-the-pants, I can’t argue too much with a restricted serving. That, and these wings have the advantage of not being fried. Just choose your blue cheese dressing wisely (actually just sprinkling blue cheese right on the wings would be ideal), use it sparingly, and tell yourself you’ll eat one celery stick for every wing. 😉
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Lightly oil the rack.
- In a large ziplock bag, place 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Shake to mix.
- Drop in 20 chicken wings, seal up again, and shake to coat. Place wings out on the baking rack and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup red hot sauce. Dip wings into sauce and place back on rack.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, turning once, until wings are cooked through and crispy. Serve with celery sticks and premium (or homemade) blue cheese dressing.
My thing lately has been to forgo the giant garden, Ceasar, or Greek salad with pizza for a crowd-pleasing antipasto plate. Just make sure it’s teeming with veggies to offset the little bit o’ grease. (Of course, a giant garden, Caesar, or Greek salad would also be a perfect pairing with pizza night.)
- On a large platter, artistically heap some of the following:
- pickled onions
- pickled cauliflower
- pickled carrots
- sliced bell peppers
- roasted bell peppers
- celery sticks
- cucumber sticks
- fennel sticks
- radish slices
- olives, all sorts and shapes and sizes
- sliced or pickled mushrooms
- chick peas (marinated would be good)
- flake tuna
- thin-sliced salamis, all sorts
- prosciutto (or other cured meats)
- thin-sliced ham
- marinated artichoke hearts
- fresh mozzarella balls (pepperoncini)
- roasted or marinated eggplant
- sliced provolone
- roasted garlic
- sun-dried tomatoes
- diced Italian cheese
- pickled capers or caperberries
- fresh figs
- goat cheese
- pine nuts
- hard boiled eggs
- blanched or roasted asparagus