Tonight’s dinner will be a Mexican Pizza. I had some leftover seasoned ground meat (turkey) from a Quesadilla I made last night and I had a pizza crust on hand. It was delicious and light! The recipe is below.
Pizza in and of itself is a fairly healthy food choice. Choose the thin crust, (better yet a thin whole wheat crust), low fat cheeses, drain any meats of most of their fat on paper towels, and use fresh veggies that you’ve sliced yourself, and you have a pizza choice that is not only tasty, but good for you, in moderation. We don’t have pizza every night. Maybe once a week on average. It does depend on whether I have any crusts in the pantry, and if I have anything to top it with. Most of the time I have something for toppings – tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers are almost always in the fridge. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have some shrimp in the freezer, or a link of Italian Sausage to brown.
Of course, there are those people who simply would not forgo the big chunks of sausage, pepperoni, an inch of cheese, and a thick crust, baked in a pan that has been oiled heavily with olive oil. YUM! Yes, this is a delicious kind of pizza, but it's packed with calories, fat, and carbohydrates. A pizza that is stripped of all that fat can be equally good if you use the right seasonings and toppings.
The way I make our pizzas at home are always the lower calorie, lower fat versions and they are delicious. I buy pre-made pizza crusts most of the time. A brand called Mamma Mary’s, Thin Crust, is the one I choose. They have regular and whole wheat. The whole wheat, in my opinion, isn’t that good with certain ingredients. I don’t like it whenever I use fresh tomatoes or sauce. But it’s really good with mushrooms and onions, or chicken with artichokes on a pizza with no sauce. (I make a lot of “white" pizza). The Boboli brand tends to be thicker and have more fat in them. When you handle a Mamma Mary’s pizza shell, your hands have no oil on them. Other brands tend to leave a film of oil on your hands, proving they have more fat. Just read the labels. You will see the difference. Also, some brands have flavor already on the crust, like cheese or garlic. I like to use the plain ones so I can control the flavor and ingredients I’m eating. Those pre-flavored ones tend to be very salty as well.
The other alternative is to use fresh pizza dough. You can buy frozen raw pizza dough from your grocery’s freezer. Thaw according to package directions and form pizza crusts. Bake the crust according the package directions, but only bake until the crust is dry and has NO color. Now is the time to top your pizza and let it finish getting color as it bakes again. It’s a little more trouble this way, but if you have the time, why not! I think the fresh pizza dough is better than any pre-made brand.
If I don’t have pizza crusts on hand, I will often use a large tortilla shell. Just bake it at 375 degrees for 2 minutes before you use it. It helps to keep it crispy after you top it. After you top them, these will bake in 3 – 4 minutes instead of the 6-8 it takes on a regular crust. I also do the shells like this for quesadillas instead of oiling them and browning in a skillet.
Here are a few of the different combinations I’ve tried.
2 large plum tomatoes
2 T olive oil
½ t garlic powder or 1 large clove finely minced garlic
1 T dried basil
½ t dried oregano
½ t salt
½ t pepper
1 green pepper, cleaned and sliced into thin slices
2 scallions or the same amount of red onion sliced thin
1 thin pizza crust
1 c. grated low moisture mozzarella cheese
Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix very well to coat all the tomatoes, and let sit while you prepare everything else.
Slice the green pepper into very thin slices, and chop the scallions into small pieces, or using red onion, slice the onions very thinly.
Now that everything is ready, spread the cheese on the crust evenly. Top evenly with the dressed tomatoes, and be sure to use all the goodies from the bottom of the bowl. Add the peppers and scallions. Top with a light sprinkling of just a little more mozzarella to act as a “glue” for the toppings.
Bake the pizza in a preheated oven for 6 minutes. If you’d like it a little darker, give it another 1 – 2 minutes, but be careful not to over bake. The Momma Mary's type crust will quickly turn into a crumbly cracker if over baked.
Some extras you can add at the end if you like … drizzle a little fresh olive oil over the top, sprinkle with some red pepper flakes, sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top.
