Friday, October 30, 2009

Carnegie Deli? They don't have pizza!

But...they do have Reubens.

My husband loves a Reuben. There is a better than average chance that if there is a Reuben on the menu, he'll be hip-deep in corned beef or pastrami in the very near future. He would sell his soul for good sauerkraut, so it's really his sandwich Nirvana.

Therefore, a Reuben pizza had to be pretty damn good. It had to hit all the highpoints, and not leave him wishing he had his toasty deli masterpiece.

That just begs one question. How can you make a Reuben on a pizza crust? What about the rye bread? Is this even allowed?

While there are probably deli men in every corner of New York who will say “no way,” I’m here to tell you differently. A Reuben is about so much more than the bread. It’s the subtle blending of very different flavors in one delicious overstuffed sandwich. If you’ve got the pastrami, the sauerkraut, the cheese, the dressing, you’ve got a Reuben, whether you’re eating it on a nice piece of marble rye, or a flour tortilla. (But if you want a pizza that’s truly out of this world, grab a box of bread-machine rye mix and whip up a caraway-laden crust that’s to die for.)

1 pizza crust (pre-baked works best here, or else add a 10-minute baking at the beginning)
½ pound Swiss cheese, sliced
1 ½ pound corned beef or pastrami, sliced thin
1 c. sauerkraut (or cole slaw)
2 large kosher dill pickles, sliced thick
½ c. Russian or Thousand Island dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. (This is where you are adding your first baking if you are starting with dough instead of crust.) Top with cheese. Bake just until cheese is melted but not brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Top crust with corned beef. Spread with sauerkraut. (For some people, a Reuben’s not a Reuben unless it has cole slaw. If that’s you, go for it.) Scatter top with pickle slices. Drizzle with dressing. Slice and serve. (Want your Reuben cheesier? A second layer of cheese on top at the end and a quick trip back to the oven make for a great pie, and I think it even slices better.)

Variation: Rachel Clare – Substitute Monterey jack or pepper jack for the Swiss cheese. Substitute smoked turkey for corned beef. Add roasted red peppers with pickles.

Extra Extra!!!

The seedy side of rye bread – It’s a long-time deli favorite, but rye bread has a dark side…and I’m not talking pumpernickel. Rye grain is susceptible to a fungal growth called ergot. When heated, it changes chemically to the compound “ergotamine,” a powerful toxin related to LSD. But is this really dangerous? Ask the experts. Some modern scientists have blamed ergot blights on rye crops for everything from a medieval convulsion disorder called St. Anthony’s Fire to the Salem witch trials. Today the grain is carefully screened to prevent it from ending up on your turkey sandwich, but it isn’t gone. Doctors use derivatives to treat patients for bleeding and migraines.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who needs chips?

Not me. Okay, often I do need chips. Ridgy potato ones I can dip in ketchup. Don't judge me!

But not for my nachos.

How does one have nachos without chips? (Hint: look at the title of the blog.)

The thing about nachos is this. I love them. I think they are a great way of trying new things because you can be kind of selective about it. I really don't like black olives, for example. But my husband does. So when we get nachos, he eats the olives and jalapenos. I eat the...well, there's really nothing he won't eat on there, but you get the point. And if I accidentally end up with some black olive? There's probably enough salsa and sour cream to mask it.

But that brings us to my LEAST favorite part of the nacho experience. If you don't want your chips to turn to moosh, you have to eat them pretty quick. I can't do this. I eat really slow. I've gotten very used to being able to use a spoon for my nachos by the time I get to the bottom.

Another problem, particularly with kids, is the idea of equity. My husband tries to "save" me by helping me eat my nachos. Usually after he's eaten whatever he got for his own meal or snack. And somehow, he misses the stink-eye he's getting as he innocently scoops up my cheesy goodness.

Kids want fairness. They want to know that Alex didn't get three more chips than Logan, and that Rachel didn't get all the cheese while the boys get naked chips.

Nothing solves these problems like a pizza.

A sturdy crust can hold up to the drippier ingredients of a good nacho. The sour cream, guacamole, salsa, even chili. (We've already proven that with our chili dog pizza.) None of them will leave a pizza crust weak and limp the way they will a thin, crispy chip.

Pizza is easily divided with mathematical precision. No counting out exactly how many chips each kid gets or "MOM! He got more than me!!!" And the cheese is spread in an even blanket over the whole pie, not just on the top layer of chips. Is there anything more disappointing than having half a dozen ooey-gooey delicious nachos, and then a plate of over-salted, usually half-stale chips?

Also, this lets you use real cheese more effectively. I love real cheese on my nachos. Downside? It doesn't stick well and pulls off like the celophane wrapper on a slice of process-cheese food. Melted cheese sauce sticks well, but it doesn't have the same flavor for me.

This is also a flexible recipe. You can make the simple cheese and chile pie, cut it up and let eveyrone add his favorite toppings. This can make it even easier to encourage a picky eater to try something new because there's no commitment. You don't have to try a whole piece of black olive pizza, only to have to pull off the black olives you don't like after the first bite. You can put just one black olive on the tip, and if you don't like it, you're done with it.

Nacho Pizza

1 pizza crust
1 c. shredded mild cheddar
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1 small can mild green chiles
Salsa, sliced black olives, jalapeno peppers, guacamole, chili, onions, shredded lettuce, refried beans, sour cream, cilantro, chopped tomato

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

Combine cheeses and sprinkle over pizza crust. Scatter chiles evenly. Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and faintly golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing, or cheese will be too gooey. Serve with remaining ingredients, and let everyone top their own nacho with exactly what they want.

Extra Extra!

