Get creative with classic pizza

October 27, 2010 

Pizza: It is that oven-baked, disc-shaped bread typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese and various culture-specific toppings. Many types of pizzas have evolved since the original.

The ancient Greeks covered their bread with oils, herbs and cheese. The Romans developed a sheet of flour topped with cheese and honey and flavored with bay leaves. Modern pizza originated in Italy as the Neapolitan pie with tomato. The addition of cheese came along later.

Pizza crusts vary according to style. Some varieties include thin, as in a typical hand-tossed pizza, or thick, as in pan pizza. The crust can be seasoned with garlic or herbs and it can be stuffed with cheese.

Pizza has become an international food with widely varying toppings. Most pizzas consist of the same basic design but include a diverse choice of ingredients.

The wide influence of Italian and Greek immigrants in America has caused a development of regional forms of pizza, some bearing only a casual resemblance to the Italian original. Chicago's specialty is deep-dish pizza, whereas New York City has developed its own distinct variety of thin-crust pizza.

Some say it is the crust that makes a good pizza, while others say it's the sauce or toppings. From the simple to complex, from making the dough to choosing toppings, plan some fun time in the kitchen with pizza.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. E-mail her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

Chocolate Pizza

FOR THE CRUST

1 box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, crushed

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter

In a bowl, mix all ingredients and press them into a buttered or greased 10-inch spring form pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.

FOR THE FILLING

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 (4.6 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding

3 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup cold milk In a mixing bowl, beat all ingredients until they are light and fluffy. Spread filling over chocolate crust.

FOR THE SAUCE

3/4 cup raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

In a mixing bowl, puree raspberries and strain. Mix in sugar and spread sauce over the filling.

TOPPINGS

1/2 cup blueberries

1 banana, sliced

1/2 cup raspberries

2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup strawberries

1/2 cup apricot preserves, beaten

Caramel sauce

Shaved white chocolate

Spread fresh fruit over the top of the pizza and brush with beaten apricot preserve to glaze. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with shaved white chocolate.

Quick Semolina Pizza Dough

Makes: 4 pizza rounds, 7 inches each

1 cup semolina flour

1/2 cup hot water

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the semolina flour, hot water, baking powder, salt and olive oil. Process until the dough masses together, about 45 seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 minutes our up to 2 hours.

Spicy Spinach and Garlic Pizza

3 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed and washed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Quick Semolina Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups diced mozzarella cheese

In a large non-reactive saucepan, cook the spinach, covered, with only the water that clings to the leaves, over high heat. Stir occasionally, until tender, about 6-10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper and cook until the garlic is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the anchovy paste and cook for 1 minute longer. Increase the heat to moderate and add the spinach. Toss the spinach to evenly coat with the oil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove saucepan from the heat.

Roll the Quick Semolina Pizza Dough into a log 11/2 inches in diameter. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 7-inch round about 1/16-inch thick. Cover the rounds with plastic wrap. Heat a 9-inch or 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot.

Place one of the dough rounds into the hot skillet, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the crust is dark brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat to prevent burning the dough. Remove the pizza crust from the skillet. Layer the crust with 1/3 cup mozzarella and top with 1/2 cup spinach. Return the pizza to the skillet and cook, covered until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Repeat the process with the 3 other rounds.

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