Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pizza Party, The Lazy Way

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I’ve been craving some homemade pizza for some time now, but didn’t want to go through the trouble of actually making everything from scratch (ah, the lazy bum in me is starting to come out at this time of the year). I went to St. Lawrence Market on Saturday morning again, and picked up some lovely produce and ingredients to make gourmet pizzas. There’s so much to choose from during the autumn harvest, but I decided to make three different kinds of pizzas: Hawaiian, Margherita, and Caramelized Onions with Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke.

My favourite kind of pizza as a kid was Hawaiian. I loved the combination of sweet and savoury (I still do), with the chunky pieces of juicy pineapple, salty ham and loads and loads of gooey mozzarella cheese. As I’ve grown older, and my tastebuds have grown more sophisticated, I’ve come to love gourmet pizzas with unique toppings. Perhaps my favourite gourmet pizza so far is one made at Vittoria Trattoria, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Their Salmon pizza features apple wood smoked salmon, mozzarella cheese, braised leeks, fresh tomatoes and their to-die-for mascarpone dill sauce. It is simply divine!

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The Margherita pizza is a classic in the Italian pizza canon. Originating from Naples, Italy, and named after Margherita of Savoy in the 1880s, the pizza Margherita is perhaps the easiest pizza to assemble, after the four-cheese pizza (Quattro formaggi). The traditional ingredients of the pizza Margherita are fresh basil, slices of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and slices of fresh mozzarella. My version is slightly different, in that I skipped the garlic, and I used a thin layer of tomato paste to allow my toppings to stick to the crust, since I was using Stonemill’s multigrain pita breads instead of actual pizza dough as my base.

With the Hawaiian pizza, I had picked up some lovely glazed oven-roasted back bacon, which in my opinion, is kind of like a cross between bacon and ham. Roughly chopped, I sprinkled the bacon over the pizza “crusts” that had been spread with some tomato paste, and then sprinkled some drained crushed pineapple on top, before topping it off with mozzarella cheese.

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The last pizza was perhaps my favourite of the three. I caramelized 4 small onions with some thyme, spread them over the crusts, and topped them off with sliced roasted red pepper, chopped marinated artichoke hearts and sliced baby eggplants which had been brushed with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I then sprinkled some goat cheese on top, and finished it with a good dose of leftover Italian cheese mix I had lying around in the fridge. The flavours on this one were incredible. You had the sweetness of the onions contrasting with the slight tartness of the eggplant (thanks to the balsamic) and artichoke hearts, and the tanginess of the goat cheese.

So it is easy to make pizza when you’re strapped for time. You can do it my way and simply pick up some lovely Greek-style pitas, which make perfectly great pizza crusts. Or you can go to your local deli or pizza parlour and see if they sell frozen pizza dough, which also makes a great alternative.


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