Tasty Tidbit – In 1943, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya first covered chips with cheese and chiles for a group of Air Force officers’ wives lunching in Mexico, just across the border from Texas’ Fort Duncan Air Base. The maitre’ d, Anaya couldn’t find the cook to make something for the ladies, and so he whipped up the dish and named it Nacho’s Especiales. (Source: San Antonio Express-News)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Say cheese!

Sometimes, it's the things you are most resistant to that end up being your absolute favorites. I call this the "Green Eggs and Ham" principle. (In an unrelated note, if you like Dr. Seuss classics reinterpreted in hilarious ways...with here. It's worth it.)

I sampled my first cheese Danish when I was 12, under duress.

I had no interest in trying what was explained to me as a doughnut filled with cheese. (The small picture of a wedge of Swiss on the side of the bakery box didn’t help my somewhat vivid imagination.) I'm not sure why anyone would think this was the way to go. It's kind of like offering a cupcake with gravy.

But try it I did. And there was no going back. My refrigerator is never without cream cheese. I use it in everything. You'll see it make more than one appearance in this blog. In fact, I think it's already shown up a few times. I have trouble getting enough protein in my diet, and cream cheese offers me a delicious way to up the number of grams I get in a day. If you have a seriously picky eater, adding some cream cheese to his mashed potatoes or Kraft macaroni could give you a little piece of mind about rounding out his diet.

Something sweet is usually a much easier sell than something savory, however. And as a breakfast food, a good cheese danish is hard to beat. It's got dairy, protein, carbs, a solid foundation for a morning of work or school, especially if paired with a glass of juice.

If you are meeting, or think you might meet, similar resistance when you serve this delicious concoction, feel free to call it what my nephew does: white frosting pizza. I don’t intend to correct him for at least five years.

1 pizza crust
1 T. butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
1 egg
2 T. butter
2 T. brown sugar
¼ c. flour
½ c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Spread with butter. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg. Spread over crust. In another bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and flour. Sprinkle over cheese mixture. Bake 10-15 minutes, until crust begins to brown, but the cheese is just beginning to set. Remove and cool. The cheese will set up more.

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Drizzle over cooled pizza. Slice and serve.


Jeweled Danish – Spread 1 c. blueberry or cherry pie filling over c cheese layer before sprinkling with streusel. Bake 15 minutes.

Lemon Cream Danish – Omit streusel. After baking the cream cheese layer, spread with ½ c. lemon curd. Sprinkle with flaked almonds. Replace vanilla in icing with lemon juice.

Extra Extra!!

Where in the world does Danish pastry come from? – Actually, it’s Austria. If you walk into a bakery in Denmark and ask for a Danish, you’ll get some funny looks. Ask for some “bread of Vienna” though, and they’ll know just what you want. Why? According to, the answer lies in a kitchen workers’ strike in 1880, when bakers walked off the job and were replaced by Viennese masters whose pastries were ultimately lighter and flakier than their Danish colleagues’ treats. When the bakers came back to work, customers were clamoring for the Viennese delicacies and savvy chefs had to learn to make them the same way. Those wily Danes weren’t melancholy for long. They got the last laugh since no one ever orders a cheese Austrian with their morning coffee.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

She sneaks, she scores!

I would like to preface this post with a disclaimer.

I am intrinsically opposed to the Deceptively Delicious/Sneaky Chef philosophy. I don't believe that tricking people into eating things they can't necessarily identify is appropriate. I mean, if you have a kid who hates spinach, and you hide spinach in brownies, you aren't offering him a chance to change his mind. You're essentially pulling a less oogy Soylent Green on him. And you're teaching him he can't trust you.

Do I put things in a pizza that might be less recognizable? Yes. But they are never obscured to the point of "Hey, this is great! What do you mean there's tomato in this?" The whole point is to get kids to like new things, not encapsulate them so they don't realize they are even being exposed.

Well...usually. This may be the exception. And I don't feel good about it. I assuage my conscience with the fact that trickery wasn't the goal. I was just short an egg.

The last time I made meatballs, I was about to go grocery shopping the next day. I was cleaning out the fridge. I was mixing up my famous (rightly so...they're delicious) meatballs for a good old-fashioned spaghetti with my husband's 2-day sauce.

I had the meat in one bowl. I broke one egg into another bowl. I reached for the second, and last, egg. And dropped it on the floor.

So now, I've got a dilemma. My meatballs need two eggs. I don't have two eggs. My husband has taken the car to go buy weird plumbing widgets. So I'm left with ingenuity instead. Ingenuity, and some leftover pumpkin.

I'm here to tell you, an egg-sized dollop of pumpkin in your meatballs is a perfect sub for an egg. And it's moist and delicious. And you never taste the pumpkin. (I was kind of disappointed about that.) And where an egg would have added fat and cholesterol, the fat-free pumpkin added beta carotene, vitamin A and potassium.

DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO REPLACE BOTH EGGS. You need the egg for binding or it all falls apart (but does still taste good). In fact, in re-tooling the recipe, I have kept both eggs, but used pumpkin in place of part of the milk, again giving a more nutritious punch. And yes, I'm not oblivious to the fact that with a little cinnamon, I'd be adding pie filling to my meatballs.

So don't lie to your kids. But feed them these meatballs. Call them Jack O Lantern meatballs. Kids will eat anything at Halloween.

Delectable Meatballs

(This recipe makes about 30 good sized meatballs. You can cut it down, but I recommend making the bigger batch and freezing what you don't need if that's too many.)

2 lbs. ground beef or meatloaf mix (I often do 1 lb. hamburger and 1 lb. Italian sausage)
2 eggs
1/4 c. pumpkin
2 T. milk
2 t. mustard
1 T. ketchup (or tomato sauce)
Salt and pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 slices fresh bread, torn, or 2/3 c. dry breadcrumbs
Optional: 30 tiny mozzarella balls (ciliegine, not bocconcini), or 1 pound mozzarella cut in 30 small pieces

Break up your meat in one large bowl, much larger than you think you'll need.

