Thursday, March 14, 2013

So many pizzas!

Pizza is more fun with lots of toppings.  More toppings mean more prep time.  More prep time equals less fun.

More *weeknight* pizza = more fun.

Weeknight pizza-making is totally doable, as we talked about in the last post.

It gets complicated when making lots of different kinds of pizzas, but if you're like us and get bored easily, different toppings and twists make those weekday leftover lunches way more enjoyable.

Below, find a master list for how to change up pizza infinitely.  It is best to stick to making pizzas with only 1 or 2 kinds of sauces at one time in order to remain efficient.  The toppings, though, can vary widely.  Unless the toppings are flat or thin like pepperoni or potato slices, make sure there is room between each element.  When using chunky toppings, think 2 or 3 chunks per slice of pizza.  This way you can still taste each element and the finished pizza isn't heavy or underdone.

So many options!
See my previous post for 2 super-easy pizza sauces.  In addition, try simply brushing pizzas with olive oil and sprinkling with some coarse salt before topping for a super-simple pizza that's great to have as an appetizer.  Or use your favorite barbecue sauce - or spreads like tapenade.

Toppings with no prep:
- Cheeses of all kinds: an easy way to make 2 or 3 different-tasting pizzas with no other toppings is to make simple cheese pizzas and add a different strong-tasting cheese to each
- Pepperoni (of course)
- Salami from the deli, or sliced from the roll (try sopressatta or capicola)
- Pickled jarred peppers like banana peppers or jalapenos
- Marinated jarred or canned artichoke hearts, patted dry
- Olives
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Jarred roasted red peppers, patted dry
- An egg: yes, really, just crack it on halfway through cooking (better yet, crack it into a bowl and salt & pepper it first).  Best on lightly-topped pizzas.
- Halved red or black seedless grapes: try it with a sauceless pizza with Italian sausage and sautéed onions

Toppings with quick prep:
- Mushrooms: drizzled with garlic-infused or olive oil, sprinkled with salt/pepper/maybe thyme, popped in the preheating oven on a foil-lined pan until they are juicy-looking and smell good, about 10-15 minutes.  Or sautéed in a pan with the same seasonings to the same doneness.
- Sliced sautéed onions or bell peppers, or zucchini, summer squash or eggplant: use a bit of olive oil and sauté until softened but still moist.  You could also roast any of these in the oven.
- Home-roasted peppers or green chiles: before preheating the oven, turn the broiler on and put the washed peppers on a foil-lined pan under the broiler, until black, turning to blacken all sides, then wrap them tightly in the foil and leave for about 10 minutes while you turn the oven to preheat.  Then remove the flesh from the seeds, stem, and blackened skin and cut into strips.
- Italian sausage:  heat a skillet to medium-high, add a drop of olive or other oil.  Break up bulk sweet or hot sausage (or a link, casing removed) into Swedish meatball-sized clumps and add to the pan with space in between each, in batches if necessary, until just browned on either side.  The middle or sides can be left raw; it will finish on the pizza.  Remove to paper towels to drain.
- Ground beef: cheeseburger or taco pizza, anyone?  Cook, with or without seasonings, similar to the Italian sausage method.  Drain on paper towels.
- Potatoes: Yukon golds or other thin-skinned potatoes don't even need to be peeled.  Scrub them, cut a tiny slice off the bottom so it will sit flat (easier to slice) and cut about 1/4" at the thickest, thinner if you can.  Cover with cold water for a bit (removes some starch), then drain them, toss with some salt, and microwave, covered with plastic wrap with a couple holes poked in it, for 3 minutes on high.  They won't be fully cooked, but much more flexible.  Take off the plastic wrap and and put a towel over the bowl until you're ready to use them.
- Fried bologna: we've put it in the microwave since I was a kid for 30 seconds to a minute.  It will turn into a flying saucer shape when its done.  Try it on a potato pizza or one you'll crack an egg onto.

Toppings from leftovers:
- Pulled pork with either barbecue sauce or its own juice (great with smoked cheddar or pepper jack cheese on a southwestern or bbq pizza)
- Leftover chicken (awesome on pesto pizza or sauced with bbq sauce or Frank's Red Hot and paired with cheddar, jack, or blue cheese)
- Leftover grilled or roasted vegetables like eggplant, peppers, or onions
- Bacon strips or crumbles
- Stew or even chili: drain off any watery or brothy liquid after warming it just a bit.  The saucy part is your pizza sauce, the chunks your topping.  Choose a cheese: crumbled blue with beef stew? Cheddar with chili?
- Beans: dips like hummus or leftover whole beans, slightly mashed.  These dry out so incorporate some oil with them, and keep them on the bottom of the pizza for protection.  If you top with veggies make sure they're nice and moist.  Nice with an egg on top.
- Meatballs or meatloaf, cut in chunks

Toppings put on when the pizza is done:
- Thinly sliced proscuitto or fancy ham
- Arugula, spinach, or other leafy salad green, lightly dressed with balsamic or wine vinegar, almost no oil is necessary)
- Hot sauce like Cholula, Sriracha, or hot red pepper flakes
- Fresh herbs like oregano, chopped parsley, chives, or cilantro, or whole basil leaves
- Pickled red onions or jarred pickled peppers (peppers taste totally different when put on after cooking)
- Toasted pine nuts (try it on pesto pizza with artichoke hearts)
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Sliced or diced avocado
- Finely chopped white or green onion


Perhaps a giant master list looks too Rachel Ray (I said it!) for you.  Let me enter a disclaimer: there are many, many of the above ideas that would be vile in combination.  The purpose of this exercise was to organize topping idea by time/availability, and provide some ideas for changing up the classics.  Speaking of classics, many ideas above that will likely horrify pizza purists.  I deal with those friends by just calling it flatbread.

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