Thursday, January 24, 2013
I saw a poster once that said “You are what you eat, so I am pizza.” I immediately made secret plans to emblazon that phrase onto a tee shirt because it was maybe the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet. I LOVE pizza. Not like that makes me unique or special in any way shape or form, but I truly adore it in a major way. Even if I had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, if someone walked in with a pie, I’d do a slice. Luckily, my husband is almost as equally obsessed and we occasionally toss around the idea of eating only pizza for two weeks straight just to see if we could get sick of it. But then we realize that’s such a silly idea, because the answer is obviously no. No we would not.
In college, I ate enough pizza to kill a weaker woman. It was a) extraordinarily cheap; b) available almost 24 hours a day; c) absolutely everywhere and d) I didn’t really care about a “balanced diet” in those doughy college years. I only supplemented my nutritional intake by occasionally getting chicken rolls (for the protein). You know what these are if you grew up in the New York metropolitan area. If you didn’t and you don’t know what they are, well, I feel deeply sorry for you, because they are really something else. They are essentially just personal sized chicken parm calzones. And by “personal sized”, I mean, at least four adult servings of chicken parm, wrapped in pizza dough, topped with additional mozzarella and served with sauce on the side. The “personal” part of the serving portion was only that I, one single person, would toss back one in a single sitting and then calculate the time until it was acceptable to get another one (usually at least two days, but in some cases, one).
Ah, those gluttonous, glorious, pizza-filled days. I had two girlfriends, Laura and Nicole, who were, unlike me, taken to eating salad a lot and into vegetables. They also went to this place called “the gym” that I think was in a building adjacent to the student auditorium, but I can’t be quite sure because I never saw it with my own eyes. When I ate with these two homies, it was somewhat tougher to get them on the Chicken Roll Express. However, one night, those two gym-going, salad eating geniuses turned me on to one of my favorite discoveries ever: Mike’s Sicilian Salad Pizza. Mike’s made, for the record, the greatest Sicilian style slices I’ve ever had. One single slice would do you good for about 5 hours, they were dense and gigantic and thick and then yet somehow still crisp on the bottom, with the perfect amount of cheese. Mike’s was also located in a pretty dicey section of off campus. On the corner of Webster Avenue and Let’s Murder Some College Idiots Blvd.; fortunately, they delivered.
The Salad Pizza was a giant Sicilian crust, topped with sauce and baked. Then, once crisped to perfection, they tossed a well dressed house salad on top. Just a simple blend of ice berg lettuce, tomatoes, onion and green pepper, with Italian dressing. It was transcendent. Especially if you’re one of those people, like myself, my mother or my sister, who like to use our slices of pizza to pinch and pick up our side salad, combining the two into one perfect bite. This pizza was the premade equivalent of this, all on a make-your-eyes-roll-back-in-your-head chewy thick crust. Obviously it left its mark, since I just wrote one thousand words about it and the last time I had one was 12 years ago. But then again, would you expect any less here?
1 ball pizza dough, or pre-made, store bought shell
1 small can crushed tomatoes
Small head romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped
White or purple onion, thinly sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, peeled and left whole (milder flavor) or minced (more potent)
Pinch dried oregano
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Less a recipe so much as it is an idea, you can feel free to make the Salad Pizza as complicated or simple as you like. I was making this for lunch the other day, which meant I was hungry and in a hurry. I hacked it using a store bought whole wheat crust, and I made the salad more of a Greek with the addition of feta. Next time- and I can assure there will be one- I’m going to make my own dough and try and do a thick Sicilian style crust. Not sure if I will be able to pull it off without having an industrial grade pizza oven (ahem, gift idea!) but I think it will be worth a try.
Lightly brush pizza dough or crust with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of crushed tomatoes on and sprinkle with garlic salt, and a pinch each of oregano and basil (you can use chunky or smooth tomatoes, just make sure to use them raw- that’s how pizza places do it and they know best now don’t they?). Set to bake in the oven, heeding the package instructions if using a premade shell and on the highest heat you can if baking your own dough (like 500). The crust, regardless of which you are using, should bake up in about 10 minutes, maybe 12. While the pizza bakes, assemble your salad. Feel free to use whatever your go-to salad dressing is here. I tossed together a quick Italian-style vinaigrette, combining 1 part red wine vinegar with 2 parts olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of dried oregano, a minced clove of garlic and a few spoonfuls of parmesan. I put everything into a jar and shook it like crazy. Once the pizza crust is baked, remove from oven, toss salad on top and devour immediately, with a fork nearby in case you should need assistance.