In a small bowl, beat your eggs. Whisk in the pumpkin and milk. Add the mustard, ketchup, seasoning and onion. Then gently stir in the bread or breadcrumbs. Then sit it aside for a few minutes. You want the bread to naturally soak up the liquid.

Add the egg mixture to the meat. Gently incorporate them together. Don't overwork the meat or you'll get tough meatballs. Form into about 30 balls. (This is where you can stuff them with the cheese as you shape them. If you like. I do. They are sooooo good with the cheese.)

Now...when I'm making pasta, I cook the raw meatballs in the sauce. This makes the sauce better, and flavors the meatballs at the same time. Delicious. Just simmer, covered, in the sauce for 30 minutes or so. Longer's okay. Just don't let the sauce burn, but don't stir it too much or you'll break up the meatballs. A low flame is really important.

But if I'm freezing any, or making them for pizza, I bake them. A jelly roll pan, a 350 degree oven, and about 20 minutes or so.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Hot potato

As a little girl in Minnesota, I knew nothing of pierogies. To me, ethnic food was an anise-flavored Swiss fruit bread my grandmothers made every Christmas.

But then we moved to Pennsylvania, where so many grandmothers are Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Slavic of all varieties. These are people who understand the value of a good carbohydrate, people who think a potato is good, but a potato wrapped in a noodle is even better.

I’m not much of a noodle maker myself, but when you put creamy mashed potatoes and caramelized onions on a pizza, that’s something to write Eastern Europe about.

1 pizza crust
1 T. butter
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 c. mashed potatoes, hot
1 c. cheddar cheese
Optional: parsley, bacon, diced fresh tomato, fresh or cooked broccoli

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In skillet over low heat, sauté onions in butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Spread potatoes evenly over crust. Scatter cheese over potatoes. Top with onions. If desired, add any optional ingredients, like herbs, bacon or vegetables.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is crisp and golden and cheese is melted.

Extra Extra!

All’s Fair – While there is some universal fair fare, like corn dogs and snow cones, there are also some things that you can only get in certain areas. In Pennsylvania, no carnival, big or small, is complete without a selection of Eastern European specialties, including pierogies (a thick-doughed dumpling filled with mashed potatoes and sautéed with onions), halupki (rice and meat rolled in a cabbage leaf and simmered in a tangy tomato sauce), and halushki (cabbage and chewy homemade noodles pan-fried together). In the upper Midwest, it’s fried cheese curds; in the Southwest, it’s Native American or Mexican specialties like nopalitos (prickly young cactus pads) and Navajo fry bread. Even the names can be regional. Ask for a candy apple in some parts of America, and you get what someone else would call a caramel apple. To get a sticky red-dipped snack, you might have to ask for a taffy apple.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What's this green stuff?

I think that we can agree...getting someone to eat spinach can be very much like getting them to willingly eat dirt. Actually, with kids, it can be much harder. Many a kid will cheerfully munch his own handmade mud pies but wouldn't touch a plate of creamed spinach if there was a large cash prize involved.

Which is why it's important to introduce things early, often, in a variety of ways, and in forms a kid might like overall. Like, oh,

Spinach is great on pizza. Any pizza. A little fresh spinach sliced in ribbons and stirred into pizza sauce ups the iron and vitamin C, increases fiber, and gives a delicious, rich background flavor. A scattering of whole baby spinach leaves under the cheese gives texture and color, particularly on a garlicky white pizza.

But for my money, the best way to introduce spinach is with something creamy. A little spinach in a ricotta cheese topping, spread on a crust, with a light tomato topping becomes a gigantic version of florentine ravioli that can be sliced in wedges.

1 pizza crust
1 T. olive oil
½ c. ricotta cheese
¼ c. grated parmesan
1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
¼ t. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. tomato sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.

In a bowl, combine ricotta and parmesan. Fold in spinach. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread over crust. Top with tomato sauce, just covering the cheese. (Save any remaining sauce to serve with pizza.) Top with mozzarella.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes to allow ricotta to set. If you don’t let it set, the ricotta layer will be too melted to cut and you won’t be able to eat your pizza without a fork. Or maybe a spoon. It will still be delicious though.

Extra Extra!!!

Gotta love those Italians - Even Popeye hasn’t been able to counteract the bad rap that spinach has with most kids and more than a few adults. But when it’s done right, spinach can be sublime, as the residents of Florence, Italy, can tell you. Their city doesn’t just have a dish named for it. They have a whole style of cooking, all built around the addition of one of Americans’ least favorite veggies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A chili is in the air

My mother isn't allowed to have chili dogs anymore.

Once, when she was pregnant with my brother, she needed a chili dog so bad, she made my stepfather get a ticket for making an illegal left turn. That was the end of chili dogs for her.

But I can understand. Okay, my pregnancy cravings never ran toward Coney dogs, but hey, what's not to like. Zesty, meaty chili. Zippy, stringy cheese. The ever popular hot dog. It's a classic combination.

Actually, on a pizza, chili dogs have all the fun of the original, but none of the drippy mess.

Chili Dog Pizza

1 pizza crust
1 cup chili (homemade, take-out, canned, whatever)
½ c. light red kidney beans
8 hot dogs, sliced into coins
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1 c. shredded mozzarella
Onions, relish, ketchup, mustard, etc. (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Mash kidney beans with a fork. Stir into chili until combined. Spread over pizza crust. Scatter hot dog slices over chili. Top with cheeses. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve favorite frankfurter condiments for topping individual slices.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Muffin Principle

Yes, that's right. Muffins.

We detour this evening in honor of a friend. Larks wants muffins. Carrot cake muffins, to be precise.

Muffins, much like pizza, are a perfect venue for getting things into a picky eater that a picky eater might otherwise scorn.

