~ Pizz' alads: Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top) ~
Pennsylvania. We're one of a handful of Northeastern states that enjoys four distinctly different seasons of the year, all of which are approximately equal in length: three months. We've got the beauty of them all each and every year: Winter snow, Autumn scenery, Spring showers and Summer heat. Two-three states to the North, East, South or West of us, things begin to change. That said, here in my PA kitchen, where the seasons do change like clockwork and relatively dramatically too, so do eating habits. Our transition from Summer to Fall, August into September, outdoors to indoors, started yesterday, and, it is perhaps my favorite one.
I surely didn't invent the word pizz'alad, but it is catchy. That said, I'd been kind of making one for years before publications like Eating Well, Bon Appetít and Food and Wine started using this trendy term to describe a pizza with a salad on top. Back in the 1980's I used to make my three boys a taco pizza. I copy-cat'ed the recipe from the VIP -- Happy Valley's own Village Inn Pizza, a family-owned bar that made great pizza. The owner, Scott Owens, made a cooked, bell pepper, onion and tomato-sauce-based sauce and used a mixture of yellow cheddar and mozzarella cheese. When the pie came out of the oven, lettuce, tomatoes and black olives, lightly-dressed in an oregano-infused vinaigrette went on top. Oh boy did my boys love it. Every once in a while I still make my taco pizz'alad (because it's oh-so-delicious Tex-Mex fun), but, nowadays, when making any pizz'alad I don't use a cooked sauce. What's my reasoning?
If I've got garden or high-quality fresh tomatoes, there is no reason for me to put a cooked tomato sauce on my pizza:
I start by making my favorite herby pizza dough (I put some herbs in the crust) and make a very basic white pizza -- the perfect foil for any type of salad topping. Once out of the oven, a crisp and cold, lightly-dressed, (almost-always-tomato-laced) salad goes on top. Sometimes I keep this pizza-meal vegetarian, but other times my salad contains chicken, shrimp or steak -- I'm a carnivore at heart. Mostly I use vinaigrette-type dressings, but, under the right circumstances, creamy dressings play well too. Occasionally my end result tastes like what a typical Italian-American would conjure up (after all it is pizza), but other times, depending upon my salad concoction and the dressing I use, my pizz' alad crosses borders or leaves for distant shores.
Everyone makes their dough differently, because we all like our crust "the way we like it". Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, but I highly encourage you to at least add some herbs to it. A flavored crust is the first step to a great pizz'alad. If you'd like to try my recipe, you can make my dough via conventional hand mixing and kneading, you can make it via a stand mixer or a food processor, or, you can do what I currently do: make the dough in my bread machine, which simplifies the process considerably -- and, it makes ten personal-sized pizza'salads.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarsely-ground black pepper
1 packet granulated dry yeast
2-4 additional tablespoons olive oil, for preparing baking pans
~ Step 1. To prepare the dough, place all of the items in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast. Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer. Place the yeast into the indentation. Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine in, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". You will have 2 pounds of dough, ready to use, in about 55 minutes.
olive oil, for brushing on crusts
10 slices provolone cheese
10 slices mozzarella cheese
1/4-1/2 cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1-2 teaspoons per pizza)
crushed red pepper flakes
dried basil leaves
~ Step 2. Remove dough from bread pan and divide it into and form 10, 3 1/2-ounce balls of dough. The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale. The dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.
~Step 3. To form the crusts, place five balls of dough on each pan and let rest for 10 minutes. Pat, push and press each ball to form ten, 5"-round freeform crusts. If the dough has been amply rested, this is super-easy to do.
Brush tops of each crust with a light coating of olive oil. Place one slice of provolone on each one. Using your fingertips, push down around the perimeter of this circular-shaped cheese, allowing a crust to form around the sides of the cheese. Place one slice of mozzarella cheese on top of the provolone. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top of the mozzarella followed by crushed red pepper flakes and dried basil.
~ Step 4. One-pan-at-a-time bake in a 375 degree oven 14 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool 5-10 minutes. Top each with 1/2-3/4 cup of lightly-dressed salad.
Personal-sized white 'za out of oven & ready for salad topping:
Special Equipment List: bread machine (optional); 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; pastry brush; kitchen scale; wire cooling rack; large spatula
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-4 tablespoons sugar, to taste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
~ Step 1. In a 2-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients. Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)