It’s delicious with or without the extras at the end, and you will notice that there is no sauce on this pizza! Most of the pizzas I make have no sauce. Just toppings. If I happen to have some sauce on hand, I’ll put some on if I’m using sausage. But we actually love our pizzas without sauce most of the time.
VEGGIE WITH SHRIMP
Make the same pizza, but add some raw shrimp. Use about ½ lb. of small shrimp, or cut large ones into two or three chunks so you can distribute evenly over the whole pizza.
It’s not authentic Mexican, but it has the flavors we think of as Mexican.
Preheat oven to 425
1 /2 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1 T olive oil
1 T chili powder
1 t garlic powder or 1 large fresh clove finely minced
½ t cumin
1 – 2 T finely minced onion (or 2 t dried onion flakes)
(Or use ½ of a taco seasoning packet instead, but these packets are very high in salt)
½ t salt
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
½ of a large green pepper, diced
12 – 16 black olives – sliced
8 large shrimp, chopped into 3 pieces each or 16 small shrimp (optional)
1 C + a little of grated cheese – use a Mexican blend or mozzarella – either one is fine
½ red pepper flakes (optional)
2 T minced cilantro (optional)
1 scallion (optional)
Brown the turkey in the olive oil. Once the turkey is browned, add the seasonings (chili powder, garlic cumin, onion, salt). Remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit while you prepare the tomatoes, olives and green peppers.
Now seed and dice the tomato and green pepper and slice the olives.
On top of your prepared pizza crust, spread the 1 cup of cheese evenly. Top with the ground meat, tomatoes, peppers, and olives. Sprinkle just a little more cheese on top to act as a glue on top on everything else. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and a little brown.
Top with red pepper flakes, sliced scallions and cilantro if you are using them.
Make the same basic recipe for the Veggie Pizza, but use only the dressed tomatoes and cheese as toppings. This is surprisingly good and a very light meal. If you have any fresh basil, tear a few leaves into little pieces and sprinkle over the top.
MUSHROOM, CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND BLUE CHEESE
12 oz, or more, sliced mushrooms, any variety or mixed.
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
2 - 4 oz. Blue cheese – depending on how much you like and use your favorite
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust (this combination is good on the wheat crust)
Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil, until they are just done. (Raw mushrooms on a pizza, unless sliced paper thin, let out too much liquid onto your pizza while it bakes making it soggy.) Remove the mushrooms to a plate. Now saute the sliced onions slowly until they are soft and slightly caramelized to a light golden. Remove from the pan immediately to the same plate the mushrooms are on so they don’t dry out.
Now spread the mozzarella cheese on the crust, top with the mushroom and onions evenly over the crust. Break up the blue cheese and also distribute evenly over the pizza. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes.
½ lb. crab meat
4 oz. low fat cream cheese, softened to room temp.
½ tsp Old Bay
1 small green pepper thinly sliced or very finely diced
1 prepared pizza crust
½ c. low moisture Mozzarella cheese
Mix the crab, softened cream cheese and Old Bay together and spread over a prepared pizza crust. Now top with the mozzarella. Top with very thinly sliced green pepper. Bake 6 – 8 minutes.
Optional: Use Jumbo lump, but be careful when mixing with the cheese so you don’t break them up too much. You may want to microwave the cream cheese a little to make is softer. Chop up the green peppers into small dice and add to the crab mixture.
OLIVE AND ARTICHOKES
1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust
about 12 olives, 3 for each quarter of the pizza, quartered or sliced
1 can drained and chopped artichoke hearts
1 T Olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ t dried basil
½ t dried oregano
1 C. low moisture shredded mozzarella
Mix the olives, artichokes, herbs, garlic and oil to coat well.
Top a crust with most of the mozzarella. Reserve a little to sprinkle on top. Top the crust with the olive and artichoke mixture. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes at 425 degrees.
Add red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on if desired.
Add about 1 c of cut up rotisserie chicken chunks to this pizza to make it heartier
Of course, there is always the sausage, pepperoni, ham and bacon topping for those of you who just have to have meat on a pizza. For my taste, these toppings taste best when you want to use tomato sauce on the base.