Like the carrots in question.

A kid can look at a carrot with the same fear, loathing and distrust some people reserve for tax auditors or salesmen hawking $2,000 vacuum cleaners door to door. But a muffin? A muffin is practically a cupcake. Who doesn't implicity trust a cupcake? Cupcakes don't mislead you. They are straightforwardly sweet and delicious at all times.

Even when they contain carrots.

And so, for the distrustful picky eater in us all, this cupcake, sorry, muffin is for you.

Carrot Cake Muffins

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 T sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon zest
1/3 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. apple butter (applesauce will work)
1 c. finely grated carrots
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and zest. Set aside.

Line 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners, or grease well.

In a bowl, combine butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, sour cream and apple butter, then stir in carrots raisins and nuts. Separately mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix. Overmixing is the downfall of a good muffin.

Distribute half of the batter between the muffin cups. Add a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture, and top with remaining batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and set.

Cool before eating. Then eat them. All. Okay, if you have any left, just make sure you put them in the fridge. Cream cheese, remember?!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pizza...on the Cobb

My husband loves Cobb salad. He orders it everywhere we ever go. Does he do this so he can experience the joy of eating something he loves?


He does it so he can complain about it. If I have heard "This isn't a real Cobb salad" once, I have heard it ten million times. I cringe when I see Cobb on a menu. I know exactly where my day is headed from there.

He has issues with the ingredients. People like to change things up, after all, and if you change something that SHOULD be on a Cobb, he feels you are honor-bound to call it something else. No avocado? Pack it up and go home. No blue cheese? How can you even serve that to people?

And making huge changes? Illegal. Possibly a federal thing. There was an instance with a Mexican Cobb once... I felt really bad for the waiter.

And so, I was naturally reluctant to subject myself, and my Cobb pizza, to this kind of scrutiny. It required planning and research. Did I hit all the high points? Were all the components present?

The great thing is, pizza is a perfect canvas for a Cobb. As a composed salad, one that depends as much on arrangement as it does on ingredients, a pizza crust offers possibly the only way to easily and neatly serve a Cobb salad to a group. And the chewy bread is a great foil for the mix of creamy and crisp textures in the mix of traditional toppings.

Are there things that some people won't want? I admit, I'm not a fan of blue cheese. Or avocado. But there's just something about the artistic presentation of a Cobb that makes it seem wrong to pull out the stuff you don't like. So you give it a try. And everything harmonizes so well, you go for another bite. And another. And before you know it, you've eaten the whole thing.

"But that's not really a Cobb."


Cobb Salad Pizza

1 pre-baked pizza crust
Olive oil
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 large tomato, sliced thin
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 c. shredded lettuce
½ pound cooked chicken, diced
½ c. crumbled bacon
½ c. shredded cheddar
½ c. blue cheese or ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place crust on baking sheet. Brush or spray with olive oil. (A little garlic at this point isn't bad either.) Bake 15-20 minutes. Cool.

Alternating avocado and tomato, layer the two in a circular pattern over crust. Top with a layer of sliced egg, then lettuce. Scatter with chicken, bacon and cheese. Drizzle with dressing. Slice and serve.

Sidebar box: Recipe roulette – You never know what you might find in your kitchen in the dark of night. Famed Hollywood restaurant owner Bob Cobb found gold in his refrigerator in 1937, when a late-night scavenger hunt yielded a bowl of vegetables, eggs, cheese and cold chicken that quickly became known as the Cobb salad. According to the Brown Derby Restaurant Group, the offspring of Cobb’s eatery, since that time, more than four million of the salads have been made at Brown Derby restaurants alone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hitting the sauce

Okay, I admit right up front that this sauce is nothing like my husband’s grandmother’s sauce.

Hers cooked all day, sometimes overnight, and tasted like, well, an elderly little Italian woman had been working on it all day and overnight. When Matthew wants sauce like that, he makes it himself and doesn’t let me touch it. When he’s in a less snobby frame of mind, he lets me make sauce myself.

I aspire to Nana’s sauce, but I know I’ll never really get there. In the meantime, this one makes a good pizza, a great dip for breadsticks and a nice complement to heavy pastas like rigatoni and rotini. It is worth the effort if you have the time. It’s also chunkier and a little more sophisticated than a plain smooth tomato sauce or a commercial pizza sauce. Give it a go after your kids have gotten accustomed to something a little higher in tone.

Nana's Sauce

2 T. olive oil
¼ c. chopped onion
¼ c. chopped celery
¼ c. chopped carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
½ c. beef broth
½ c. red wine
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
Salt and pepper
1 T. grated parmesan

In a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until softened and onions are translucent. Add tomatoes with liquid. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomato paste and stir to combine thoroughly. Add broth, wine and one tomato-paste can of warm water. Stir in sugar, seasonings and cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and almost ketchup-like in consistency. For pizza sauce, it has to be thick. To use for pasta, add more water, broth or wine, whichever appeals to you most.


Bolognese - Add 1 lb. ground sirloin or Italian sausage after cooking vegetables and before adding tomatoes. Brown thoroughly and drain excess grease before proceeding. Lace with a drizzle of cream before serving.

Puttanesca - Add ½ c. sliced black olives and 1 T. anchovy paste with tomatoes.

Arrabbiata - Add 1 hot banana pepper, sliced in rings, with tomatoes. Add 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes with seasonings. Increase sugar to 2 tablespoons.

Extra Extra!

Looking for a Few Good Women? – Many people know that pasta puttanesca is named for the puttas, or prostitutes, who first assembled it from the odds and ends in their cupboards when they had time between customers. Most people don’t know that it has a second name, Pasta a la Buono Donna, or Good Woman’s Pasta, so as not to impugn the honor of the average Italian housewife who whipped it up, too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What are you, chicken?

