Wine — Speedy ‘za not pie in the sky

Speedy ‘za not pie in the sky

By Amy Diaz

Forget delivery or frost-bit, make it yourself


Dominos spoiled us.

Remember the days of the 30-minutes-or-less-guarantee? In those days, it seemed like you barely hung up the phone with a pizzeria and your pie was at the door. But after accidents and lawsuits, the novelty of the speedy delivery seems to have faded away. Now, it can be nearly an hour from the moment you crave pizza to the moment it actually arrives. In this kind of slow-pizza market, it can be quicker to make your own pizza than it is buy one.

No, really.

I know what you’re thinking — yeasty dough that needs time to rise, sauce that tastes best when it’s pre-cooked, grating the three-kinds of cheese that go best together. Yes, this is a nice way to make pizza. But it’s a rainy Saturday, let’s-teach-the-kids-about-cooking way to make pizza. There are plenty of shortcuts and quick tips that can put a slice on your plate in 15 minutes or less.

Pizza — the quickest version

Fresh crusts — doughy, crunchy, thick, thin or seasoned — are wonderful.

They are also an enormous time suck.

Luckily, most supermarkets solve this problem by offering several varieties of ready made crusts that are pre-cooked. The crusts come in a variety of flavors from plain white-bread crust to whole wheat as well as low carb and seasoned. These crusts are prefect for cutting time to a bare minimum because with pre-cooked crust the pizza is done when the cheese is melted.

So what goes on top?

Let’s start with the lowest common denominator of crowd pleasing pizzas. We’ll call it…

Elementary Pizza

Sauce: For the most basic pizza, for the most finicky eaters, go for plan sauce. Take basic marinara in a jar (it’s OK, we all buy it) a basil sauce will be mild. For a little more flavor, go for the puttanesca sauce, the roasted red pepper sauce, garlic or four cheese. In all cases, most jar sauce will be relatively smooth and even and easy to hide new flavors in.

Cheese: It comes in a bag; it’s grated; viola — cheese layer complete. Mozzarella is the standard but a mixture of mozzarella and provolone, Monterey Jack and/or cheddar will up the flavor ante (and yes, most grocery stores sell all of them pre-grated). Add a sprinkling of parmesan and you’ve got a mutli-layered cheese sensation.

Pepperoni: Some kids like it, some don’t, add accordingly. And again, pre-sliced.

But maybe you’ve moved your family past the basics. You can branch out and still save on time. Try…

Loaded Pizza

Sauce: Same basic sauce or branch out and go for the extra spicy fra diavlo or mix a few sauces —s uch as a creamy cheese based sauce which a vodka sauce. Or soup up a basic sauce with fresh herbs. Basil, oregano and parsley add a nice fresh kick. Also add a teaspoon or two of pre-minced garlic (sure, fresh is nice but for those lazy days they sell it in jars). A dash of red wine can also add an extra richness to sauce.

Cheese: Start with mozzarella but sprinkle on a few handfuls of feta and a nice layer of parmesan.

Meat: Use those lunch meats — pastrami, roast beef, hard salami, cappacola and proscutto all work. Slice into small pieces. If the meat is a little tame on it’s own, sprinkle lightly with a steak seasoning. If the meat is dry, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Vegetables: Sprinkle with — chopped olives, grape tomatoes, canned mushrooms, sliced peppers (from a jar) or any of the major garden vegetables, quickly washed and chopped.

But perhaps you have no picky eaters to attend to. You want to try a few new tastes but don’t want to spend the rest of the night in the kitchen. Here are a few…

Upscale pies

Spinach pizza: In a bowl, open a dump a bag of washed baby spinach. Add enough alfredo sauce (don’t worry, it also comes in a jar) to cover the spinach. Add a few teaspoons of minced garlic and several handfuls of parmesan cheese. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture over crust. Cover with mozzarella or a mix of mozzarella and feta.

Buffalo pizza: In a bowl, mix a can of unsalted tomato sauce, two cups of cooked chicken chopped or shredded (they sell this as well or you can use leftovers from your backed chicken dinner) and three tablespoons of Tabasco sauce (add more or less to taste). Mix. Spread over crust. Cover with crumbled blue cheese and sprinkle on a layer of mozzarella.

Sausage and pepper pizza: Slice up a few pre cooked sausages. Saute for a few minutes on hot frying pan. Chop a sweet yellow onion and two red bell peppers. Drizzle the crust lightly with olive oil, sprinkle on sausage, onion and peppers. Cover lightly with mozzarella or provolone.

Hamburger pizza: There aren’t a lot of good uses for leftover hamburger. But if you have at least three leftover burgers, crumble them into a bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil (to add moisture). Salt and pepper to taste. Chop onions. Slice two tomatoes. Drizzle crust with olive oil. Layer on tomatoes, salt and pepper, hamburger meat, onions and grated cheddar cheese.

Cook all pies until cheese melts.

Pizza — the less quick version

But maybe you have a few more minutes — 25 or 30.

It’s still quicker than delivery but with the extra time, you can find even more of a fresh taste with pre-made but uncooked dough. Usually sold near the deli case of most supermarkets, the dough comes in white or whole wheat. And while the toppings stay the same, the possibility of dough mix-ins can make a pizza all the more delectable.

Herbs — Chop up basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, chives or some combination thereof and mix into dough with a few tablespoons of olive oil.

Cheese — Mix grated cheddar or feta into dough to create an extra cheese pizza.

Spice — Add heat to the pizza with a few tablespoons of paprika, a few teaspoons of Tabasco or a few teaspoons of crushed red pepper.

Or just sprinkle freshly ground black pepper onto a greased pizza pan to give the dough an extra kick.

After adding seasonings to dough, roll out onto pizza pan. While pre-heating oven (cook pizzas at 350 to 400 degrees, depending on oven), leave dough on top of stove to help rise.

Pizza — the rainy day version

Of course every once and a while, you’ll have all the time in the world.

In that case, make your own crust using this basic bread recipe.

Into a bowl, put a package’s worth of yeast, about a 1/4 cup give or take of molasses (honey or sugar works too), about a teaspoon of salt and about 2/3 cup of lukewarm but not cold water. Stir with a whisk and then set mixture aside.

About 10 to 15 minutes later, mix in 1 1/2 cups of flour. After a raggy ball forms, dump out into floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, working in maybe another 1/2 cup of flour.

Cover and let rise in a warmish place for about two hours. Punch down, knead a bit and roll out onto the pizza pan. Let rise for another hour. Add toppings and cook until crust is a golden brown and cheese is completely melted and also a golden color.

- Amy Diaz

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