Try smoked oysters and Gouda. Just use some shredded mozzarella, top with the canned smoked oysters that have been drained, and top with a handful of shredded smoked Gouda.
The Veggie Pizza above is a great take along appetizer too. Slice the tomatoes a little thinner before dressing them. Let it cool completely after it bakes so you can slice the pizza into 24 thin wedges with a good sharp long blade. We ate them at room temp, and everyone loved them! They were like pizza crackers! I added a little red pepper flakes for this one. You could do this with any topping combination as long as it’s not to thick. The thicker the toppings, the more chance there is of your “pizza crackers” falling apart.
Here is one I made on a Spinach Tortilla. A “secret “ ingredient gives this one a very interesting flavor. Don’t be afraid of it because no one will even know it’s on the pizza unless you tell them. It’s ¼ teaspoon of anchovy paste. Just spread it all over the bottom of the tortilla shell before you bake it for 1 ½ minutes. It’ll be a very thin coat, but that’s what you want. Too much will reek of anchovy. Just a hint though will give the pi
zza a sort of smoky nutty flavor. Of course you can add more if you are an anchovy lover, or not! Leave it off if you can’t imagine using a little anchovy paste. I like to distribute the ingredients evenly on my pizzas so I will often keep the prepared toppings in 4 piles on the cutting board and then use each little pile on one quarter of the shell.
This also makes a great appetizer at a dinner party. Just cut the tortilla pizza into 4 or 8 slices to serve 4 – 6 guests.
OLIVE AND TOMATO ON SPINACH TORTILLA
Preheat oven to 375
1 8”spinach tortilla
¼ t anchovy paste
1 roma tomato quartered lengthwise and then sliced (1/4 per
8 black olives
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced
¾ c. mozzarella or jack cheese
I keep powdered dry porcini mushrooms in my spice pantry, so I dusted the pizza with this too. If you don’t have it, no problem.
Spread the anchovy paste all over the tortilla shell so it’s nice thinly distributed over the whole shell. Now put the shell right on the oven rack for about 1 ½ minutes. Watch it closely. As soon as it starts to bubble, take it out and place it on your pizza pan.
Sprinkle the minced garlic over the shell evenly and top with the cheese. Add the tomatoes and olives, and sprinkle just a tiny bit more cheese over the top. Bake for about 3 minutes, watching carefully. When it’s just about done, drizzle just a little olive oil over the top for moisture and flavor. Bake for another minute or so, until the edges start to brown.
Careful not to over bake. Tortilla shells burn easily and become very crumbly if baked too hard.
Just recently my sister posted some YouTube Videos of an old show we used to watch as kids. It was a Fright Night type of show called Ghoulardi. Ghoulardi was the host and the show always featured some kind of a scary movie. Every Friday night, my Mom would order pizza for the five of us from DiBella’s across the street. We’d all sit on the floor and watch Ghoulardi’s latest creature feature. The pizza at DiBella’s was some of the best pizza ever. I can still remember how good is was nearly 40 years later. It was ooey gooey with sauce and cheese and I can remember how delicious the sauce was.
Funny, I was just trying to think of another pizza that was as memorable as DiBella’s and I could NOT come up with one. I’ve had lots of good pizza, but nothing as memorable as DiBella’s. It could have had something to do with the fact that it was part of a weekly family ritual, and not so much the pizza. (This goes back to a previous post where I talked about It’s Not the Food, It’s the Friends). Mione’s in the Marlin Mall in West Ocean City is to die for. Great sauce, garlicky, yummy yeasty crust and you can buy by the slice. I get the plain cheese thin crust or the tomato basil when I have a slice. It’s a little expensive, and has a little too much olive oil, but oh, so delicious!
Pizza is a great way to entertain whether you make your own or order from your favorite pizza shop. You can always make a fresh green salad to serve with it. There are endless varieties and combinations you can enjoy. Try different combinations with your favorite ingredients. Even a not-so-good pizza won't bee that bad! It’s simple to build a pizza, so keep trying!