I love chicken cacciatore. Some people pick at chicken in tomato sauce like it's a bizarre hybrid, like a hot fudge sundae with a cherry tomato on the whipped cream.

I don't get it. What's not to like? Rich with tomatoes and onions, chicken cacciatore, or hunter’s-style chicken, is a timeless Italian favorite. Almost. Like Chinese food, Italian cuisine is peppered with dishes that aren’t really native to the country we think. Chicken cacciatore, while based on a typical way of cooking game in central Italy, is an invention of the restaurants of ethnic neighborhoods across America.

But still...everybody likes chicken. So maybe it's just the bubbling pot of stewy-ness that's scary. I say, throw it on a pizza and bring 'em to the table.

Cacciatore Pizza

1 pizza crust
1 pound roasted or poached chicken (Leftover chicken is perfect, but the tender, succulent meat from a deli rotisserie bird is also wonderful.)
1 c. canned diced tomatoes
½ c. white wine
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped red and green peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. chopped fresh basil, or 1 t. dried basil
½ c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. In a saucepan, combine tomatoes, wine, onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook on medium, covered, until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened. Add sugar, salt, pepper and basil. Stir in chicken. Cook another 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and vegetables from the sauce and spread over crust. Serve remaining sauce with pizza. Top with cheeses. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and golden.

Extra Extra!

Fowl Play – In Venice, the Padovano chicken is a popular item on many menus. The bird in question was developed when the Marchese Giovanni Dondi brought an unusual bird back from Poland in the 14th Century. It produced a cross-breed that was formally acknowledged in the 17th Century as Gallina Padovano, and referred to as “a race caught between myth and reality.” And it tastes pretty good, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Asian Fusion

This is where I admit that I do not personally have a picky eater. My 2-year-old son would eat caterpillars and gravel if I gave them to him with green beans. He doesn't turn up his nose at anything. Nothing. At all. Okay, beef liver and mangoes, but for a kid who has been eating table food since six months, I think that's pretty darn good.

But the best example I can ever find of his open-minded, open-stomachedness is clearly a Chinese buffet.

He cheerfully chomps his way through absolutely everything. Scallops, crab legs, shrimp, broccoli, pepper steak, lychees, California roll. You name it, he wants a bite of it. And then he will take it away and eat it for you.

My siblings did not come to Chinese food this easily. My middle sister, who will be 32 next month, has only recently embraced the idea of chicken lo mein.

My picky eater experiences are valid. All of these recipes have been tested on actual picky eaters, old and young, and have changed hearts and minds along the way. So if you have someone who is turning up a nose at moo shu and General Tsao's, give this a try.

Chinese Chicken Pizza

1 pizza crust
½ c. tomato sauce
¼ c. hoisin sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
2 t. sesame oil
1 t. grated gingerroot
White pepper, just a dash
1 pound cooked chicken (Leftover dark meat is great, but rotisserie or pre-cooked strips like Louis Rich’s work well. I've even done it with breaded chicken fingers cut in pieces.)
1/3 c. chopped green onion
1 red pepper, sliced in rings
1 c. broccoli florets, blanched, steamed or stir-fried
½ c. mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.
In a bowl, whisk tomato sauce, hoisin, soy, honey, sesame oil, ginger and pepper. Spread half over crust. Arrange chicken on pizza, drizzling remaining sauce on top. Scatter vegetables evenly over surface. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hold the onions?

My sisters and brother had some very strong opinions about onions when they were kids. It wasn't that they didn't like the flavor of onions, which you could tell because they ate anything that had onions in it...

Unless they could SEE the onions.

My mother spent years scraping onions off McDonald's cheeseburgers with a french fry. We cooked onions and peppers separately to add to spaghetti sauce and steak sandwiches. And Mom made the ultimate mistake in leaving the veggies off the kids' pizza and having another pie completely decked out for those of us without unreasonable onion prejudice.

Pizza's a great way to disguise something like an onion, without actually hiding it. Cooked onions are sweeter than raw, and in my opinion, bring a lot more to the party. They don't have a jarring crunch or that pungent flavor. Plus with everything else going on, why not just put the onions under the cheese, present but not aggressive.

Or just go for it. Be in your face. Make an onion pizza that is unapologetically all about the onion. And damn good.

South of France Onion

Imagine thick little crockery bowls filled with rich broth and sweet onions, tucked under crusty French bread and a blanket of gooey, melted cheese. It’s a combination so lush, yet so simple, one story suggests it was created by King Louis XV himself on a hunting trip. Far from France, Georgia’s succulent Vidalia onions are perfect in the soup, or caramelized down to a rich onion jam to grace a truly regal pizza.

1 pre-baked pizza crust
2 T. butter
2 large Vidalia onion, sliced
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. apple cider
1/2 c. beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. shredded mozzarella
¾ c. shredded provolone
¼ c. grated parmesan
1 T. chopped parsley
1 t. thyme

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.
Melt butter and saute onion until translucent. Add sugar, cider, broth and salt and
pepper. Cook on low until syrupy.
Spread pizza crust with onion mixture. Toss cheeses together and sprinkle evenly
across onions. Scatter herbs over cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Extra Extra!

Root Rule – According to Federal regulations, to be called a Vidalia, onions have to be produced in a 14,000-acre area of Southeastern Georgia. Only 225 growers cultivate the bulb, a cousin of the lily, but that humble harvest has an estimated $150 million impact on the state’s economy. (Source:, L.G. Herndon, Jr., Farms, Inc.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Make a Break, Fast

Ask any frat boy. Pizza is great breakfast food. More tests have been passed and early morning classes reached with cold pizza fuel than Wheaties have won Olympic gold. But a half-empty box lying on the coffee table under a pile of Intro to Psych books isn’t the only way pizza and breakfast can come together. There is definitely room for pizza in your morning routine after you’ve given in and become a full-fledged grown-up.

