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Put some pizzazz in pizza night

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

What night is pizza night at your house?

At ours, it’s usually Friday night, when we are tired of cooking and just plain tired. Going out means you can’t get into your lounge clothes/pajamas when you get home.

We usually order from our neighborhood Italian restaurant. Their 10-inch pizza is enough for the two of us, with leftovers for a lunch during the weekend.

We don’t usually do delivery — I’m picky about my pizza, and some of the delivery brands have too much, too sweet tomato sauce. And when the grease from the pepperoni has soaked through the box, that makes me nervous.

The benefit of pizza night is you don’t have to cook.

But there are ways to get a fast pizza on the table without spending the whole night fussing.

One of my favorite methods is to buy naan bread or another kind of flat bread and use a little marinara sauce and whatever leftovers we might have. That spinach is wilting, so it will be better cooked. We have some mushrooms that aren’t that pretty anymore. What about this end of breakfast sausage? That would work fine, along with whatever cheese you have, from American to blue, feta to muenster.

I remember personal pizzas made out of tortillas that were nice and crispy, and deep dish pizzas that were mostly dough. Maybe you can just add a few things to an English muffin.

Then I saw a cooking show that decided to bring back French bread pizzas, a favorite of my family, thanks to a certain frozen food company.

All of these are doable at home. Just plan a teensy bit so the ingredients will be on hand when you need them.

We’re not going to get involved with a gluten-free cauliflower crust this time. Extra steps. Let’s assume you have some sort of dough to top and go from there.

Here’s an important method I just read about if you want to make a crispy tortilla pizza. First of all, don’t put every topping on the planet on a tortilla pizza and expect it to hold up.

Think lighter toppings and avoid pounds of cheese.

This method uses a cast iron skillet, the stovetop and the oven. But it’s easy. You need the two cooking methods for the top and the bottom of your tortilla.

First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While that warms, heat up some olive oil in the skillet on the stovetop. Once that is warmed, put your tortilla in to cook for about a minute. Flip the tortilla and cook the other side for another minute while you add a light coating of your favorite sauce. We like marinara with no sugar added. Just add 2-3 tablespoons so you don’t drown the tortilla.

Then remove the skillet from the heat and add the rest of your toppings, like rotisserie chicken or pepperoni and mushroom, or basil and olives and mushrooms. Be sure to add cheese, either kind of mozzarella or something different.

Put the skillet in the preheated oven for a couple minutes to melt the cheese and warm your toppings. Then remove from the oven and put it back on the stovetop for another minute or two to crisp the tortilla.

Use 10-inch tortillas for this method, and make more than one if you have a hungry crowd.

Use these topping ideas for your tortilla pizzas:

• Chicken barbecue. Use barbecue sauce in place of tomato sauce, top with strips of rotisserie chicken, mozzarella cheese and green onions.

• Greek. Use some basil pesto with the tomato sauce, add sliced banana pepper, kalamata olives, a little fresh spinach, chopped red or yellow onion and halved cherry tomatoes.

• Salad. Top tomato sauce with a mix of arugula and spinach, sliced mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan after baking.

• Mexican. Use enchilada sauce in place of tomato sauce, add crumbled chorizo or ground beef, lettuce, tomato and Monterey jack cheese. Top with fresh or pickled jalapeño.

• Three cheese. Use tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and parmesan, with a sprinkling of basil on top.

• Traditional. Use pepperoni, mozzarella and a little Italian sausage, with or without diced pepper and onions.

Of course, you can buy a refrigerated pizza dough and go from there, too. Here’s an unusual recipe reviewers went crazy for:

Apple Cheddar Spinach Pizza with Ham Ribbons

1 ready made pizza dough for one pie

1 medium apple, peeled and thinly sliced

1 8 oz. package cheddar cheese

1/4 lb. deli ham, cut into long strips

1 medium onion, sliced

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tsp. fresh thyme

1 tsp. mustard

1 tsp. white wine vinegar

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Stretch pizza dough onto a pizza stone dusted with cornmeal (optional, for a crunch crust). Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add thyme, mustard and white wine vinegar. Cook until onions brown slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Sprinkle onions onto dough and spread around. Place spinach leaves overlapping to cover onions. Place sliced apples over spinach and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne, if using. Top with grated cheddar cheese and ham ribbons. Cook 11-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is crispy.

Just a pinch

Naan Bread Pizza with Prosciutto

2 naan breads

2 tsp. olive oil

1 green onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

8 slices mozzarella cheese (fresh or regular)

2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 slices prosciutto, torn into shreds

6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place naan breads on the prepared baking sheet; brush each naan with olive oil. Spread green onion and garlic over each naan. Arrange 4 slices of mozzarella on each Naan. Top with tomato slices. Season with pepper and a little salt. Top tomatoes with prosciutto, basil and parmesan.

Bake in a preheated oven until pizza is crispy on the edges and cheese is melted, 8 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Mediterranean Veggie Naan Pizza

2 pieces naan bread

4 Tbsp. basil pesto

1/2 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup red peppers

1/2 cup marinated artichokes

1 cup mozzarella cheese

2 Tbsp. basil

2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut 1/2 cup mushrooms into slices. Dice 1/2 cup red or any color bell pepper. Dice 1/2 cup of marinated artichokes.

Grate 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

Place 2 pieces of naan bread onto a baking sheet. Spread 2    Tbsp. (or more) of jarred basil pesto onto each naan. Place 1/4 cup mushrooms, 1/4 cup peppers, and 1/4 cup artichokes on each pizza. Top each pizza with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese.

Place the pan in the oven and bake pizzas for 10 minutes. The edges should get crisp and the cheese should melt. Remove pan and cut into slices. Top with more fresh basil, parmesan cheese and/or chili flakes.

If you feel the need to add meat, try slices of Canadian bacon.

The Rustic Foodie

French Bread Pizzas

1 loaf French bread

Pizza sauce or marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Toppings

Cut the french bread in half lengthwise, then into two pieces. Scrape out a bit of the bread and save it to make bread crumbs later.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the French bread pieces, cut side up, on a large baking sheet.

Top each piece with about 2 Tbsp. sauce and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

Use toppings of your choice

Bake the pizzas in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese melts and bread is slightly brown and crispy on the edges.

Try these topping ideas:

• Spinach, mushroom and feta;

• Pepperoni, pepperoncini, onion

• Mixed vegetables

• Artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers

• Chicken, broccoli and cheddar

• Supreme, pepperoni, sausage, diced green pepper and onion.

Budget Byte$

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