Still, the kid-friendly idea of pizza for breakfast is a great way to appeal to the real kids in your house. While you might have to arm-wrestle your offspring to convince him to sit down and eat an egg before rushing for the bus, what self-respecting ‘tween is going to turn down a slice of pizza as he’s running out the door?

Even better, it’s a breakfast that doesn’t have to be a nutritional compromise on your part. It isn’t a fatty drive-thru meal. It’s not a sugar-soaked, ultra-preserved dessert in breakfast’s clothing. When you make a breakfast pizza, you are tailoring it to exactly what your children will eat without scrimping on what you want them to eat.

Petrified of what they’d say at the PTA? Don’t worry about it. After all, bread has historically been a part of breakfast. Topping it with some typical breakfast foods is a natural way to go.

Huevos Rancheros Locos

Okay, I confess. Real honest-to-Pedro huevos rancheros feature fried eggs, which I love. However, whole eggs just don’t work as well on a pizza. In experimenting with different breakfast pizzas, I came to one conclusion very early. Scrambled is the way to go. And with rancheros, it’s a perfect pairing. The spicy sauce and melting cheese meld better with the soft, forgiving scrambled egg. The result is easier and less messy, but with familiar flavors kids will appreciate. (And I found it much easier to get kids to eat scrambled eggs with extras than fried eggs on their own.)

1 pre-baked pizza crust
¾ c. salsa (as hot or mild as you like it)
2 T. butter
6 eggs
2 T. milk
1 c. cheddar cheese
½ c. sour cream
½ c. salsa
Optional: crushed corn chips, jalapenos, chopped green chiles, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, parsley,
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Spread with salsa.
Melt butter in large skillet. Beat eggs with milk and cook, stirring frequently, until soft set. Spread over salsa. Top with cheese. Bake 10 minutes.
Drizzle with sour cream and remaining salsa. Finish with optional extras. Slice and serve.

Extra Extra!

To Beak or Not To Beak – While “salsa” means something very specific in America, in Spanish, it simply means sauce. That could mean almost anything, from the chocolate-enriched mole to a rich French béarnaise. But what most people associate with the word salsa is actually pico de gallo, a chunky tomato, onion and pepper concoction that translates as “beak of the rooster.” Sounds weird, but today, salsa has really cut the mustard, replacing ketchup as the number one condiment in America.

Perfection...with a twist.

Everyone knows that pizza is bread, cheese and tomatoes. The most simple and classic, the Margherita, is a marvel in its melted simplicity.

But what if you didn't melt it? What if you didn't cook it at all. (Okay, the crust gets cooked. But that's all.)

The components of cool, creamy fresh mozzarella with steaky slices of bright red tomato are their own tradition. A little basil, a drizzle of oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and you have Caprese salad.

Building a Caprese on a pizza crust is perfection, in more ways than one. The bread is a great vessel for the salad, allowing for perfect bites of all the components at one time. And from a visual standpoint, it can't be beat. A layered or concentric presentation is tailor-made for Caprese, and the pizza crust plays to it magnificently.


1 pizza crust
Olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes (one red and one yellow is a nice touch)
2 large mozzarella cheeses
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, sliced in ribbons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place crust on baking sheet. Brush or spray with olive oil. Bake 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Set aside.
Slice tomatoes into even slices. Slice mozzarella cheese into slices the same width. Alternating tomatoes and cheese, layer in a pinwheel pattern over crust. Drizzle with more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Finish with fresh basil. Allow to stand, letting flavors blend, for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Extra Extra!

Holy oils – Franciscan monks brought more to the New World than churches and schools. According to The Olive Oil Source, the Catholic monastic order is responsible for the olive crops in California. Most of the oldest orchards in the Golden State are in the North, where development has not made it too expensive to devote land to raising the trees.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pizza on the dessert cart

I love a dessert tray. Seriously, it's an addiction. My measure of a truly splendiferous restaurant is one that will bring over a beautiful tray or lovely tea cart with stunning desserts arranged on it like engagement rings in a jeweler's front window. It's something spectacular to see.

That is why when I began this pizza adventure, I had to include some dessert pizzas.

Dessert pizzas at pizza places usually leave me cold. They are almost always canned apple pie filling spread on overcooked crust with some crumbs and white icing. Sometimes this gets changed up with blueberry or cherry filling.

At home, they are usually no better. What people call a "dessert pizza" is seldom a pizza at all. It's a cookie or cake baked in a pizza pan and decorated to look like a real pizza. Sorry people, I'm not interested in gummi pepperoni.

So I went back to the drawing board and worked on real dough, with good ingredients. I wanted a pizza that could feel proud on a dessert cart. Like this one.

Chocoholics Anonymous

I created this dessert for a friend who adored chocolate. Actually, I made it for her March birthday…after she gave up chocolate for Lent. It was evil, true, but the result was so good, she graciously forgave me after the first bite. And the second slice. And the last crumb. She didn’t let anyone else have any.

1 pre-baked pizza crust
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ c. heavy cream
1 3-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 t. vanilla
2 T. rum (or 1 t. rum flavoring or 2 T. coffee)
1 c. heavy cream
Garnish: shaved white chocolate, chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes, just to warm. Set aside.

Place semi-sweet chocolate in a large glass bowl. In a glass measuring cup, microwave half cup cream for 30 seconds. Pour over chocolate. Microwave 30 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds. Continue microwaving in 10-15 second intervals until melted. Whisk until smooth. Spread over pizza crust.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl. Using same microwave technique or a double boiler, melt milk chocolate with vanilla and rum. Beat with cream cheese until smooth. Whip one cup of heavy cream. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture about half a cup at a time. Spread over semi-sweet chocolate layer. Chill at least one hour. Garnish with shaved white chocolate and nuts. Slice and serve.


Divinely Delicious – How many foods are so good that they are deemed sincerely heavenly? The Greek word for chocolate is “theobroma,” literally, “food of the gods.” The name is a reference to its importance to the Aztecs that introduced it to their European conquerors. Originally a beverage, chocolate was an important part of religious ceremonies and sacred to the goddess Xochiquetzal. Theobromine, a compound found in chocolate, is thought to be a good cough suppressant. Chocolate also contains caffeine, tryptophan, magnesium and cannabanoids related to marijuana, plus it is believed to release endorphins and promote seratonin production in the brain. Just think of a candy bar as really, really good-tasting medicine. (

Friday, October 9, 2009

A German-Italian alliance is forged!

Okay, that might sound a little scary to some. But this isn't about keeping the trains running on time or going after the rest of Europe with a whip and a chair. It's about introducing delicious German food through a classic Italian staple.

You see, my husband is Italian. Both sides, all the way back to the Naples and Calabria. Me? I'm a Germanic mutt. My family tree has a German trunk, with major branches from Switzerland, Austria, and Prussia. Our kitchen is a metaphor for our marriage, alternately producing veal Milanese and wiener schnitzel.

My husband loves German food. My father-in-law doesn't particularly trust anything that isn't a steak or a bowl of pasta. This pizza was a way to produce the ethnic flavors I love in a comforting, familiar form for him.


You don’t have to wait until fall to appreciate juicy German sausages cooked in beer, or mustard with a spicy kick different from Dijon or hot English varieties. A pizza crust topped with Deutschland delicacies is a welcome slice of October any time of year.

1 pizza crust
1 pound bratwurst or kielbasa (Yes, I know, kielbasa’s Polish.)
1 beer
1 sliced red onion
¼ c. spicy German mustard
1 c. sauerkraut
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 c. mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, combine sausages, beer and onions. Simmer, covered, until sausages are plump and cooked through. Remove lid and continue cooking until beer is just evaporated. Remove from heat. Let cool about 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Spread crust with mustard. Slice sausages into bite-sized pieces. Scatter onions and sausages over crust. Top with sauerkraut. Combine cheeses and sprinkle on pizza. Bake 15 minutes or so, until cheese is melted and starting to brown.


The gang’s all beer – When most people ask for a beer, they don’t think about what kind of drink they really want. For most people in the U.S., a beer is really a pilsner, a clear gold drink with bohemian roots. But that isn’t the only lager on the loose. A beer by any other name might be an ale, a stout, a wheat, a porter or a lambic. Each has characteristics as different as varieties of cheese or wine.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

If it's Monday, it must be meatloaf...

Today, we'll get to the meat of the Pizza Principle. The point? That pizza can pull you off a ledge.

The problem used to be boring routine at dinnertime. Then it was lack of time. With Mom and Dad working late, and kids trying to squeeze in friends and homework around soccer, marching band, cheerleading, drama club, and that part-time job at the video store, dinner has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle. When we do have time to sit down together, it seems like a special occasion, and celebrating with processed packaged macaroni and some hamburgers just doesn’t cut it.

Using pizza crust as a platform is an easy way to bring some fun to the Tuesday night supper table, jazz up your stable of potluck staples, or surprise guests with the unexpected. Anything you can marry to bread (and a few things you’d never think to) can turn into a great pizza, and a great reason to eat with your family.

Football season is the perfect time for pizza. In my house, a good Nittany Lion play is cause for celebration, and more than one carpet has been ruined by potato salad and barbecue gone flying into the air. Pizza is easier to keep in hand. And when you’re watching Penn State score, you aren’t eating sloppy joes, you’re eating sloppy JoePas, in honor of the best coach to ever bully a 300-pound linebacker on the sidelines. (Note: In no way does this imply that the always dapper Coach Paterno is ever any less than impeccably groomed.)

Sloppy JoePa Pizza

1 pizza crust

1 pound ground beef

1 diced onion

1 chopped green pepper

½ can tomato soup

1 T. ketchup

1 t. mustard

2 T. brown sugar

2 t. apple cider vinegar

½ t. garlic powder

Cayenne, just a dash

Salt and pepper

2 c. shredded cheddar and mozzarella blend

Green onions and banana peppers, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In a large skillet, sauté ground beef with onions and peppers. Drain. Add tomato soup, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and vinegar. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Season with garlic powder, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Spread meat mixture over crust. If there is more meat than you want on your pie, save it for a sandwich later. Top with cheese.

Bake 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden. Garnish with green onions and banana peppers if desired.

Extra Extra!!!

Tailgate Time – At Penn State, football is serious business, and home games turn tiny State College, Pa., into the third largest city in the state, outstripped only by Philadelphia to the east and Pittsburgh to the west. That’s not surprising when you consider that Beaver Stadium holds 107,282 enthusiastic fans, currently the largest crowd in the NCAA. Outside, even more fans fill the parking lots, watching the games on portable sets while they chow down on favorites like burgers and dogs, barbecue, nachos, and yes, pizza.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Slice of History

Pizza was born of necessity, but not when, or where, most people think. It isn’t really something that was created in Italy sometime after Columbus discovered tomatoes in the new world. It’s much, much older than that.

Flat bread has been around since people first discovered grain. Topping it with other good things to eat was natural. There is evidence that many Mediterranean cultures, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Israelites and, okay, yes, even the Romans were making a dish akin to modern focaccia thousands of years ago.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that cooks in the Naples region, finally embracing the tomato they once thought was poisonous, began to experiment with the flavors most commonly associated with Italian food, and pizza, today. In the late 19th century, an innovative baker combined a flat crust with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, creating the dish now known as pizza Margherita to honor his queen and country. Pizza has been on a roll ever since.


This is the pizza that launched a worldwide love affair with Italian food. It is classically Neapolitan, as was intended by Raffaele Esposito when he created it to honor his country, with the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag, and his queen, whose name it bears.

1 pizza crust (fresh or your favorite pre-packaged convenience crust, dough, mix, whatever)

1 pound tomatoes, peeled (Roma are best, but sliced beefsteaks are fine.)

1 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T. fresh basil, sliced in ribbons (or 1 t. dried basil)

½ pound mozzarella, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Slice tomatoes. If you are using Romas, halve them and gently squeeze out seeds. Quarter larger tomatoes. If you are using beefsteaks, slice them somewhat thickly, about ¼ to ½ inches, and place on paper towels for a few minutes to absorb liquid. Gently remove seeds. (If tomatoes aren’t in season, use canned whole Romas instead. Season and warm the puree they are packed in to serve with the pizza.) Arrange tomatoes across crust. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle oil over tomatoes and around crust. Scatter half of the basil over tomatoes. Cover with sliced mozzarella. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown if using fresh dough, or until cheese is melted if using a packaged crust. Scatter remaining basil over cheese.

Extra Extra!!!

Ingredient Info – Fresh mozzarella cheese is more expensive then bags of shredded cheese. It’s very good, but not a big enough difference to justify the expense if you are feeding kids (and adults) a traditional pizza they will swallow whole without noticing. A Margherita pizza, however, is a good place to use it. The fresh flavor complements the whole tomatoes and bright herbs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

You can't have a pizza without a crust

Making fresh dough isn’t as easy as opening a wrapper or cracking into a cardboard tube, but it does have its rewards. Mixing flour and water is ancient custom, one of the earliest ways human beings fed themselves. The heady scent of developing yeast and burgeoning dough is an almost primal connection to the past.

It’s also a great way to introduce kids to the kitchen while throwing in a little science and math for good measure. What makes powdery flour and warm water turn into a satiny elastic? How does dough rise? How do you double a recipe to make two pizzas instead of just one?

But dough isn’t all there is to a good pizza. To cover the basics in full, you’ve got to have the sauces, the spices, and some of the other things that any good pizza chef knows inside and out.

Simply Splendid Pizza Dough

I would like to pretend that this is my recipe. I can’t. It’s my husband’s. It really had to be. Matthew is so Italian he bleeds olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and if a crust isn’t up to snuff, he has no problem picking off the cheese and pepperoni and leaving the bread lonely on the plate. Let that be a lesson to you. While good toppings can cover a mediocre crust and give you a great meal, a great crust is the first step in something that’s truly wonderful.

1 envelope active dry yeast
½ c. hot water
½ c. milk
2 t. sugar
1 T. butter, melted
3 c. bread flour
1 ½ t. salt

Place yeast in bowl. In a glass measuring cup, combine hot water, milk, sugar and butter. Pour over yeast and mix gently. Allow to sit about five minutes or until yeast is developed and creamy. Add half of the flour and all of the salt, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add remaining flour a spoonful at a time, kneading by hand until dough is thick and tacky. Continue kneading for at least two minutes. Dough should be smooth and stretchy when ready.

Drizzle dough with oil. For truly Italian flavor, use extra-virgin olive oil, but any vegetable oil will do. Use a couple tablespoons, enough to lubricate the dough and the bowl. Set aside for about an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

If you are not ready to bake, the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to two days.

When you are ready to get baking, let your dough come back to room temperature. By hand, pinch and pull your dough into the same basic size and shape as your pan with a heavy lip around the edge. A round metal or stone pizza pan is your best choice, but the final decision will have an impact on how your crust turns out, and how long it takes to cook.

On a metal pan, crusts will cook to a chewy, doughy turn in about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. For a firmer or crisper crust, push that a little further. The best way to judge whether a fresh dough crust is done is to check the lip for desired doneness, then use a spatula to lift the pie off the pan and check the color and doneness of the bottom. As a rule, if the bottom of the crust is golden brown, the inside will be perfectly cooked.

On a stone pan, cooking time will actually be lower, if you place your pan in a cold oven and bring up to temperature as the oven preheats. This means you have to form your crust on another surface and slide it onto the hot pan. My favorite way of doing this is to use a cookie sheet (a pan without sides, not to be confused with a sheet pan that has shallow sides like a cake pan) dusted with corn meal to allow the crust to slide easily. This can take a little practice and may result in some abstract, free-form pizza shapes. Don’t worry about it. They still taste good.

Welcome to my lab

Everyone knows the idea. Mom works all day, rushes home late, there’s nothing to eat, and so her poor children are forced to eat take-out or frozen pizza.
Do you know a kid who would cry over this dilemma?
Many a mom has been sent to therapy over the idea that she’s neglecting her kids by feeding them their favorite food. However, there are just as many who worship at the mozzarella altar in thanks for one meal without temper tantrums and turned-up noses.
The child who wouldn’t eat a tomato at gunpoint will slurp down pizza never realizing that some of the best sauces in Little Italy are nothing more than canned crushed you-know-whats. The kid who shuns all vegetables doesn’t really count peppers and mushrooms if they’re on a Sicilian crust. A budding vegan who refuses to sit down to a meal with her family of carnivores can be coaxed into sharing a peace pie with roasted garlic and soy cheese.
The Pizza Principle is this: you can get someone to eat, or try, just about anything if you start by placing it in the comforting costume of something they enjoy. And the pizza they know, the familiar tomatoes and cheese and pepperoni, is a great place to start. More than just round bread, it can be a well-rounded meal, with all the food groups represented. When ingredients are monitored, it can even be low-fat, or low-carb, or low-salt, conforming to whatever dietary parameters given. And when you apply a little bit of imagination, pizza can be the gateway to a world of variety, nutrition and exploration any mom can feel good about.
And it all starts with a crust.